By Shari Perlstein
Last year in AP Euro, we watched “Schindler’s List”, a tradition Mr. Lively upholds every year. He gave us the option to stop watching the movie if the movie affected us too much. When he mentioned this, I thought that I would be able to handle it, what with growing-up constantly learning about the Holocaust. However, that was not the case. After two days of leaving the class incredibly upset and bothered for the rest of the day, I asked Mr. Lively if I could stop watching the movie and go work in the IRC until they had finished it. Even though Mr. Lively said that it was fine and he completely understood, I felt ashamed of myself. Everyone else could sit through the movie, even my fellow Jews. I seemed to be the only one deeply affected by it. I added this experience to the growing list I had in my head of things that I experienced differently as a Jewish person.
Many people don’t realize how different the “high school experience” can be for someone of a minority religion within La Cañada. In tenth grade, when we were learning about world religions, my teacher mainly focused on the orthodox side of Judaism, and frankly, I was not surprised. It’s not common knowledge that there are many denominations of Judaism; most people think that you are either über religious or do not practice at all. It is very important to me that Judaism receives proper representation in schools, particularly because many think it is the same as Christianity. I would correct my teacher whenever he made over-generalized comments. At first, he appreciated it, but as the unit went on, I could tell that he was becoming annoyed, and as much as I would have loved to stop, it was too important to me that my classmates receive a proper understanding of Judaism.
I come across as very religious person, but, in reality, I’m not. I went to Sunday school for eleven years and have had my Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation, but that is all I have done. Once I leave the temple, the religious practices basically end (unless there is a holiday, and then my family celebrates at home). The reason I come across as religious is because I am so removed from anyone else like me. Yes, there are other Jews at LCHS, but, as far as a I know, I was the only one in my grade who has remained an active member. The other reason I come across as religious is that Judaism has evolved into a full blown culture, not just a religion. There are the little things that make me different than anyone else, like the dumplings I eat are filled with fruit and topped with cheese and sugar.
These little cultural differences are what bugs me when Judaism is put on the back burner. In December, the school decorates for the holidays. Note, I said holidays. They try to make the merriment void of religious influences, but it is still inherently Christian with the red and green tinsel everywhere. In the same English class last year, my teacher showed us a slideshow of his trip to Israel. Instead of talking about the Jewish influences throughout the state, he focused on the elements of Christianity. I normally would not have cared about this because I’ve grown accustomed to unconscious acts like this and Israel is as important a place to Christians as it is for Jews or Muslims. However, it annoyed me because we were in the unit solely focused on Judaism, and they were talking about Christianity. A slideshow like this would have illuminated the cultural side of the religion, but, instead, Judaism was pushed to the side.
I get it. Judaism is not as prominent as other religions, but for once I would like to be in History class and hear about my culture and religion at a time other then when it’s being persecuted. For once, I would like to be able to go to temple on Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, or attend a seder for Pesach instead of having to skip the important holidays because of tests or essays or plays or mandatory football games. Judaism celebrates many holidays, but I still have to skip the important ones, and even these are largely unknown. You hear all the time that representation matters, but honestly Jewish representation is nothing but stereotypes.
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