In the spring of 2001, I walked into a small jewelry store in the old town of Albuquerque. It was hot and bright out, and the sunlight streaming through the windows highlighted the dust floating through the air as though it was glitter.
I stood for a moment and contemplated. I was in New Mexico, the place of my birth, the land where my heart lives, and I had just taken the first official step in my journey towards living a Jewish life. I had just come from of the mikveh (ritual bath) as part of my affirmation of my commitment to Judaism. It was one of those turning points in life when you know everything is changing, when you have made a choice to take one path and leave another behind. I was proud and thrilled and more than a bit scared. I wasn’t sure what was next for me, but I’d always been one to wear my heart on my sleeve and my identity on a chain, and this one was a biggie.
The Judaica was displayed in a small glass case in the corner of the store. I saw it the moment I walked in, but I made a show of looking over each piece; I didn’t want to seem too obvious or eager. Eventually I made my way over to the stars, chais, and hamsas in gold and silver. I found my necklace almost immediately—a small open gold star with six points inside a silver circle.
Not too big, not too obvious, but clearly identifiable as the six-pointed Star of David to anyone who might care. Here I am, it said, a member of the tribe.
I wore that necklace for years, during which time I moved to Boston, got engaged to a nice Jewish boy, got married, didn’t fully appreciate the awesomeness of being young and child-free, and faced infertility.
And then I got pregnant. In the face of all the decisions I needed to make about what kind of mother—what kind of Jewish mother—I would be, I decided to focus on the only issue my exhausted, anxiety-ridden brain could actively consider without freaking out: Should I get a Mommy necklace? If so, what kind? (I documented my decision making process in excruciating detail for a Kveller post.)
I wore that necklace for a year or so, and then I stopped. I don’t remember why, but I do know that I haven’t consistently worn a Jewish charm since then. It’s not for lack of thinking about it; each morning I look at the various Stars of David I’ve accumulated over the years, and most of the time I skip right past them. I’d love to tell you it’s because my Jewish identity has solidified enough to the point where I don’t need to openly declare it, but if I’m really honest about it, I’d have to say that it’s because I was scared.
Lately I’ve been noticing the mothers, fathers, and children wearing kippot, hats, scarves, and other head coverings as they walk in and out of the Jewish day school my daughters attend. (It’s a pluralistic community school, so we have a wide range of observances.) Just a year ago, I wondered why they would do such a thing—why would they advertise their Judaism to the world, a world that seemed to be becoming increasingly hostile and anti-Semitic?
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and reading about this issue in the past few weeks. I re-read Mayim’s post about her own collection of Jewish necklaces, as well as posts by other women who came down on both sides of the issue. And I realized I missed that little star I bought in Albuquerque all of those years ago.
Not only do I love the way it looks, but I treasure the memories it evokes for me, and the ways in which it helps me feel connected to Judaism and New Mexico. It also reminds me of my mindfulness practice, as the circle is a symbol that is commonly associated with mindfulness. Finally, it’s my husband’s favorite necklace, and while that’s not a reason to choose it, it is an added bonus that does matter to me.
And so the Star of David has found its way back to my neck.
Do I still have a twinge of anxiety each time I put it on? Sometimes. But I’m tired of letting those twinges dictate my choices, big or small.