Pride and Prejudice MAG

August 21, 2013
By Hillel Zand BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
Hillel Zand BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I’m proud of being Jewish, but when the cruel jokes began in high school, I started to question everything I’d ever been told about my faith and culture.

“Hey, I found a penny,” said a friend. Then, as he threw it into the dirt, he yelled, “Go fetch!”

“That’s so Jewish” became a favorite among my friends too. About half the time when I say something about money, “That’s so Jewish” follows, even after I insist for the umpteenth time that it’s not funny.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always aware of how offensive jokes about religion can be. I have a friend who’s Mormon. I used to occasionally make polygamy jokes until he vehemently insisted that I stop. Once I realized how much it bothered him, I didn’t make another joke about his religion. Why
can’t my friends give me the same courtesy and respect?

I come from a loving home that accepts all backgrounds. We are proud to be Jewish but don’t flaunt our religion. Judaism (and religion in general) isn’t a topic I typically discuss with my friends, even though I’d be glad to have a serious conversation with them about our respective faiths. But to them my religion and heritage is simply fodder for hurtful and derogatory jokes. They don’t bother to learn anything about it. That’s what annoys me the most.

Some have argued that a person’s religion is a choice, and that if I don’t like being taunted for being Jewish, I should convert. To me, that’s absurd. No matter how much anti-Semitism I experience, I will always be a Jew. Judaism is my culture, my belief system, the root of my morals and ethics. It’s so much more than they will ever understand, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

My only wish is that people, especially my less mature friends, would take the time to learn about how anti-Semitic ideas and actions have led to devastating results throughout history. Jews have been persecuted since the Exodus, and the burdens that come with our tragic but proud heritage can be a lot to handle.

Let’s face it: being a minority can suck sometimes. But that’s reality.

What may seem like harmless slurs and jokes can be dangerous. The first step to ending religious discrimination is education – education about what history has proven can happen when ignorance and intolerance go unchecked. Making an effort to understand other cultures and speaking up against discrimination are both parts of that education.

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