Happy Sabbath to You Too
It all started six months ago when my husband and I first moved to Brooklyn. We had been living in South-East Turkey surrounded by family members and friends in the same complex. I wanted to bring that sense of “neighborlyness” with me when we moved to the U.S. and I also wanted the neighbors to know that even though I covered and looked like a terrorist from the desert, at least I was clean and friendly.
The first week we moved in, I made chocolate chip cookies. I know Americans—every one of them loves home-made chocolate chip cookies. That’s like a given. Every culture has a deep love and appreciation for something—English love chips. Turks love tea. Irish love…etcetera.
I was probably the first person to do this in the 21st century but that’s okay. I was going to be assertive in being a neighbor. My new neighbors were going to like me AND my chocolate chip cookies.
The first few doors I knocked on in the building gave me surprised but polite responses “What a nice idea, but I’m on a diet.” “Thank you so much, I’ll give these to my sons.” “This was so thoughtful! Unfortunately I have to watch my sugar intake you know because…” I had a feeling this would happen. I knew from movies a lot of New Yorkers were on diets, especially if they were old.
It wasn’t until I knocked on the last door that I realized most of them weren’t actually on diets.
It began normal enough. I knocked on the door and was greeted by three little voices that all chimed in “cookies!!” followed by an older woman who shooed them out of the way. I explained my mission in cookie making and assertive friendliness and the woman smiled and said “Thank you, but we’re kosher.”
"Oh! Nice to meet you" (trying to shove off 3 dozen cookies to very bubbly little boys)
"Thank you so much but we’re kosher."
Pause. “Oh okay. I’m Muslim.”
I had no idea what kosher meant. When I got home (2 flights of stairs later) I googled it and realized that the reason my cookies weren’t the assertive success I thought they were was because I lived in an extremely orthodox jewish neighborhood that followed a strict dietary regiment (that, by the way, did not actually shun sugar).
I then realized that all of those weird Ks on packages in the market actually meant Kosher. Skirts were not an in fashion statement but a Jewish sunnah. No pizza stores open on Friday night was not an accident.
At first, I felt weird. I never lived by Jews before. Even before my conversion, I barely knew any jews outside of extremely (and I use extremely lightly there) liberal reformers I knew from my undergraduate days. Now I was living in an Orthodox neighborhood. Completely surrounded.
But I lived here now, whether I liked it or not and since housing was so hard to find and expensive ANYWHERE in the city, I was going to have to get used to it. So I vowed to continue to be an assertive friendly neighbor. And I wrapped myself up like a ninja, made a quick dua, and went, for the first time, to a Kosher bakery.
As soon as I walked in, I was greeted with “Shalom” by a small group of black-hat and bearded Uncles. These seemed like the jewish equivilent of old men in Turkey that sit around a shop all day drinking tea and talking, mostly because they are retired and have nothing else to do. I nodded and shuffled to the back where the cookies and cakes were. I explained to the woman working my prediciment and she assured me all of the cookies baked in the store were K-certified. So I picked out a dozen and she placed them in a container and slapped on a label with a giant K on it.
I knocked on the door again and the old woman with the three little boys seemed equally as surprised when I handed her a case of K-certified thumbprints. The three little boys again squeeled with excitement and inside I did too, knowing I did the right thing.
Every where (at least in the U.S. and specifically NYC) we see stickers and t-shirts with the logo “Coexist” spelled out with various religious emblems. Personally, I hate these. Coexist means just that—exist next to each other. It does not mean peacefully nor does it mean that we try to understand each other or accept each other for our differences.
When we make an attempt to truly understand each other’s lives, only then can we exist peacefully. This is the true example of interfaith.
As my little Jewish friends told me today before they stepped out of the elevator: Happy Sabbath to you too!
stupidjewishwhiteboy asked: I realized something odd a few days ago, which is that I only seem to hear about Roma deaths in the Holocaust or even current-day Roma issues from reposts on Jewish blogs such as yours, Semitic Semantics, or Null Toleranz Fur Nazis. Is this just because anti-Ziganism tends to go hand-in-hand with anti-Semitism, or because these are also SJ tumblrs, or what?
First of all, I would like to recommend the Roma blogs that I follow, including big-gadje-world and golden-zephyr. There are quite a few on tumblr, so you don’t have to get your Roma related current events from Jewish bloggers only.
But I do think there is something to be said for your guess that anti-Ziganism goes hand in hand with anti-Semitism. Ashkenazi Jews and Roma share a history of persecution by the hands of the same people, including the Holocaust which had in its goals the eradication of both our peoples. And today in Europe that history continues with the most virulently anti-Ziganist parties being anti-Semitic also and vice versa.
It’s interesting you bring up that it could be because the blogs you spoke of are social justice as well because I think both Jewish and Roma bloggers have become used to having our issues brushed aside, at best, and actively repeated through micro-agressions and assertions that we are not real people with real issues, at worst. Both Jews and Roma fall between the cracks as easily identifiable as white or POC and because of our histories in Europe where racism often doesn’t fall along clear cut colorist lines, the very different sort of persecution we face in both Europe and the United States (and the romanticization we face in the latter) baffle social justice activists and bloggers who aren’t used praxes of racism separate from color issues.
All of this leads to a solidarity I have found on tumblr between Jewish and Roma bloggers.
As a last note, however, the fact that you see Roma issues being discussed primarily on Jewish blogs isn’t just a sign of that solidarity but also a sign on the invisibility faced by Roma today, culminating in the silence on Roma victims of the Holocaust in so many memorials, museums, and ceremonies on the subject.
BREAKING NEWS: Swarthmore Hillel is the first campus Hillel in the country to become an Open Hillel!
Swat Hillel commits to dialogue and free speech on Jewish political issues - and rejects the use of Hillel International’s political litmus test to determine who gets to be included in campus Jewish spaces.
Check out the national campaign, started at Harvard in 2012: openhillel.org.
Full press release below the jump.
Additionally, I think it’s incredibly important that the Jewish community ceases its pandering to Evangelical Christian Zionists.
Instead, I think we should be partnering, forming coalitions, advocating and lobbying with various minority communities, communities of color, particularly non-Christian communities on the basis of common goals, experiences and values.