When is a good time to start openly wearing my Star of David necklace at my new workplace?
—Sarah in Tech Seattle
We humans deeply seek to be known. It is stressful when we are compelled to hide aspects of our identity. Hiding one’s Judaism may lead to exposure to anti-Jewish comments, which are worst-case diabolical, best-case tossed off unthinkingly. The reveal then becomes more dramatic than necessary. That we were once mandated to wear yellow stars complicates things: Am I showing affiliation and pride, or am I guilty of objectification and labeling? Interestingly, when I know I will be in a non-Jewish environment, I make a point of wearing a Jewish star. Perhaps it is our choice that imbues the wearing more with pride and less with labeling.
As headlines stir anxieties about being visibly Jewish, some version of this question lives in Jewish hearts and minds the world over — including my own. As you consider wearing this weighty symbol at work, be a loving witness to yourself: What’s fueling this pause? Evidence of risk that requires you to just “blend in,” or could it be heightened cautiousness that stems from collective trauma but isn’t necessary right now? How do your co-workers display their own religious/cultural identities? Can that illuminate what’s possible, inspire conversations, and spark relationships? And can proudly wearing your star both reflect your identity and be a way of championing everyone’s ability to be their authentic selves around the office?
It’s 2019. Historically marginalized groups are accepted like never before, and wearing a Jewish symbol really shouldn’t have to be something any of us think twice about. But it is, because anti-Semites want it to be. They want us to cower. Respond by doubling down on Jewish pride! Wear something Jewish openly and proudly! Consider beginning workplace meetings by giving charity. Embrace your identity. A personal note: Wearing my kippah on campus at UW, I’ve made friends whom I’d never otherwise have met, and I find that far from showing hatred or distrust, people express admiration for my open Jewish pride.
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