Most of my friends from school are not Jewish.
This can get a little awkward around the Jewish holidays, which always seem to be happening. During Passover, I was confronted by many confused faces when I whipped out a large square of matzoh at lunch. “What even is Passover, anyway?” my friends asked me. At times like this, I wish I had a recording of my rabbi’s explanation. Fortunately, DreamWorks has done a reasonable job. All I had to ask was if they had seen The Prince of Egypt. Lucky for me, they all had.
Being a Jewish teen in Seattle is complicated. I have two different communities: my school friends and my Jewish friends. It can be a challenge to maintain my Jewish community while going to a non-Jewish school. Since graduating from The Jewish Day School, keeping in touch with fellow alumni has been difficult. Volunteering at The Friendship Circle and the Holocaust Center for Humanity and working at Herzl Ner-Tamid allow me to keep in touch with my Jewish friends. Our community has a multitude of excellent resources for Jewish teens to stay engaged. By volunteering with The Friendship Circle every other weekend, I am able to maintain my Jewish friendships, while also benefiting the broader community. At the Holocaust Center, I learn how to educate other people about Jewish history. At Herzl, I get more experience with teaching, and it allows me to keep up my Hebrew knowledge. My experiences in the Jewish community give me a space where I can be truly comfortable being Jewish.
My non-Jewish friends have very little knowledge surrounding Judaism and Israel. They are not anti-Semitic, but they just lack knowledge about anything relating to Jewish life. I have found that there is a fine balance between trying to educate my friends and annoying them. Let me be clear: I love my high school friends, they just don’t understand this piece of me. While I haven’t felt like I am the target of anti-Semitism, I have heard my fair share of Holocaust jokes. I often feel uncomfortable when the topic of Israel comes up, because I know that I am one of the few people at school that supports it. As I mature, I am becoming more aware of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel ideas. Seeing this makes me want to be closer to my Jewish community, because I know that the people in that community get it.
I am happy to have such great non-Jewish friends, and I am also grateful to be Jewish and have such an amazing and supportive Jewish community. My challenge is to live in these two worlds simultaneously. A sense of humor and an occasional movie reference often go a long way.