Tag Archives: multiculturalism

Warm Fuzzies

In no particular order, I’d like to share a few memories that make me really happy and hopefully in some way relate to multiculturalism:

1. The time my Iranian-Muslim in-laws danced a Hora (a traditional Jewish ring dance, to the music of Hava Nagila) at the wedding of my husband and I. It was awesome. It was such a natural and beautiful unification of two seemingly opposing cultures- not exactly something you see everyday.

2. The time my Muslim mother-in-law prepared a meal that was Kosher for my Israeli best friend. This was definitely a sight to see. My Israeli Bestie and I were explaining to my Muslim mother-in-law why Jews separate dairy products from meat products, the concept of  ‘not cooking a kid in its mother’s milk’. Having understood my Bestie’s dietary requirement, my mother-in-law used Halal-certified meat (Muslim dietary requirement) to whip up a traditional Iranian dish that adhered to Kosher requirements.

3. The time my Iranian husband became an integral member of the family amongst Israelis.

4. The time my Russian Orthodox Mum and my Muslim Mother-in-law discovered that they pray for the same things but with different formalities attached. Both first pray for world peace before praying for their own individual needs. Both acknowledge that as long as there is one unhappy person in the world, no one can truly be happy.

5.  The time my sister-in-law bought duty-free bottles of Vodka in Dubai for the wedding of my husband and I, whilst wearing a headscarf. This is gold… Wearing a headscarf my sister-in-law causally asked the duty free sales assistant for two 1.5 litre bottles of Grey Goose Vodka (3 litres of alcohol was the purchasing allowance per person). Given that it is against Islam to consume alcohol and my Sister-in-law’s headscarf gave away her Muslim faith,  I can only imagine the bedazzled look on the shop assistant’s face. “Are you sure?”- the confused shop assistant asked. “Yes, I am sure. Don’t worry it’s not for me, it’s for a wedding with Russians” – she replied. I wish I could have been there to film it.

6. The time I told my Russian-Orthodox Mum that I want to embrace more of my Jewish identity, so she bought be a Star of David pendant. It’s not uncommon for me to wear the Star of David pendant and a Cross on the same necklace. It gets more interesting when I go to Iran and wear all of the above plus a compulsory headscarf.

7. The time my Mother-in-law ran outside without her headscarf (in Australia), thinking that something bad had happened to my husband and I.  Our safety was more important to her than a religious requirement.

8. The time an unlikely company comprising of one Russian, one Iranian, one Israeli and two Lebanese, got together to play Monopoly one New Years Eve. The political incorrectness ran rampant. My favourite quote of the night had to be- “Of course the poor, pregnant Arab is the outcast of the society- left basically broke waiting to pass through Go to collect $200.00, while the wealthy Jew is building hotels on Kings Avenue”… In case you didn’t get it- we were trying to be funny, not intolerant. All 5 of us have experienced intolerance one way or another, so what better way to surpass it than by poking fun at the associated stereotypes of our nationalities and religions in the company of good friends.

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These individual memories bring a smile to my face and warm fuzzies to my Heart Chakra. To me, they playfully symbolise peace love and harmony. Hopefully we can have more moments like these in the world and in our lives. ❤

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

“What are your kids going to be?”

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This is another classic question I love being asked. It’s not even -“What religion will you raise your children with?”, which I can accept to be a valid question and reply with- “all of them”; but, -“What are your kids going to be?” – I don’t really know how to dignify that with a response, so I usually resort to saying:

“MY KIDS ARE GOING TO BE HUMAN.”

I grew up in a poly-religious household and turned out alright (debatable, I know), so I presume that my unborn children are going to turn out alright too.

My husband is doing his best to learn the Russian language along with Russian customs. He has come with me to church when I felt the need to light a candle for humanity and he celebrates annual Jewish festivities with me at a close family friend’s house. Likewise, I am doing my best to learn Farsi and accommodate myself with Persian culture. I have celebrated Norooz (Persian New Year) with my husband’s family and have attended the holy shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, Iran.

We are trying to incorporate one another’s backgrounds into our lives, to better understand each other. I will never forget one night, late last year where the lighting of the 5th or 6th Chanukah candle (Chanukah is a Jewish celebration), fell on the same night as the Persian celebration- Yalda Night. My parents, along with one of my husband’s friends (who is Iranian) came over to our house for dinner. We each took turns to light one candle on the Chanukiah (a 9-branched candelabrum used for Chanukah) after which we ate grapefruit and watermelon to commemorate Yalda Night (it is a custom to eat red fruit on this night). Multiculturalism at its finest.

That is the sort of environment that I would like to raise my children in. I want to expose them to different bits and pieces of each culture and religion that make up my husband and I. Hopefully, we won’t confuse them too much. Personally, I loved growing up with two religions and two cultures. It meant that I received lots of presents and had a lot of excuses to eat and drink. My parents taught me about and celebrated Christian Easter, Russian Orthodox Easter, Jewish Passover, Christian Christmas, Russian Orthodox Christmas, Chanukah, Normal New Year’s, Russian New Year’s and Jewish New Year’s. In addition to that, the offspring of my husband and I will get to celebrate Persian New Year as well a lot of other Islamic and Iranian festivities.

If anything, my future children will just be happy to take more days-off school for ‘religious reasons’ than any of their peers. I always used my several religions to my advantage. Not wanting to attend compulsory Saturday sport at school, I told my teacher that I couldn’t go due to Shabbat (Jewish day of rest and abstention from work), which precluded my parents from driving a car on a Saturday morning. On school camp I demanded a Kosher (Jewish dietary requirement) meal one night, declaring that I’m Jewish on Tuesdays. My kids will have even more material to play with- I’m looking forward to see how creative they’ll get.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

“Which one of you had to convert?”

