An Ambassador to Judaism

At the tender age of 35 I have been involved in Jewish groups for what feels like 150 years. My primary area of focus and interest has been with Jewish youth. I have worked with any number of settings, camp, school, afterschool and more. And I have done it with the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox branches or denominations. That is not nearly descriptive enough, but it will suffice for now.

Each time I have been involved we have had many activities in which we interacted with the general public. And each time we did we had a discussion about being an ambassador to Judaism. That is, we spoke as a staff and to our children about how many people had never met any Jews or had very little experience with Jewish people so it was important to take that into account in reference to personal conduct.

I always found these discussions to be a little troubling for me. In concept it all made perfect sense to me to try and portray a good image of who we are and what we represent. The flip side of this was that it irked me because we are all people and there are good Jews and bad Jews just like it would be true for Catholics/Protestants/Hindus/Buddhists/Muslims etc.

It seemed a little disingenuous to me to try and walk around on your best behavior because to me it seemed a little phony. Be who you are. It is like the honeymoon period of a relationship in which you strive to hide all bodily functions from your girlfriend/boyfriend until that one night when the chili backs up on you and you cannot hide your true flatulent self any longer. “Yes honey, I fart like every other human being. You probably knew this because in trying to hide it from you I became bloated and began to look like one of the floats at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

But I digress.

In addition to the aforementioned concern I was always disappointed that I didn’t receive business cards, a hat and an office that identified me as an ambassador of Judaism. I didn’t want to be an ambassador, I wanted to be the ambassador. You know me, why fit in when I can force myself out into the public eye.

Ok, I have a small problem here, I am just not sure how to end this. I compose on the computer and almost never create an outline, so I am at a loss. Let’s do this and in the fashion of my people end this so that we may go eat. It is like every Jewish holiday.

They tried to kill us, they lost, let’s eat. Batei Avon.

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  1. Gail November 24, 2004 at 1:31 pm

    I feel somewhat torn on this issue. On the one hand, feeling as if one is a representative of one’s people is a good thing – it instills pride in being part of that group, and it does encourage good behavior. The idea of one for all and all for one, especially when your group has suffered through thousands of years of persecution – maybe this has played a role in resilience of the Jewish culture.

    On the other hand, do we want to encourage others out there to view us a an undistinguished block? Just because one Jew is one way or thinks one thing doesn’t mean we all do. We are all individuals and different from one another. Treating us as if one person represents us all is a form of stereotyping.

  2. Anshel's Wife November 23, 2004 at 8:08 pm

    I am reluctant to say anything here because I always seem to offend people, but here it goes:
    Jack, you are the ambassador of the Jewish people. Doesn’t matter if you have a beard or wear a yarmulke or shorts and t-shirt. Your behavior in public is important to all of us. You behave badly and it’s a reflection on all Jews. If someone wants to attack you, they’ll go for the Jewish attack, rather than the fat guy or bald guy attacks. Because the Jewish attack gets you to the core.

    We always tell our kids to behave “very shein” when out in public because people will see the yarmulke and tzitzis and they will say, “Oh, look how nicely those little Jewish kids are acting.” or “Oh, look at those rotten Jewish brats.” (which they might say anyway)

    So, on behalf of myself, as a member of the tribe, I thank you, Jack, for representing me and my family!

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