I remember when my friend was given the ultimatum, me or her cousin, to stay and play.
I remember walking my ten year old self
two houses over back to my own, torn and rejected.
Trudging and crying,
Embarrassed and ashamed.
My parents called her parents after Shabbos but nothing was done.
I remember failing almost every Judaic studies class
Fidgeting around in my seat, unable to steady myself and the discomfort.
Though when I tried to organize a study date I was never called back.
I remember when even the daughter of my father’s friend didn’t want to play with me.
Co-workers and friends, I had prayed worthlessly for some camaraderie.
I remember when my best friend emailed to say we could no longer be friends.
Cold stone rejection.
When my classmates insisted they get into the best seminaries –
So they get the best Shidduch dates
But couldn’t quite accept or understand
How – why – my family was so “modern.”
When school trips included handing out Shabbat candles
Pamphlets and reading materials,
Asking of random strangers
“Excuse me, are you Jewish?!”
So that they know of their beautiful history.
When some of our own school mates were kicked out
Because they struggled to understand as the hanhala did.
Because they struggled to
stay afloat as life threw more curves than they were able to handle.
Because they didn’t “represent.”
When my roommate and coworker slapped me across the face
Mentally abused me
And poked and prodded.
When I complained to the administration who hired us
But saw nothing get done.
“Let us know if something like this happens again,” they said.
And when careless – reckless – driving almost got me hurt, and I spoke up again,
We were merely called in for a meeting
Where I was thrown under the bus.
When I called my religious brother for advice
But was told to fight back.
And that he had to go.
When I called my non-believing sister
Over and over.
To no avail.
When I passed with my friend and our breaking suitcases
A resident and “yungerman” in Europe
Heading in a shared direction
But no assistance was offered.
No words exchange.
Rather, the woman with him merely asked us if we’d be signing up for the Shabbat meal –
For which we paid a heavy fee and got little.
When I turned to Modern Orthodoxy
but got no answers,
Just many more questions about who I was
And mirrors seemed to be circling all around me.
When my siblings turned their pages to live a life of their choosing
But my parents and their friends challenged it all.
What community is this you speak of
When you dare to ask
Am I one of you,
One of “Us?”