Hanukkah Holidays

On the sixth night of Hanukkah…

Read a lot, write a lot is the great commandment.

Stephen King

Learning and books are almost as precious to Jews as the Torah, a love that I can relate to. Growing up, my house was always filled with books and trips to the bookstore were magical. I love learning so much that I have two Master’s degrees, with a third graduate application currently in the works. I have journals filled with stories I’ve written, quotes I love, lists of books I want to read, so it seems that I was always meant to join the People of the Book.

My Jewish journey is not typical. The decision to convert came almost out of the blue and I don’t exactly blend in with the rest of the Dallas Jewish community. I’m Hispanic and Filipino; most of the community is white. For a while I chose to ignore what that means for me and how I relate to my community, but it’s only recently that I’ve been able to admit to myself that my “otherness” is at least partially the reason why I’ve found it hard to find my place. I’ve put myself out in the community so many times only to come away disappointed and disheartened. I’m honestly surprised that hasn’t driven me out.

What has helped me cope with this reality is writing. I write about my experiences, then go back and analyze each word, trying to make the puzzle fit together. Learning has also helped. Discovering organizations like Be’chol Lashon and Jews in All Hues has shown me the wonderful multicultural side of the Jewish diaspora and that helps me feel less alone. I’ve made it my personal goal to show this multi-faceted face of Judaism to the fourth graders I teach on Sunday, especially since a few don’t fit the typical Dallas Jewish profile. I still find it difficult to really feel like a part of the Jewish community, even though I’m so deeply immersed in it, but I know this is where I belong.

The Maccabees fought for the right to practice Judaism. Jews have survived pogroms and unimaginable evil. The least I can do is continue to push on.

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