Leaning Into My Jewishness (I thought I'd Never See the Day)

I have  complicated feelings about being Jewish. I was raised Jewish, though my father was a WASP. I went to whatever the Jewish equivalent of Sunday school is and HATED IT. It was, in my opinion, a waste of time. I still believe that for the most part. I then went to an all Jewish middle school. Like everyone else, I hated middle school. Unlike everyone else, because of my very Jewish surroundings I started turning the hatred I had for my life and into a hatred for all things Jewish.

I have never believed in God (even though I wish I did, I think having faith would be comforting), so I describe myself as a cultural Jew. I’m not religious, but American Jewish culture is a fundamental part of who I am. There are things that make me feel connected to my people (I’m pushy, Jewish foods, the fact cartooning has a lot of Jewish roots) and then there are things that make feel like a total stranger in my community (the way we try to use the Holocaust as an excuse for the horrendous shit we do in Israel to Palestinians, or the outrage that Captain America being turned into a Hydra Agent is a form of anti-Semitism which is such a dumb fucking argument to have but that’s a rant for another day).

So I read the following comic and had really mixed feelings.

Comic by Lily Hoyda from their  Tumblr  for the  Cartoon Punk Zine.

Comic by Lily Hoyda from their Tumblr for the Cartoon Punk Zine.

I remember getting into a conversation with a buddy of mine (who is also Jewish) about how pre-Trump, Jews feeling oppressed as a minority in this country seemed ridiculous. The only anti-Semitism I had only really experienced were from “progressives” that conflated me along with all other Jews with Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies, but I have fundamentally the same belief system as progressives so I could shut down that shit REALLY quick (“Hey dude, I am a Jew who disagrees with a lot Israel’s policies, just like an I’m an American that is critical of our government policies. What’s that? YOU’RE ALSO AN AMERICAN THAT DISAGREES WITH A BUNCH OF THINGS OUR GOVERNMENT DOES AND WOULD LIKE TO NOT BE JUDGED AS A PERSON BASED ON THOSE ACTIONS??? WOAH, WHAT AN IDEA! DO YOU SEE ANY PARRALEL IN OUR SITUATIONS???”). But overall, me and my friend both agreed, before the 2016 Presidential race, being a Jew that was claiming to be oppressed in this country seemed stupid.

Now I read that comic and agree with it’s message. But part of me is still like, “Oh my God, what whiny social justice warrior shit is this?” (side note, I am a progressive but am not or will ever be a social justice warrior and I will explain that to you if you ask in person because my negative feelings about them are guaranteed to be misconstrued if I put them on the internet).

When I notice myself feeling this way, I have to ask myself, “How bad do things need to get before you start taking this shit a little more seriously?”

I have really started leaning into my Jewish identity lately. My boyfriend is from the Midwest, and knew almost nothing about Judaism before meeting me, so it’s been really fun teaching him about my culture. If I can acknowledge the good things about being Jewish, I need to start acknowledging the struggles that we as a people are up against too.