I don’t write about religion often. Usually I mention it in passing, not as core subject matter. I believe that we are all entitled to our personal beliefs, so long as we aren’t hurting anyone. However, when I DO write about religion, it’s because something has pissed me off, which brings me to why I am writing this. There’s a reason.
Nine times out of ten when people meet me, the first words out of their mouth are “What part of Italy are your parents from?” or “What part of Puerto Rico are you from?” (My brother also gets pegged as 100% Italian or Puerto Rican, except he has olive skin and I can totally see it in him, especially when he’s tan.) I stare at them, dumbfounded. For the record, my Italian ancestry is from Rome and Venice and my Spanish ancestry is from Spain and Argentina. To read about additional aspects you can read more here Ancestry, or ask me. Not that I think it is important, it’s not.
For clarity, let me set the stage for you: I am the palest white girl you might ever meet. My natural hair color is a dark brown that I call espresso (It is currently blue-black because I wanted a change.), and my eyes are hazel-green that are predominantly green. They change color depending on what I’m wearing and the mood I’m in. There is not a single thing about me that is distinctively any racial ethnicity over another, but I always get pegged for one of the two, and occasionally people assume I’m Irish (I think it’s my complexion.). I have no problem with any of that, but when I say “Actually, I’m Jewish and my ancestry is blended.”, people audibly gasp as if I just announced I am the reincarnation of Hitler and Stalin and I’m planning on world domination.
There is an awful lot of inter-religion racism that I find deplorable, and I discovered it within my family last year. While we might be related, however closely or distantly, we don’t all have the same facial features, for obvious reasons. I was talking to a cousin and her exact words were “No one thinks you’re Jewish because you don’t have the Jewish nose that walks into the room five minutes before you do, like mine.” My jaw was on the fucking floor at the disgust I heard in her voice. She openly admitted that she thinks it’s ugly, but that she doesn’t believe in spending the money on plastic surgery or she’d do something about it. All I could think was “There are things I don’t like about myself too, but I don’t look at my face that way.” I mentioned it to someone else and they told me “You don’t know what it’s like to go through life as an ugly person.” Again, I was floored. I have NO IDEA what they see that I do not.
I don’t possess that level of self-hatred for quirks of nature that make each of us unique. I treasure the fact that I inherited high cheekbones that both of my Grandmothers had, that I am the last of the hazel-green eyed women in my family (for now), and that I got my maternal Grandmother’s and mother’s full lips and widow’s peak. I am an amalgamation of three different generations of women, perhaps more, all with distinctive genetic blends. I don’t see myself as any one thing, but I do see myself as me.
But I digress.
About ten days ago, a friend of a friend sent me a Facebook request. Unlike most people, I do not accept friend requests simply because A knows B. I decided to do a little research. It took less than a minute to learn that the woman who wanted to be my “friend” is a 27-year-old Filipino woman, friends with someone I’ve known for a long time, who is married to a 70+ year old British man who is 100% anti-Semitic. Strike One.
His Facebook wall is full of BDS posts, anti-Israel posts, and all kinds of hate messages against Israel. Apparently every Jew on this planet “needs to be eliminated immediately” because “they’re all terrorists”. WOW! I stared at the screen, utterly speechless. This is who a young, pretty girl is married to?! Surely she can do better. I mean really, she’s stunning and appears to be sane. What is wrong with her?
He posts this crap in England and she’s asking him, in the Philippines, if this stuff is “true”. (That’s right, they don’t live together. Does this sound familiar?) His answer is “YES!”, along with additional colorful hate speech. Strike Two.
Instead of educating herself (There is NO reason anyone in this world should be THAT uneducated so as to believe such vile hatred about a country or a religion. You don’t have to be a Ph.D. candidate, you simply have to have a brain you utilize daily and not be ignorant.), she doesn’t question it. It’s coming from her husband, so she believes it. Strike Three. And get this: He’s a philosophy professor. Any university I know would revoke his tenure and fire him for that shit.
I immediately deleted her “friend request”. It would have resulted in an epic fight and I do not have the time, patience, or the inclination to educate someone who should be shipping off to an old age home sometime soon, as opposed to newly married to someone old enough to be his daughter who is either way too good for him, or maybe way too stupid.
