Feeling special is just as important as fitting in

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Tomorrow is Yom Kippur, and you can bet that there will be no big financial announcements. This is because Jews make up a disproportionately huge number of people in finance. So when the Jews take off work for Yom Kippur, there is not enough liquidity in the financial markets for anything really big to happen. As my hedge-fund brother says, “You don’t want to have to get anything big done in finance on Yom Kippur.”

I like learning this because I like being part of community. In general, it is lonely being Jewish. Not in New York City, where there are, really, more Jews than in Israel. But definitely in Wisconsin, where my son had to explain to a school administrator that Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish holiday.

There is part of me that likes being part of the community of Jews who almost all observe the High Holidays. But there is also part of me that appreciates being a minority, because you're different, and different often means special. And we all want to be special in some way, even at the cost of being a minority.

I am fascinated with racial discrimination at work. I have felt nervous and out of place at times, like when my former bosses told offensive Jewish jokes in front of me. And when I'd tell them I am Jewish, they'd say, “Oh. Sorry. I didn’t know you were Jewish.” Like, “Oh, if I’d known, I'd have had the decency to say it behind your back.”

But I have seen also how valuable it can be to be just part of the group, fitting in, not a minority—it can be the difference between a promotion or not, really. Being accepted or not. And I have seen how much it means to understand what it’s like for people who are treated like outsiders. I never understood this until I entered the workplace, but I like that I know what it’s like to be a minority. It’s part of who I am.

So I vacillate between wanting my kids to understand what it’s like to be a minority, and wanting my kids to fit in. Both are so important.

But even with balanced intentions, I am never really sure what to do with myself and my kids on the Jewish High Holidays. When I was young, I went to synagogue and was bored out of my mind. But I never went to school and my parents never worked, so my kids and I do the same thing.

Leading up to the holidays, I tell my kids that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a big deal. I drive this home by chanting a mantra with the kids that connects the Jewish stuff to what really matters to them: “First is Rosh Hashanah, then Yom Kippur, then Halloween!” I tell myself I’m being a good Jew because this generates constant discussion about the high holidays. As in, “When is Yom Kippur over so that we can buy decorations for Halloween?”

So the day before Rosh Hashanah I said to my six-year-old: “Tomorrow is a big day. We’ll tell your teacher you will not be in school. And I will not go to work. Jewish people stay home to celebrate the new year. Rosh Hashanah is a big day. It ‘s our new year.”

So we tell the teacher. And it is clear my son will be the only kid out of school.

I tell him he is special. I tell him that we are lucky to have such a nice time for the New Year, and that this is the time Jewish people think about how to make next year even better. I stress that all Jewish people take time off because I want him to have that feeling of being part of something bigger than himself or our family. I think this is a path to community if I play my cards right.

Then I stress again about what we will do with our day.

Part of the Rosh Hashanah tradition is eating apples and honey for a sweet New Year. So I decide that apple picking maybe is within the bounds of what’s okay to do. The driving is not okay. And the paying for the apples is not okay. And the carrying them is not okay. But I ignore that. I tell the kids we’ll pick apples and bring them home and dip them in honey.

We get to the apple orchard—it’s really crowded—and my son says, “Mom, look at all the Jewish kids here!”

I think I am making progress. I think it's working—my kids are learning what it's like to be part of a special community, while trying really hard to fit into the bigger picture that includes everyone else, too.

There is so much written about the challenges of handling race in the workplace, but I see so little about how to cultivate otherness at work, how to thrive on being different. It seems to me that sometimes people want to do that. Figuring out how to do that is part of understanding who we are and where we fit. And the more we understand about ourselves, no matter what the angle, the better we are able to craft a life that works for us.

49 replies
  1. Taylor
    Taylor says:

    Being Jewish isn’t about being “part of a special community”! There are plenty of other groups you could join, if being part of something or the benefits of being a minority is what you think are important.

