When it comes to religion, I'm never quite sure where I fit in. I identify as a Catholic/Jew, as that best reflects my upbringing and feels like the most comfortable fit. I have no problem explaining the somewhat confusing upbringing to people when they ask. I flit between the two and have major respect for both religions and their customs.
But there's a dark side to Judaism. It became apparent to me at a very young age - eight, to be precise. "Jew Girl" became a nickname at school for me. It didn't really feel like an insult at that age and I brushed it off with my childhood naivety. But then I got older, and the true extent of how difficult it is to identify as Jewish became glaringly obvious to me.
Secondary school presented me with a whole host of problems. Most notably, the disgust I would be greeted with whenever my Jewish side became knowledge. It's followed me around ever since - people stating that they wouldn't trust me (because of my Jewish heritage), being told I should have a nose job (it's not that big) and generally being blamed for every crisis going on in the world right now.
I'm a member of a student forum - The Student Room - and I'm sickened by how often there is a thread created that rapidly degenerates into something along the lines of "OMG THE JEWZ DID IT!!!!!1" whenever a tragedy is mentioned. Not to mention the fact that supposedly educated university students cannot differentiate between Judaism and Zionism (but let's save that for another time)
Enough is enough.
I don't care if you think that Jews are the root of all evil. I don't care if you think that "Jewish noses" are an abomination. I couldn't care less if you believe us all to be Shylock-esque characters with shady ulterior motives. When I care is when you make your disgusting views public and spout them as if they were fact.
People insist that anti-Semitism is a thing of the past. I can assure you it is not. I have many Jewish friends and, like myself, they encounter it on an almost daily basis. A friend's rabbi was spat at in the street. Spat at. In the street. In 21st Century London. Feel disgusted yet? No? The man is 67. So not only was he a man of faith, he was also an older gentleman. Whenever I recount this story, I'm greeted with comments along the line of "oh but it makes no difference how old he is or anything." I'm sorry, but has the world lost it's damn mind? Is it now completely acceptable to treat someone in that manner, regardless of their age or religion? Shoot, guess I missed the memo.
I'm not really sure why I'm posting this. I'm angry, sure, but it's something that's bugged me for a while. Maybe I'm just using this blog as a platform to get it all off of my chest. I'm rambling. I apologise.
I don't live in some fantasy world where no harm ever comes to anyone and where discrimination isn't present. I live in the real world. A world where, if you're a frequent visitor to the internet, it is now completely acceptable to be anti-Semitic. Regular, normal, everyday Jews are attacked and provoked over the Israel/Palestine situation. We are told that the Holocaust never happened (it did. Members of my extended family perished in concentration camps. Deny it and I won't hesitate to give you a verbal beating). We're told we're shady, deceitful, arrogant creatures who should hide our religion and be ashamed of ourselves.
You know what I say to that?
Why should I have to hide who I am in case it upsets or offends anyone? Why should my friends at university have to keep their religious status a secret for three years because they're terrified of the retributions? Why should a rabbi develop a fear of leaving his home?
Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'll be shouted down by militant anti-Semites. But maybe, just maybe, it might cause you think for a second before you tell that oh-so-hilarious Jew joke.
I'm sick of it. They're not funny. They're offensive and they cause genuine harm to people.
As your mother said: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
Monday, 10 September 2012
Most teenagers spend their days working hard for exams and making time for friends. Lucy* does all this and more.
When the 18 year old does manage to find the time to go shopping with her friends or head to the park, she has a permanent sidekick with her.
“It can be draining at times,” she says, lifting her incredibly heavy bag onto the table. “But I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Although she looks like a normal teenager, with her H&M skirt and New Look jumper, Lucy doesn’t act like a normal teenager. Instead, she has to focus her energy on caring for her son, Harvey*.
It was two years ago that Lucy found her life changing, when she joined her friends at a celebratory barbeque after receiving their GCSE results. “That was when I met him.”
The ‘him’ is Luke*, the then-18 year old who swept her off of her feet. “I'd never had a boyfriend or anything like that, and neither had my friends,” she explains. “We were all totally clueless. But he was older and I trusted him and I believed him.”
Lucy trusted Luke to the extent that she believed him when he told her she could take the morning after pill for up to a week. “I was such a silly, silly girl,” she sighs. “I didn’t realise that it was only effective for 72 hours. I felt so stupid when I found out.”
Just four months into their fledgling relationship, Lucy received the news she had always dreaded receiving. “I was never maternal, at all,” she laughs. “I had never mentally prepared myself to see those two little blue lines.”
Although she feared telling her parents, a dentist and a teacher, she was overwhelmed when they announced their support. Tears forming in her bright blue eyes, she says “they were so disappointed when I told them. But they promised to support any decision I made. It meant so much to me.”
Discovering she was pregnant at just sixteen changed Lucy’s life in more ways than she expected. “I lost nearly all of my friends. They just didn’t know how to accommodate a baby into their plans, which is fine. I miss their company, though.”
Despite being heavily pregnant, Lucy, who had dreams of studying politics and economics at university, managed to sit her AS Level exams last year, obtaining two As and two Bs. “My teachers thought I was insane,” she laughs. “They were probably right, to be honest.”
Today, Lucy’s life plans have changed. “I don’t want to work in politics anymore. They wouldn’t have me anyway,” she laughs. “I'm going to go back to school this autumn and continue my A Levels. After that, I'm hoping to get a place on a midwifery course.”
It’s a drastic change of career choice for the teenager, who admits that she has ulterior motives for the change of heart. “I had one health visitor who was incredibly horrible to me,” she explains. “I don’t know if it was the pressures of the job or a dislike for me, but she was so mean.
“I was having a rough time with postnatal depression and that was the last thing I needed. I'd like to train as a midwife and hopefully offer some vital support to other expectant mothers.”
It was, she stresses, a unique incident. “Every other midwife and health visitor I've seen has been nothing but lovely and supportive.”
Support was something Lucy was desperate for during the first six months of motherhood, when she found herself suffering from postnatal depression. “I just felt so empty and useless. I didn’t know what to do.”
Her condition was not made any easier by the breakdown of her relationship with Luke. Taking a deep breath, she says “he just walked into my house one day and said he didn’t want that life. No reasons, no excuses, just a simple ‘this isn’t for me.’
“I was absolutely heartbroken. Completely devastated. But mainly angry. So, so angry that he could just turn his back on his son, especially when I was having such a difficult time.”
Feeding Harvey a banana, she explains that Luke hasn’t been heard from since. “He left when Harvey was four months old and I haven’t seen or heard from him,” she explains. “He’s missed all of the best bits and it’s his loss.”
Lucy insists she has no regrets, stating that Harvey has given her life a new focus and direction that wouldn’t have been possible without him.
“I just want to work hard and give him the best possible life. After all, he gave me the most amazing life.”
*Names have been changed.