Image- http://ssje.org/sermons/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Conversion_Wordle.jpg

As well as having to answer the “Not Without My Daughter” question (refer to my previous post titled “Not Without My Daughter”, I have also faced some other gems for questions including:

“Which one of you had to convert?”

My preferred response is “We flipped a coin for it” making the stupidity and primitive nature of my answer aptly reflect the stupidity and primitive nature of the question.

I mean it’s just wrong on so many levels, that I don’t even know where to begin. At school I was taught that you could always find the answer, or at least part of the answer to your question in the question itself. So, the person asking this question had already answered some questions for themselves- that either myself or my husband had converted AND that this conversion was obligatory.

This offends me. It offends me due to the  fact that my Mum is of Russian Orthodox faith and my Dad is a Jew and neither one of them converted to the other’s faith. Surprisingly, their decision didn’t bring about the end of the world.The concept of converting for marriage has always been a bit foreign to me because my parents didn’t feel the need to do it, so naturally I didn’t feel the need to it either. Even if I did feel the need to do it, it would have been by choice and not by obligation. I’m going to make myself clear and say that I have nothing against people who choose to convert to their partner’s religion. It’s totally cool, however it’s just something that I was not prepared to do myself, or ask someone to do for me.

I made it very clear to my now-husband on our very first date that I am what I am- a daughter of an Orthodox Mum and Jewish Dad and that I intend on staying that way. Take it, or leave it. I told him that if he has an issue with that or can envisage his family having an issue with my faith/(s) that he should tell me now so that we could walk away from the table as friends. I also let him know that it was nothing personal and that it had nothing to do with him being Muslim (this is actually the case, this isn’t another example of my intolerance).

Had I been dating a Jew, who later told me to revoke my Orthodox faith, I would have told them where to go- somewhere nice, but far away from me. Had I dated a person of Orthodox faith who asked me to denounce my Judaism, they would have joined the Jew who disagreed with my Orthodox religion. Prior to marriage,  my underlying message to potential suitors was as follows: if you want to change my religion- don’t date me. It’s that simple.

Before I answer “Which on you had to convert?” let me start off by first reframing the question: “Did one of you need to convert to make your relationship work?” No. Thank you for asking.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

Building Tolerance

Image: http://hilladvisory.com/the-building-blocks-of-an-investigation/

I’m going to start off by sharing a few childhood memories…

When I was three years old, I deeply embarrassed my Mum with the first time I saw an African-American man walking down the streets of Moscow.”My gosh, why is that man’s skin so dark? How long did he not shower for?” – I loudly exclaimed in Russian. The man, who spoke fluent Russian, simply turned around and smiled and watched my mum as she frantically started explaining that not all people are white.

When I was four and a half, my Mum and I migrated to Australia. I had never heard anyone speak any other language but Russian. When we boarded the plane, I was shocked to see “white” people speaking some foreign tongue. I asked my mum if they were aliens. I recall saying “They look like me, they look human, but why are they talking that way?”

When I was around 5 years old, having lived in Australia for a few months,  I told my parents that there was no need for me to learn English, because everyone in Australia could just learn Russian. After one year, having developed fluent English and having become somewhat accustomed to Australia, I told my parents that there was no longer a need for me to speak Russian, as everyone in Australia only speaks English.

When I was about 8, I had to draw a family tree for a school assignment. In my 8 year old mind, I established that my relatives on my Mum’s side of the family (who are Russian Orthodox) all had normal Russian names like Tatiana, Ivan, Nadezhda, Valera etc. However, my Dad’s side (the relatives all being Jewish) had “not normal” names like Joseph, Avraham, Israel, Chana etc.

These memories highlight the inherent differences  that people have in the colour of their skin, in their nationality, in their language and in the origin of their names. Ever so innocently, a little-me decided to point these differences out.

We are not born intolerant. We are born inquisitive. When I was making my mum feel really ashamed for having not explained that people have different skin tones and speak different languages, I don’t think I was being intolerant. When I asked why my Dad’s side of the family had weird non-Russian sounding names, I don’t think I was being intolerant. I was observing overt differences and was probably adapting and widening my paradigm of what I considered to be ‘normal’. Generally speaking, tolerance is quite intuitive and inherent to the psyche of most children, it is intolerance that is learned, and unfortunately taught by elders.

When I started school in Australia, all of the sudden I became to all of the other school children, what that African-American man was to me, when I was three. I didn’t speak a word of English, and I cried a lot. At first the prep kids made a really big effort to try to interact with me. However as the weeks went on, and as I started to develop a few English words, the kids started bullying me. I had the pleasure of being nicknamed a “Communist”, and a “Russian B*tch”- by five year olds.  Where do 5 year olds form such opinions? Only 5 year olds in the Soviet Union could understand the term “Communist” at such a young age anyway…so something doesn’t quite add up.

So…why did those same kids, who made an effort with me at the start have a change of heart a few weeks on? I’m going to go ahead and suggest that it was due to the interference of adults. Xenophobic adults. I’m not going to try to suggest that my parents did a better job of raising me than the parents of the kids that bullied me, but to contrast…as soon as my Mum explained to me that people have different skin tones etc and that it’s normal, three-year-old-me immediately apologised to the African-American fellow. I did not mouth any further political references or rude nicknames.

We don’t need to speak the same language/(s), be born in the same country, have the same skin tone, or have similar sounding names in order to get along. I don’t necessarily think that tolerance needs to be built, however intolerance definitely needs to be dismantled.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.