    Being Jewish should be about honoring the one true almighty God and creator of the universe. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God that rescued the Jewish nation from Egypt and allowed that small nation of people to thrive and defeat seemingly unconquerable enemies. The God that fullfilled his promise to the Jewish nation by delivering a Messiah.

    If you are going to stand up for your minority heritage at least make it mean something more than just “fitting in”, “feeling special” or tradition. I’m not Jewish by birth, but I certainly have a much deeper reverence for what it means to be a descendant of Abraham than being “part of special community”.

  2. JenX67
    JenX67 says:

    I am a Protestant in Oklahoma learning about Chabad. There is a small Jewish community here – going through quite a transition and experiencing growth! Something I am so proud of. I was fortunate to be a Protestant benefactor of a program in the late 1980s that sought to educate Protestant college students about Judaism, the Holocaust, Jewish ideas, etc. It was through the Chautauqua Society of New York. A Jewish Rabbi taught at my Christian university. Looking back, it was pretty leading edge. Anyway, I will be emailing you a media query based on this post. I enjoy them all, but especially this one.

  3. Carla S
    Carla S says:

    You totally hit my feelings about being Jewish, especially during the high holidays, with this paragraph:

    There is part of me that likes being part of the community of Jews who almost all observe the High Holidays. But there is also part of me that appreciates being a minority, because you're different, and different often means special. And we all want to be special in some way, even at the cost of being a minority.

    But I do like going to synagogue, and because my young kids are too much work at shul, I let them go to school, at least on Yom Kippur, when I’m fasting and not wanting the added stress of parenting. Gmar Chatimah tova!

  4. Quasar9
    Quasar9 says:

    lol Brazen Careerist,

    Gordon Brown announces £500 billion rescue package for UK Banks, and the International Central Banks in Britain, China, and the Federal Reserve in the US announce a ‘concerted half per cent interest rate cut.

    clearly Gordon Brown and the International Banks are no longer ‘dominated’ by Jews – or maybe they do. Perhaps a half per cent interest rate cut is the way to celebrate Yom Kippur.

    Ironically it is governments that are having to scrap bad debt accumulated by bad bankers.
    Pass the buck – C’est la vie.

  5. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    No major financial announcements because there are so many Jews working in finance in New York?! Sorry but the United States is part of a global economic and financial system. Major financial announcements, even ones that heavily impact the United States, do not necessarily come out of New York. And in fact, in global terms London over took New York as the world’s leading financial centre quite some time ago (on overall global trade, not domestic US trade).

    It’s otherwise a nice post but it’s let down by such a blithe and blatantly US-centric statement. I mean US-centric in the blinkered, ignorant sense, not in the ‘my country first’ sense.

    Sorry to be grumpy but we’re all in this together.

  6. Sital
    Sital says:

    As a Hindu who has grown up in England, what you say, really resonates with me

    At school, I didn’t want to be ‘different’ – I wanted to be be like everyone else and just fit in! The same applied during the early part of my corporate career – I wouldnt talk about Diwali (the Indian ‘Christmas’), our new year or other parts of our culture – again, I wanted to just fit in

    It took years for me to realise the “different is special” thing – and that your culture & identity was one part of making you stand out. And that standing out and ‘being different’ is a key part of being successful (in your career and elsewhere)

    Kudos to you instilling this into your kids at such a young age

    Enjoy Yom Kippur

  7. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:


    Interesting point about otherness and being ‘special’. Being ‘special’ is never a compliment, just a nice way for grownups to remind a kid he or she is ‘weird’; no kid wants to be weird; weirdness that comes with trophies is the desirable ‘otherness’, without them, it is plain weird.

    Otherness is good if you are above average and can shine. Otherwise, it is a burden, nothing else. That the ‘others’ have to ‘fit in’ itself says that it is extra work, extra expense of energy and extra motivation.

