As a Jewish student, I have been asked countless times about my faith, which isn't a bad thing. I've learned to understand that things that are so simple to me can be a new concept to people of other religions. However, there are some frequently asked questions and statements that begin to get a little annoying, once you've heard them a couple of times. This is because there's no real knowledge to dole out by answering these questions, and while I realize that nobody means to annoy me with them, I thought I'd round up the phrases and statements I get the most as a Jewish student.
1. "So is Hanukkah like the Jewish Christmas?"
I know that since the two holidays fall around the same time of year and are frequently grouped together, it can be easy to see Hanukkah at the same level as Christmas, but it is in reality one of our smallest holidays. In fact, Hanukkah used to be an overlooked holiday, but with the popularity of Christmas, it has become more commercialized and larger than originally celebrated as.
2. "Do you speak Hebrew?"
Yes, a majority of our prayers are in Hebrew, but that doesn't mean that every Jew can speak it. We have three branches (Reform, Conservative and Orthodox) so not every Jew is as religious as the next, meaning that some of us never learned to speak Hebrew. You may run across a Jew who can read, but not speak, Hebrew, and this is because in Hebrew school, they teach us to read the prayers. However, this doesn't apply to everyone, so be careful when assuming that someone speaks Hebrew just because they're Jewish.
3. "You don't look Jewish."
Okay, so maybe I don't have frizzy hair and a big nose, but that is by no means reason for you to scrutinize me for it. Saying people "look Jewish" is a stereotype, and while some people fit into it all, not all Jews do.
4. "Why do you need the day off for Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur?"
I've actually gotten this, so let me just put this out there: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the holiest days of the year for Jews. They are the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement, so we need the day off because those are kind of important services we have to attend. Trust me, I'm not the biggest fan of taking days off, but these holidays are too big to miss. Literally. If you ask any practicing Jew, they will tell you that the most important time to go to synagogue are on these holidays.
5. "I have another Jewish friend! Do you know each other?"
There is no Jewish group message between all Jews, I promise. No radar, no special group or cult, nothing. Now while I realize it is much more common to run across people of other faiths than Jewish, there are still a lot of Jews in this world. Not all of us go to the same synagogue, much less sit next to each other during services. Even people I was friends with in my childhood, I don't see very often these days. So, no. I most likely do not know your other Jewish friend.
6. "So are you Kosher or something?"
It's always good to recognize certain dietary restrictions, but when we've been to McDonald's together and had Big Macs, there's no need to check if I'm Kosher.
7. "I wish I was Jewish."
While this is a nice sentiment, I never know how to respond to this one. Being Jewish is just a part of who I am and I can't wave a magic wand and make you Jewish, too. I also tend to think, why? I don't see any way being Jewish would change your life drastically.
While there are many annoying parts about being Jewish, I wouldn't wish to be a part of any other religion. The culture, traditions and sense of community that come with being Jewish are the reasons that I'm grateful to have been born a Jew, and will continue to be thankful for this identity and proud of my religion throughout college.
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