Growing Up Jewish In South Jersey
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Growing Up Jewish In South Jersey

Being raised Jewish in a town with not a lot of Jews always made me feel weird as a kid. Now, as an adult, I feel proud of my religion.

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I have always been proud of being Jewish, but growing up in an area where there was not a lot of other Jewish kids always made me feel like the odd one out.

Some people in my community, especially a few teachers, would always try and make sure they were acknowledging Jewish holidays and songs whenever they talked about Christmas or Easter.

From elementary school to high school, whenever there was any type of winter music concert, there was always just one Hanukkah song in the program. It always made me laugh because there is not a large variety of Hanukkah songs out there, so we would always perform one of two well-known songs for the holiday.

To me, it didn't matter if we played a Jewish song or not. I guess it was nice that the teachers were trying to make the Jewish kids feel included and not only play Christmas songs.

Sometimes, it did feel nice to feel special and acknowledged. Other times, I didn't want to be singled out. If we sang a song about a dreidel or a menorah, all of my classmates would look at me or ask me questions as if I was the spokesperson for all Jews. It was good that they were learning about other religions and what other people celebrate, but at times, I just wished I didn't have to feel left out.

In elementary school, when all the kids still believed in Santa Claus, my teacher said to the class that if you don't believe in Santa, then you're stupid. That was wrong for her to say for several reasons, but being a 7-year-old at the time, I felt really weird and uncomfortable.

I knew Santa wasn't real and my teacher was calling me dumb. I know she only said it to confirm the rest of the kids and their belief in the fictitious character, but that comment made me feel like it was wrong to be Jewish.

Occasionally, I feel uncomfortable wearing my Star of David necklace just because I am afraid of people since there are a lot of hateful and crazy people out there.

When I would meet new people, whether it was a new friend or a new teacher, I would never disclose my religion because I didn't want them stereotyping me or judging me. I wanted them to get to know me first. Later, if they found out I was Jewish, then hopefully they would just base their opinion of me off of my actions and personality, not my religion.

It is scary how I would always think when I was younger about what I would say if someone had a gun and asked me if I was Jewish. That shouldn't be a thought in a young child's mind, but it was because I was always scared of something like that happening.

Fortunately, for me, I lived a town where most people were accepting and never judged me for being Jewish.

Even though I have had to deal with people throwing pennies at me and making fun of the size of my nose, I have realized as an adult that I am proud to be Jewish and I am proud to tell people who I am.

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