The Different One This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 1, 2009
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I walk through my inner city high school, laughing with friends and joking about teachers and assignments that we'll probably never get around to doing. We're all the same, on the inside, but I stand out. I'm the Jewish girl among my African-American peers, and I'll always be the different one.

I don't notice it often, but when I do, every once in a while it bothers me. I'll wear my Star of David necklace and someone will ask, “You're Jewish?” And then I'll respond with a meek yes, and try to change the subject. But I never can. They always want more. “So, you don't go to church on Sunday?” And I have to explain, once again, that I attend “church” on Saturday.

It's not that I don't like being Jewish – I do. It's just that not many people in my city, or my school, know anything about the culture or practices of the Jewish people.

I'm no different from my peers, for the most part. I do homework, compete on the swim team, practice my instruments, and eat dinner. But we always eat as a family, and my mom, younger sisters, and I pray both before and after the meal, in English and sometimes Hebrew. There are few things that separate us from other families, but nobody takes the time to see that.

“So, you don't celebrate Christmas? How could somebody not celebrate Christmas?” I sigh, smile, and explain that I don't celebrate Christmas, and no, I don't even put up a Christmas tree. I light a menorah every night for eight nights, though, and that can be fun.

My peers don't know what a dreidel is, or a potato latke, so I explain how the game is played, and probably tell the story of how when my boyfriend came over for Chanukah last year, he ate four latkes, which is saying a lot because he's picky.

“What about your boyfriend? Is he Jewish?” No, he's not Jewish, I respond. He's African-American. I don't have to date Jewish guys, but I do date guys who respect me for my goals and dreams and for who I am, regardless of religion.

The other students usually get a weird look at this point, and then finish by raising their eyebrows and saying “Wow.” They are not judgmental, and I respect and love them for that. I just laugh it off and change the subject slickly: “So, did anyone finish the definitions for bio?” They all laugh at me then; if they did the homework, they're not going to admit it.

I'm just a teenage girl. I don't have time to be different – I'm too busy doing my homework, filling out scholarship applications, talking to my boyfriend, arguing with my sister over who gets to use the phone, and obsessing about my hair. I never asked to be different, never wanted to be. But ­despite the fact that I'm Jewish and I look different from my peers, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather go to school or anywhere I'd rather live.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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MalloryR. said...
Apr. 6, 2011 at 7:52 pm
I understand! I am proud to be Jewish, but whenever I bring leftover matzah for lunch or where the Star of David, I get bombarded with questions!
Hawthorn said...
Feb. 23, 2011 at 9:37 am
I love Potato latkes! Have you tried adding scallions? They taste even better that way!
Bethani said...
Dec. 21, 2010 at 10:44 pm
As a mormon, I'm often faced with similiar questions and fears. I don't have more than one mom. I am a normal girl with normal struggles. 
Rhianna P. said...
Dec. 22, 2009 at 7:37 am
wow i like this story it is amazing!!!!!lol!!! you should write more.
Electricity This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 6, 2009 at 8:51 pm
--clears throat-- my best friend who is the boy i think i love is jewish, and people tease me about that. Not that he's my best friend and i like him, but that i like a jewish boy. It's really annoying. I can hear where you're coming from. well written.
urgay510 replied...
Dec. 7, 2009 at 3:02 pm
this is intersting
urfat replied...
Dec. 7, 2009 at 3:13 pm
wtrgirl4ever said...
Jan. 27, 2009 at 8:51 pm
I loved this article! I have friends who are Jewish, and I've never understood the Jewish stereotype. You expressed your dilemmas in people's reactions to your religion very well. I was really surprised to read that someone has never heard of Hunnakuh.Very well expressed. keep on writing! :)
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