“Can you say my name in Jewish?”
“Uh, well, okay, what’s your name?”
“Alright, let me see if I can figure it out, my Jewish isn’t fluent by any means, but I’m pretty sure it would be-
I wasn’t THE ONLY JEW in town, there was a synagogue that my family attended that boasted a small congregation, but I was THE ONLY JEW in elementary school. I made a dear friend at temple and she went to the same district as I did, but was quite a few grades above me. She seemed to have the good sense to keep her unusual faith practices to herself during school hours. I’ve never known when to shut up. So everyone knew about the lone Jew.
A few people tried to save my soul. I went with one girl to her grandmother’s born again church one Sunday and sat through an hour and a half of being told that everyone outside of the room (and sitting in my seat) was going to hell. They had a pot luck lunch afterwards. The pulled pork was so good, I showed up for their next pot luck service too.
Most people didn’t bother trying to introduce me to Jesus, though. As a card carrying member of God’s Chosen People, I’ve been assured that it’s okay, I just don’t know any better! This knowledge has been quite a relief. I’m assuming it means I’ll go to a much nicer hell than those pesky out-and-out atheists. A hell where, instead of burning eternally in a lake of fire, the AC will eternally be on the fritz in my condo, and my children will never come visit me.
I never stopped reminding the rest of the school of my “otherness”, either. By middle school, I had become entirely fed up with the one-sided holiday programs that the school put on. I don’t know who I’m trying to fool by calling them holiday programs, even the school referred to them as Christmas programs. That’s how one-sided they were.
I spoke up during a music class. “How about some Hanukkah songs? Hanukkah is around this time of year.” The music teacher thought that sounded reasonable enough, as long as I did all the work for her. So I, the fifth grader, the lone Jew, went out into the world and brought back to her not only the sheet music for Hava Nagila, but also for two of the Hanukkah prayers. (In a rare moment of self-preservation, I did not mention to the rest of the class that they were singing Jewish prayers.) So there you have it. After a rocky start with the locals, I gave Tiny Town its first inter-faith school program.
I’m sure they are still grateful.