Define others by personality, not belief system


I am a Jew. I pray a lot. I go to Israel a lot. I miss school for holidays a lot.
I may live my life in a Jewish way, but that does not mean I should be defined as the ‘Jewish girl’ at school.
Right before I started high school, one of my youth group advisors told her story of going to a Catholic high school and making it obvious that she was Jewish, a decision she still regretted years out of school.
I was so terrified of having that same experience that I kept my mouth shut about being Jewish. I took off my necklace, a Star of David, that I wear because it gives me something tangible that I can connect to Judaism with. I was afraid that once people saw the necklace, they would not get past my religion and label me as the Jewish girl throughout high school. Eventually I realized trying to hide who I am makes me feel worse than people knowing something about me, so I put the necklace on and talked about the Jewish part of my life.
I began to open up more, and I can freely go around talking about my religion now, but I get this feeling that I am being talked to differently because someone knows I am Jewish. I get the feeling certain things are assumed for me: that I keep Kosher, I don’t enjoy Christmas time or that I speak Hebrew.
I don’t get the chance to actually tell someone these things about myself: I love Christmas time and I don’t speak Hebrew.
I personally don’t keep Shabbat, the Jewish holy day; I drive, use my phone, go out and watch TV, but I still like to draw a line for myself to observe Shabbat in ways where I feel connected. I’ll go to synagogue most weeks and I won’t do work or homework on Friday or Saturday.
I do a lot of things differently than other people because of my religion, but I don’t think I should be looked at or treated differently than anyone else.
I normally don’t go out Friday or Saturday, but I think it’s still a nice gesture to invite me. It’s the same as if your friends know you have an engagement, and they don’t tell you about plans because they know you can’t come.
Telling me about something, even if I can’t go makes me feel like I am being treated the same as anyone else.
I in no way want to be given special treatment because I am Jewish. I don’t want people to avoid subjects when around me such as the Holocaust or conflict in the Middle East because it is ‘sensitive for Jews.’ I want to talk about these issues, not hide behind my religion and avoid important topics all together.
I want to be able to talk with my friends and for both of us to feel comfortable saying anything we want to each other.
If you are friends with a Jew and feel uncomfortable saying certain things, don’t. I am not going to get upset or defensive at the first sound of a Jewish joke. Honestly, I will probably laugh along. What is worse is knowing someone is uncomfortable talking about religion or making a joke because I am a different religion than them.
I want people to know more about me than just the fact that I am Jewish. I want people to be able to look at me and describe me in more adjectives than just Jewish.
I will always define myself as Jewish-American; it’s who I am, it’s what I have come to know, embrace and love. That does not mean all there is to me is being Jewish.
I want to be looked at as someone who is smart and kind and cares for her friends—not just the Jewish girl.