Thanksgiving is upon us this year and all of the holidays to follow. It’s easy with all that’s going on to get caught up in the minutia of day to day family stuff and the usual holiday brouhaha. When you ask people what they’re thankful for, you’ll often get the usual answers, family, health, my home, etc… well, this year, a few reflections have led me to tell others that I am thankful for my Mogen David, my Jewish Star of David necklace.
It started with a work trip to Florida. One of the ladies in my group wore a Mogen David, but not a subtle one. A giant, in your face, Mogen David that was definitely a statement in our secular group, where no one was wearing religious jewelry of any kind. It was my first trip to Florida, but I remember thinking that she was brave. But it was just a necklace… In reality, it was much more than that. It was a proclamation, a decree. Especially after the bloody shooting in Pittsburgh and a way to show the world that she would not be hiding behind her white privilege and blend in with the whiteness that is Ft. Lauderdale. She would make a point to stand out. I wondered. Could I be that brave?
Then on my flight home, I sat in between Florida natives and a middle eastern family. I talked to the Floridians in my row and they were friendly and so was I. A part of me wondered if they would be as friendly if I, like the women on my left, across the aisle, was wearing a hijab. I hate to say it, but in that moment I was glad I could “fit in” with my seatmates and didn’t have to overcome the barriers that the others might have had to, whether it was a head scarf or a dark complexion. I was glad it could be a light hearted conversation instead of awkwardness. I was glad I could blend in. Should I have told those men I was Jewish? Could I be that brave?
Then comes Thanksgiving and of course my son is a pilgrim in a school play and he’s so cute on stage, I post it and people are hurt and disturbed in ways I never intended to inflict, yet I reflect. I realize if once a year Americans had a bunch of kids dress up as Nazis to educate the other students on WW2 history, I’d probably completely lose my shit. Actually, I’d definitely lose my shit. Can I say something next year to my son’s teacher if it comes up again? Would my concerns just be waved away or pushed aside? Could I be that brave?
That was just the last straw. I decide the Monday before Thanksgiving I will put on my biggest Mogen David, the one that shouts JEW at you and is a perfect length to be seen wearing almost anything and I’m not taking it off until Hanukkah is over. I WILL be brave. I will wear this even if it’s uncomfortable and especially when it’s uncomfortable. Even on Thanksgiving day, will my extended (non Jewish) family say something? It ended up not being as scary as I’d made it out to be in my head, but that was around people who love me, even if they don’t really know me.
So what am I thankful for? My Mogen David that eventually, I get to take off. I am thankful to be able to identify as a minority when I choose to. How convenient. People of color don’t have that choice. Natives have to watch children dress as their oppressors every year. They can’t wave that away. As a white woman, I can go through life fitting in, or I can stand out as a Jew, as an ally, as someone who chooses to identify as a minority, even when I don’t have to and maybe even when I don’t want to. While I won’t wear my jumbo star forever, I certainly will wear one every Thanksgiving and I will wear them more often throughout the year to share my pride and to feel brave, when I could just feel plain.