sensitivities can distort or destroy one’s perspective. rising “expectations” of how others should act can reach a “toxic” level. this can lead to the unnecessary demonization of groups. for some, especially the young, specialness or uniqueness is good cause to make the whole world stop, take note, and handle with care.
i offer the synagogue as an example. i have watched a number of interviews in which individual are annoyed about being questioned about their identity. one place that this can occur is at a synagogue. while i am not unique or special in the sense of the word, when attending a different synagogue, there are things that may make me familiar to those at the synagogue. i bring my prayer shawl in a embroidered bag that is 45 years old. i pull out a traditional talit from the bag made in israel that was a gift. i pull out a yamulke from a recent bar mitzvah or wedding i attended. besides being dressed with a coat and ties, these accessories clue those attending at to who i am. likewise, those present observe my handling of the prayer book and my participation. irrespective of skin color, the indicia is obvious that i am someone who is present to seriously participate in the service.
while i may fit in, besides those wishing a happy holiday or a shabbat shalom, i too get peppered with questions. some may be quite personal in nature. congregants are curious. is this person who is interested in becoming a member? they might think. irrespective of skin color, questions will be asked; some, uncomfortable.
this should be no surprise. judaism is a religion that is open to strangers and expressing kindness to them. sometimes, there are individuals who may be ignorant as to the extensive racial and ethnic composite of jews within the community. the moment to open their eyes to something new should not be turned into some offense. sometimes, the individual needs to be gracious and accept that these moments happen. both my children, who are bi-racial, experience these moments. they show some signs of annoyance at times. there is the need to not make it into a moment of oppression. the reality is that when expectations are unreasonable, there reaction will be toxic. again, there should be some appreciation of the fact that individuals are interested in interacting with you. if you were ignored, what would have been the feelings about the experience?
in sum, there are times and places were all should be patient. expectations that others will treat you in a perfect way is totally unreasonable and will lead to “toxic” feelings.
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