    As a new Indian migrant to the UK over 10 years ago, I found myself facing the burden of having to distinguish myself from the ‘Asians’ that the British people seemed to associate with cleaning Heathrow. That was also my first look at Indians in Britain. Gladly it did not take me – or my ‘type’ of Indians – long, so much so that the many losing jobs in the credit crunch in the City are now Indians like me. Now _that_ is fitting in, isn’t it?

    I have been an ‘other’ everywhere. When I first went from a fantastic, iconoclastic, school-cum-finishing school with 5 kids in a class, to a regular school with 35 in a class. I had no problem ‘fitting in’, because my social confidence had been honed and polished, and I was academically gifted. I was happy sitting atop the pyramid.

    When I started my post-MBA job in the IT industry in India, there were so few women managers – there were many programmers but few managers – that everyone across Indian IT industry recognised me. That is an ‘otherness’ that is tricky. One of the women managers then is now the head of HP India via Microsoft and IBM; she got there by never negotiating on certain things related to her children. She was a superstar and managed it. Some, like me, got given high risk international assignments and forged strong careers in other contexts where we were ‘others’ of a different kind.

    I was an ‘other’ as a North Indian in the pre-boom Bangalore where South Indian houseowners would not rent to me. I was a single, north indian girl with very fair skin and green eyes, and short hair, and I worked very long hours. One said to me he did not trust a woman with coloured eyes. Oh well!

    I am still an ‘other’ living in an all-white neighbourhood – yes, London has these pockets including a Jewish pocket in the north – and neighbours now recognise that I am a friendly, English-speaking, Oxbridge-educated Indian, who does not wear Indian clothes to public places or smell of garam masala each time I step outside.

    ‘Otherness’ is still stereotyping of one kind or another. When we break sterotypes, or when we sit atop the pyramid, it is a comfortable otherness, otherwise it is a burden.

    I wonder how the Jewish community would have coped if they had been enslaved, or if they were poor. Would the Rosh Hashanah holiday be so mainstream?

    I think this is a long comment… Must stop.

  8. NYC
    NYC says:

    Well I agree with you because I think as a minority growing up and after gaining confidence and pride in my heritage, I still find that I work and live best and the happiest when I’m stuck in ambiguity, in places I try to get out without realizing I really just belong here.

    I love being the only woman in a group of men with too much ego, because I take so much joy in proving them wrong. But there are days when I wish someone could understand – days when I have cramps, days when the client just naturally leans toward the male counterpart. But I wouldn’t trade this to work in a PR firm with a bunch of girls.

  9. Menachem
    Menachem says:


    Here’s a question: if you’re so into being Jewish and your Jewish heritage, why did you marry a non-Jew (we know how that ended)?

    Not trying to be offensive, really just am curious….

  10. Yu Ming Lui
    Yu Ming Lui says:

    Although I’m not religious, the part about being a minority still resonates with me.

    I come from a tiny country (Singapore’s population is about 5-6 million), plus being an expat in Japan where foreigners make up only one per cent of the population, is quite an experience in itself.

    There were times when I wished I fit in but I also wondered the same back home so it’s something I don’t view negatively or dwell on too much.

    Actually I enjoy enlightening others about my home country or debunking stereotypes (like “Have you ever chewed gum since it’s banned in Singapore?” – yes, I have and it’s just illegal to sell it so chewing gum for your own consumption is fine).

    Happy Yom Kippur, Penelope.

  11. Frank
    Frank says:

    I thought you were Italian? I met a Jewish Italian in Switzerland, once. He was Black. True. Somebody said, “All Italians are Jews,”? I think Lenny Bruce.

    I work at one of the largest colleges in the country, perhaps the largest. There are about 5000 staff(just a guestimate). I’m a straight white non-Hispanic male. There are, like, 6 of us. It’s not bad, really, being that much of a minority. But it does get a little lonely at times. I have good friends there, thank God, but one has to wonder how many more doors would be open to me if I were a member of one of those other groups. Still, that’s little to suffer compared to what other minorities deal with.

