I had to search for it.
It had been so long since I’d even looked at my Magen David necklace. It’s funny that I even had one at all; I’d just never been all that in to the idea of using these kinds of cultural symbols as decorative.
I’m sure I got a chai (the Hebrew word for life, consisting of two letters, chet and yud) necklace or 12 for my bat mitzvah; I’m sure I never wore them. But I did have a Star of David pendant, somewhere. My mother-in-law gave it to me for my birthday back in the day, when she was the mother of this guy I’d been dating for less than a year. I was touched she’d gotten me anything, even something that was, like, so not my style.
But it’s my style now. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, what the design is, whether it matches my taste. Wearing my Judaism as a visible symbol on my body is my style now. Wearing a necklace that a proud Jewish mother gave her future daughter-in-law, as a symbol of our shared commitment to the past, present and (no pressure!) future of the Jewish people is my style now.
Nazis are marching in the streets, taking their hate for me, for us, public. They are explicit. They are unafraid. So I’m taking my Judaism public. I am explicit. I am not unafraid, but I am defiant. And proud. I’m responding to the hatred by shouting my Judaism from the rooftops. I’m responding to the threat with my pride. With my past. With my present. With, and to guarantee, my future. My kids’ future.
I know this is a privilege. I get the luxury of being able to put my oppressed identity around my neck and then, if I want, to choose to take it off. I know that there are too many people in this country without that choice. I know that we are different, even as the Nazis in Charlottesville fly their vile Confederate flags side-by-side with their horrific swastikas. I know that to them, hatred is not a zero-sum game. And I know that I am, still, safer than others, and with that safety comes responsibility. And I know that I respond to those evil flags not with retreat, but with solidarity.
I also know that I refuse to see my Jewishness as a source of threat. I refuse to let some assholes with some flags and some gear and no humanity at all undermine the pride, the joy, the love and yes, the absolute privilege I have in being Jewish.
It’s the exact opposite: The more you threaten me, the more you stamp on my identity, the more you denigrate my people, the prouder I become. The more defiant I become. The more public I become.
I found my pendant. I found my chain. I put on that necklace, maybe for the first time ever. But it won’t be the last.
You don’t like my Judaism? I love it. You don’t like my necklace? Maybe I’ll get a bigger one. You want me to feel small and insecure and afraid? I’m huge: I’ve got history, I’ve got culture, I’ve got ritual, I’ve got solidarity, and I’ve got strength you could never imagine.