For Jews around the world, the days between Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are a time for reflection. With recent synagogue shootings, a reported doubling of anti-Semitic assaults and fierce debates about the U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, young Jewish people have a lot to wrestle with. What does it mean to be Jewish today? How safe are Jewish spaces? How does being Jewish shape a person's identity and how they're seen?
Here's what four young Jewish people in the Bay had to say.
Ocean Noah, San Francisco
“I remember in high school, I would wear shirts that were very high-collared, because I would wear my Star of David necklace under it, and I knew the shirt would hide it. And that was a good day for me, if I could hide my necklace but still wear it, because there was a lot of anti-Semitism at my school. So coming to college, I feel more comfortable being openly Jewish. And yet I still feel a lot of shame. There are some times when I want to distance myself from claiming to be Jewish, because there’s a lot of privilege that comes with it, and there’s an association with Israel. It’s like, impossible to be Jewish and comfortable.”
Jess Adler, Oakland
“If there’s ever an ice-breaker, sometimes, if I feel comfortable in the situation, I’ll be like, ‘Surprise: I’m Jewish!’ Because I don’t really look Jewish. There’s a very stereotypical way — at least in the American mindset — of what a Jew is supposed to look like. And I definitely don’t fit into that category because I look so much like my mom’s side, which is Asian. So it’s always really funny to see people’s reactions when I’m like, ‘Oh, hey, by the way, I’m Jewish,’ and they’re like, ‘What? No way!’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I can recite the V’ahavta if you want me to.’”
Daniel Yeluashvili, San Francisco
“Jewish spaces ... I don’t care if they’re safe or unsafe! I could come here and there could be lava on the floor. I’d come here anyway. My synagogue could be built on top of an atom bomb. I’d go there anyway! I don’t care. This is where we belong. This is what we do. That’s all I got.”
Victoria Poslavsky, San Francisco
“To me, being white is a privilege, because my family is from the former Soviet Union. Growing up, I heard stories that in the former Soviet Union, being Jewish was deemed as second class, and you weren’t really white, in a sense. So to me, being Jewish in America means I am white. And that, for my family, means we have privilege, we have rights, we have money. We are able to just like, be an ordinary person.”