  12. Harry Joiner
    Harry Joiner says:

    Gee, I read this post in a feed reader and came over to comment. Then I realized that Taylor (comment # 1) said exactly what I would have said. Only he said it even better. Please dig deeper into what makes your faith great. The Jews are the chosen ones.

  13. chris keller
    chris keller says:

    Although I am not Jewish, I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Chicago, and I absorbed some cultural aspects. It seems to me that there are 2 angles: religious and cultural Judaism . . .

    You should say more about Yom Kippur. It is the Day of Atonement, isn’t it? What will you meditate upon? What ceremonials will you have?
    How do you include young children in a Day of Atonement?


  14. Heather
    Heather says:

    I’m glad to hear you are working to pass on your religion and culture to your child. I think it’s very important. A quote I like is “You have to know where you come from to know where you’re going.” We’re not Jewish, but you’ll be happy to know my daughter’s school is closed for the Jewish holiday, so I get the day off work too!

  15. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    As an African American who grow up and went to school in a predominantly white environment, I know very well what it’s like to be different from those around you. I think greater appreciation for our differences would do each of us and this country a lot of good. It forces you to see the value in other ways of doing things, and to examine your own assumptions. I think this country might have avoided some of the problems of the last 8 years if we had a greater understanding of cultures different than our own.

  16. Maureen
    Maureen says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I sense a softer, gentler Penelope in your writing since you left New York. I hope you are happy. I love your blogs, they always inspire me somehow, someway–even though I am a Catholic stay at home mom!
    We are all connected somehow, thanks for keepin’ it real!!!

  17. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I agree there is a time and place for feeling special as well as fitting in and both are important and need to be balanced. When either ‘condition’ feels out of synch, it really does help to have other people in your life that you can open up to and share those feelings. While we all have our unique identities and experiences, we all share the common condition of being human.

    Thanks for sharing the following –
    “We get to the apple orchard – it’s really crowded – and my son says, “Mom, look at all the Jewish kids here!”
    This is a good example of a fresh outlook and unbridled enthusiasm from a child that reminds me what’s really important in life.

  18. Susan Greene
    Susan Greene says:

    I was born and raised Jewish. Now I consider myself an atheist. Like you, Penelope, I was forced to go to temple on the Jewish holidays. And boy did it suck!

    One of the best things about being a grown-up, is that I no longer have to suffer through those endless, boring temple services led by old men muttering Hebrew prayers which I didn’t understand and couldn’t relate to real life.

    While I highly doubt that the Jewish forefathers or today’s rabbis would consider apple picking a religious activity, I guess at least when your child looks back on how he spent the Jewish high holidays, he will have much fonder memories than I do. That’s something.

  19. tinyhands
    tinyhands says:

    Anyone who identifies himself primarily by his race or creed is going to feel separated from the community as a whole. There is nothing biologically unique about Jews, Hindi, Singaporeans, African-Americans or any other group that has commented here. Ask any coroner to pick out which corpses are Jews and which ones are Christian. Can’t do it. Differences between people are a man-made invention.

    Being part of a community should celebrate what you have in common, not what makes you different. You ALL are much more alike than different.

    (PS: I know you’ve read ‘Stumbling on Happiness’ so I won’t burst your “feeling special” bubble.)

  20. Juki Schor
    Juki Schor says:

    This is probably not mainstream thinking, but my experience is that when people feel separate or not part of the community it has less to do with others having a different religion than with them not being in their body, or better, their body “being asleep” due to trauma. tinyhands wrote that “Anyone who identifies himself primarily by his race or creed is going to feel separated from the community as a whole”. The problem is that it is the other way round. Whenever we are disconnected from our biological, natural self, i.e. the body, we feel separated from the human community and we try to make up for this loss through creating mental communities according to certain criteria. And as we do not know who we are when we are disconnected from our bodies we start to feel a need for at least being special or different, because, if we are not special or different or in any way defined, we feel we are “No-Body” and that is an awful feeling.