If you want to believe that “Israel is plotting terror.”, do your fucking homework. It’s a tiny democratic country in the Middle East, home to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, surrounded by countries that all want to wipe them off the map because Israel is the only country in the world that is Jewish land, given to the Jewish people, so decreed by God.
I messaged my friend and explained the situation. She’s “friends” with both of them and I didn’t want to step on any toes because I didn’t know how close the relationship was or wasn’t. I’d never intentionally disrespect someone else’s friends. She agreed that I did the right thing, that the husband is crazy and that his hate messages bother her too, and she said she doesn’t understand his hate or where it comes from. And yet, her answer to dealing with him is to hide his posts on her Facebook wall, as opposed to outright deleting them OR telling him he’s wrong. That’s way too passive for me.
If someone says something derogatory to me because of my religion (or anything else, really), I call them out on their shit immediately. I have freedom of speech and I know how to use it. If you’re going to hide behind a computer and say stupid shit, I dare you to say it to my face. That’s the thing; these cowards NEVER actually come out from hiding and say a word to your face.
Sadly, the most hatred I have faced in terms of direct anti-Semitism has been from my own people. My own family, and other Jews. I suspect that a lot of that is because I “don’t look Jewish”. I have no idea what that even means, because it is a wholly racist comment. I wouldn’t tell a white woman that she “doesn’t look African”, despite the fact that she just told me that’s where she’s from, so why would I brand anyone else as not looking like an image someone else is putting in one’s mind? That is incredibly ignorant.
Would you tell Behati Prinsloo, wife to Adam Levine, that she doesn’t look like an African woman (She is Namibian. I do my homework.)? No, I didn’t think so. Because not only is she white and a supermodel, but the last time I checked her English is better than most people born in this country.
In my mind, I don’t see color. I see people. Everyone is different, everyone is unique. There are religious differences, yes. The difference in Judaism is that we do not believe in Jesus or that Jesus is the son of God. There are dietary laws and some other historical and biblical differences, but the differences aren’t so enormous that one needs to argue about it. I can argue the two different Bibles with you until the cows come home, but does that really matter? No. To each their own, so long as you aren’t hurting anyone.
However, any form of hatred hurts us all. Hatred is taught. We are not born knowing hate. I grew up surrounded by other religions and cultures, never once thinking anything of it. As I’ve gotten older, I realize how incredibly sheltered some people are, and that is scary and eye-opening to me.
I don’t often wear a symbol of faith because it feels redundant, but the other day a woman came running up to me to ask about my Triple Goddess pendant. I had it custom-made about five years ago. In between the three phases of the moon that represent Maiden, Mother, and Crone are two Stars of David and a very large gemstone in the center represents the full moon. It was my first time wearing it. That is precisely who and what I am. I believe in duality of God and Goddess (this is represented in Kabbalah, but is represented as male and feminine aspects of God as opposed to duality.), but I am also 100% Jewish. And as a Jewish woman, there is no room in my world, or the world on a whole, for anti-Semitism or hatred. Make an off-color, stupid, or rude remark to or in front of me and we’ll see if you’re sitting and/or eating tomorrow. I am supremely polite, I believe we all have the right to practice whatever we believe in so long as no harm is coming to anyone, but I will never be polite in the face of hatred or ignorance, nor will I tolerate it.
Tonight is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It marks the end of the year 5775 on the Jewish calendar and brings in 5776. It is one of the holiest holidays we celebrate. Many people have told me that this year, their temples have notified them of police presence and/or security for services, partly due to all of the anti-Semitism that has occurred all over the world over the past year. I think it’s smart, but it’s sad.
I, personally, don’t attend temple unless I am invited to something that calls for it. It has nothing to do with anything other than my attention span. Services are long, are almost predominantly in Hebrew or Ladino, and my brain can only listen for a certain amount of time before I space out and/or start to fall asleep, which is rude beyond words, so I prefer to pray throughout the year, light candles on my own, and take time to reflect and work on myself. It is emotionally heavy for me, so I feel it’s crucial to know my boundaries. Part of that is knowing myself. The holidays are tough on me, and going to temple isn’t going to ease that. I don’t have to be among other people to be what I was born, or to be what I believe. That makes sense for some people, but for me, it doesn’t help matters, so I tough it out.
Here’s hoping the new year will be prosperous and sweet. Let there be more understanding, more compassion, more concern for others, more helping people in need, because at the end of the day, there is no room for hate. It benefits nothing and no one.
copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.