Google News Alerts are a really good way of keeping up-to-date with the latest events, not only in Jewishlandia, but also in the blogosphere. “Jewish Conversion,” “Conservative Judaism,” and “Judaísmo Latinoamérica” are some of my most fruitful keywords; in addition to keeping abreast of current events, recent publications, and local happenings, I’ve found amazing bloggers detailing their paths, similar enough to my own to build a sense of community but distinct enough to keep it interesting. Makes for good reading on the BART ride home.
But every now and then, I encounter someone’s post that just makes me want to scream. Today’s source was the reflections of some well-intentioned South African describing her relationship with a Jew. She was previously unfamiliar with the religio-culture, so I can only imagine the multitude of comical and frustrating experiences since they got together. And yet, while highlighting many unique features of the Ashkenazi Diaspora, she cited erroneous information. Jews do not engage in marital intimacies through sheets with a hole in the middle. Really, I promise. That thing’s an undershirt for the purpose of being able to fulfill the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit on four cornered-garments all the time. Not a sheet, not a cloak of modesty for sexual relations.
I know this seems like one of the more comical myths circulating the world, and therefore one of the most harmless. But I really find it no different from any of the other attempts to make the Jew into the Other, to misinterpret our intentions in condescension and ignorance while failing to research one’s claims. And in this heightened era of Islamophobia, I can’t help but connect the two. As a white member of this society, I recognize the white privilege I enjoy. I only wish (Protestant) Christians and Christian-secularists would recognize their own privilege and act from a point of humble curiosity when encountering those of other faith traditions. A burqa or niqab is not a veil for jihad-based terrorism. Sikhs wear turbans, too. Catholics and Mormons are really, truly Christians. Hindus do not worship statues.
People of privilege need to listen more and talk less. Consider the consequences of your words and their historical origins. You might be surprised at what you’re perpetuating.