  21. Todd Rhoad
    Todd Rhoad says:

    I teach my kids that being special has little to do with what you see on the outside, it’s all about the ‘YOU’ that comes from inside. I try to help my kids meet as many different people as possible. I know they form their perceptions from my reactions to these people.

  22. Jon in Texas
    Jon in Texas says:

    So much for “no big financial announcements”! Whoops! I was at Temple this afternoon chatting with two ushers in the lobby looking at their iPhones, all of us talking about the falling market. Even the holiest day of the year doesn’t distract from financial crises, I suppose.

    Shul was boring growing up, there’s no question. But the best part was seeing my Sunday school friends and cousins there. I had a lot of school friends, but we didn’t have anything like the bond that my Jewish friends and I had, and still have. You might want to expose your kids to that, if they can handle it. Apples and honey mean so much more when you apply the concept of community. This is already clicking for my six-year-old kindergartener, who just started Sunday school a few weeks ago and loves it.

    Hope you have a safe and happy new year.

  23. Beth
    Beth says:

    You can tell corpses apart because of ethnicity. It’s crazy, but true! Believe it or not, even teeth are different, and bone structure.

    I spent the first six years of my life living in an all black neighborhood and never really having to deal with my “otherness.” Then I was put in a “gifted” program, outside of my neighborhood, and very few students looked like me. Then we moved. I was told all kinds of crazy things. And no one ever said my “unique” perspective was crazy, just that things about me were not good. Eventually, though, I came to an understanding all on my own. Because my perspective made me really good at certain things. And really able to identify and empathize.

    Being a minority, be it religious, racial, or ethnic, gives you a unique and special perspective on life. If you can avoid the self-hate trap of living in a world that condemns your otherness, and see how beauty really can be bigger than a single ideal, there is so much potential.

    And I think kids do like to hear that they are special. That their difference isn’t weird or strange. They need to see community with being special. And it is important. This comes from a religious and racial minority!

  24. prklypr
    prklypr says:

    Penelope, you should read Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode blog, she also posted on Oct 8th about the Jewish holidays and parenting http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/faith-and-family/
    I agree with several other posters, you have the right idea but you’re doing your kids a disservice by not also explaining the meaning of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Eating apples and honey is great, but also talk about the meaning of the holiday in terms that kids can understand – Adam and Eve, etc. Another great kid activity is tashlich, which usually takes place on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashana – you cast away your sins by throwing bread into a stream or river. Every kid can think of something ‘bad’ they did during the year. And the shofar always gets kids excited – you can buy an inexpensive one, you blow it like a trumpet (it’s not as hard as it seems!) Give your kids the building blocks to understand their faith and they will be proud to be Jewish, whether they are in the minority or not. And you will be proud of them.

  25. GenerationXpert
    GenerationXpert says:

    Hi Penelope.
    I’m almost hesitant to post, because my comment has nothing to do with being Jewish, or being anything actually. What really stuck with me was how you said being part of a group can help at the office, even with promotions. It can also just help you be happier at work. About 1.5 years ago, I started a new job. I work with a bunch of people who are so much like me. Not from a racial, ethnic, or religious aspect, but by the way we all think. It’s the first time in my career that I felt like I really fit in, that the fact that I don’t have a mainstream thinking pattern is really valued. That I can make jokes and people will think they’re funny and laugh (never prejustice jokes, but often generational ones).

    I guess my point is that you make a really good point here. Things like “belonging” and “standing out” happen in your work life – and your life. The lesson is to strive to make both positive experiences.

