multiculturalism/alienation

by tobybee

I ran into a friend, A., at uni on Friday. we had a brief chat about work and the problems of the shared office space, and she asked me if I was coming to a party that a different friend was having that night. I said no, I had ‘family dinner’ (the euphemism I use when telling non-jewish friends what I do on Friday nights, because I don’t think they’ll know what I’m saying if I say I have shabbes dinner, or shabbat, and I really hate using the word sabbath). A. said, ‘oh, cute!’ I thought – no, not cute. Why are religious/cultural practices cute? And then I got annoyed that I don’t just say explicitly what I’m doing, that I hide in some way (but I also know that constantly explaining gets boring and annoying, and that that’s why I do it)

The other week I was talking with another friend, B., and she asked me if yom kippur is a big family time, because a band that had been booked for a lefty event on Tuesday night had pulled out with late notice, citing yom kippur as their reason. In my confused, disbelieving state (what, was she checking up on them? Did she think that those sneaky jews had used some mystical jewish excuse to screw people over?) I just said yes. And then later regretted that I hadn’t clarified that no, it’s not (just) family time, it’s go-to-shul-and-contemplate-your-actions-and-repent-and-reflect time. And regretted that I had participated in answering the question at all.

Another friend had also organised a different lefty event for that same night. Two events that I would have liked to go to, if it hadn’t been kol nidre. When I expressed some annoyance that there were these two events happening that night B. said, ‘well, I didn’t organise them. And anyway, that band didn’t even remember, so why should we know!’

this is what Australian multiculturalism looks like. Jewishness is cute, it’s bagels, and cakes, and asking native informants, and one person’s actions and ideas standing for all jews. It’s not letting it get in the way of the dominant society living their lives how they want to. It’s me second-guessing myself, and wondering if I should even post this, knowing that there’s a chance these friends (who I really value and love) may read it.

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