  26. CSH
    CSH says:

    It is great that you want your children to feel “special”. the question is, what are you passing on to them aside from the superficialities such as dipping apples in honey (which is of course a beautiful custom to wish for a sweet year ahead). While you are not surrounded by the Jewish community of NY, even tiny Madison has its share of Jewish institutiuons of every shade. Look at ww./jewishmadison.org for starters. Because, like me, you were bored out of your mind in your parents’ shul doesn’t mean you have to toss out the baby with the bathwater. Find the community that is right for you and that you feel comfortable having your children grow with and learn from. Perhaps renewal/Reconstructionist would fit the bill for you. Give it a try.

    best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year

  27. LG
    LG says:

    I’m confused—if you want to teach your kids about the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur—then why don’t you teach them meaning of those days? This is the time of year when we Jews spend our days reflecting on what kind of year we have had—atoning for our sins—-and working to improve ourselves for the next year. In particular, we ask for forgiveness from both man and G-d. It is both a solemn and joyous time as we hope that G-d has accepted our pleas and we move into the very joyous holiday of sukkot.

    Telling your kids that it is a big and important day–without giving them a reason why isn’t going to resonate into adulthood. I suggest that you dont’ forge your Jewish identity on just being different—but rather on the principles of what it means to be a Jew—whether or not you choose to follow the letter of the law.

  28. tom
    tom says:


    I’m a landsman who identifies very strongly as a Jew. Even now, I keep up my Torah (and other Judaic) studies. Yet I’m intermarried. What can I say? $hit happens. (Or doesn’t happen: In my case, what didn’t happen was finding the Jewish b’shert.)

    So who’s the worse Jew? Someone like me, whose identity and religious education are quite strong? Or a total am haaretz who married “right?”

    I submit this question to you in the same earnest, unloaded spirit in which you posed yours to PT.

  29. prklypr
    prklypr says:

    Tom: I’m with ya 100% on that one – it’s not who (or what) you marry, it’s what YOU believe and how YOU observe. I married a Jew, so by Menachem’s standards I did well. But he rarely sets foot in synagogue. In fact, on Yom Kippur he ate lunch front of our kids while we fasted. So who’s better off here, me or you??
    Penelope deserves credit for keeping her kids in the fold – there’s no right way or wrong way – she just needs to expand the concept a little.

  30. Emily
    Emily says:

    I totally feel you on this one. I was raised Jewish and had a Bat Mitzvah, but strayed from organized religion shortly after that. While most days I feel disconnected from it, every once in a while I really enjoy embracing my Jewish culture, especially on holidays. As a kid in a very Christian neighborhood, my mom would come in and bring latkes and teach everyone how to play dreidel so the other kids could learn more about us Jewish folks. One thing I hated, though, was that we were allowed to take off days of school for the high holidays, but because the rest of the school still functioned, we were left behind and had to do lots of catch-up work and make-up assignments. As I went higher up in school, I stopped leaving school for high holidays because I missed so much. The Christian kids never had to worry about this.

    Anyway, even though I don’t practice Judaism really anymore, I still love that feeling of being able to explain Hanukka to someone or being with my family on Passover. It does make me feel special, like I’m a part of something a little different, and I like it. I do wonder how I’m going to raise my kids, though — my dad’s side of the family is Jewish, my mom’s side of the family is Christian (she converted before I was born so I could be Jewish), and my mother herself is Buddhist. Oy vey.

  31. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Don’t you guys get it? This is one of those “I never knew what it was to be ‘X’ until I had to teach my kids about being ‘X'” things. Of course Penelope knows there’s more to being Jewish than feeling special and taking the day off from school. She’s working to convey the whole package to her kids but running into translation problems because she’s unsure of what, indeed, her own identity is running off of. What do you do as a parent when the religious portion of your brain calls up memories of being bored out of your skull in synagogue/church/mosque/wherever? For your kids, you factor that and struggle to tack it to relevant items, to apples and days off from school. Getting culture across generations when there’s all sorts of competing influences can feel like a shot in the dark.

    At least, that’s what I’m reading…the fine wine of a proper PT post.

    (Dig the new photo on the Twitter page…and your mention of 2 girls 1 cup…! Hahaha.)

  32. John
    John says:

    Penelope – You are definitely unique.

    No one is as stupid and blissfully unaware of it as you…except perhaps the guy in the Oval Office right now.

    And he’s brazen too. See, you can go far without brains! That’s what your column has taught me.

    By the way, your employees from your fourth start-up asked me to say hi to the serial entrepreneur. –Or was it the fifth start-up?

  33. ai
    ai says:

    Penelope, you rock! (My parents too!!!) I love this post! It reminds me of all the wonderful “traditions” we had in the family –because yes, I grew up special. Different because of race, traditions, belief.

  34. Louisa
    Louisa says:

    I was troubled reading this in your blog: “Tomorrow is Yom Kippur, and you can bet that there will be no big financial announcements. This is because Jews make up a disproportionately huge number of people in finance. So when the Jews take off work for Yom Kippur, there is not enough liquidity in the financial markets for anything really big to happen. As my hedge-fund brother says, “You don’t want to have to get anything big done in finance on Yom Kippur.”

    Actually, Oct 9 WAS a big day financially–it was the fourth day of stocks dropping in that infamous week. But what bothered me was that you made a stereotypical statement about Jews in finance, that I as a cultural (not religious) Christian could not say without being labeled anti-Semitic. And in a week’s comment no one has called you on it. I don’t say Jews are in finance or in media or in Hollywood — and I’m glad I don’t. So how come you can?

  35. Dara
    Dara says:

    I have always been curious about this and your post just brings it to mind again. Do you view being Jewish more as a race or a religion? You talk about race at the workplace, but then also mention asking off for religious holidays in the same breath. Arabs and Muslims are not necessarily the same thing. Yet, I know some Jewish people who view it to be both…and some who didn’t seem to be practicing the religion, but were also Jews. Perhaps Jewish is also unique because of the blurring of lines between race and religion.

  36. Mark F.
    Mark F. says:

    Happy Holidays, you did the right thing!
    Chanukah is next and easier because its been watered down by american culture, and coincides with christmas, besides presents you can light candles (make sure you get a nice menorah if you don’t already have one, and make it a tradition to light candles each night with your children). Also potatoe latka’s are a nice treat, they will always remember something like that. I can still remember the smell of wonderful food as I entered my grand mothers apt. during the holidays many yrs ago…just a suggestion!

  37. Susan Greene
    Susan Greene says:

    All these suggestions are fine — dipping apples in honey, cooking potato latkas, lighting candles — but what bothers me is that these are nothing more than fun family traditions. How does all this tie into Judaism as a religion? What is the significance?

    More importantly, how does this teach our children to be better people? Isn’t that what the focus of religion should be?

  38. Doug
    Doug says:

    I’m Jewish, but stopped practicing because I found the religion itself limited most Jews’ spiritual development. Most secular Reform & Conservatice Jews view religion as a Hebrew chants, challah, shofars, and other rituals with little connection to daily life. It’s one reason I think so many Jews take meds for psych conditions.

    I found Penelope’s post to be yet another example of how Judaism is just a series of rituals to most Jews, and does little to expand them spiritually. After a big holiday, or any Sunday for that matter, if I ask, most Protestants will share with me their pastor’s sermons, and discuss how their clergy’s words could or couldn’t impact their lives personally. But after Yom Kippur, most Jews will tell me they don’t remember the Rabbi’s sermon, they slept through it, or that he said something obvious about being good or performing a kind gesture.

    If you read business motivators like Napoleon Hill or Robert Collier, much of what they say is very similar to what’s in the New Testament. Many Jews feel left out on Christmas, but really what they’re missing is not a decorated tree or Santa, but the chance to experience and interpret bible readings that can be applied to everyday life, not just a once a year ritual.

  39. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Nice post.

    I think today’s religions are more about that sense of belonging and identity than they are about creeds. Thanks to education, we’ve moved on from creeds. Now what’s left is a kind of loyalty to roots.

    This is the only way I can explain why wonderful, powerful, educated Muslim women wear headscarves and overclothes. It’s not to be modest. (How can you be modest when you make yourself stand out?) It’s about marking one’s identity and maintaining a sense of belonging to something.

    The same applies to religious rules about what you can and can’t do on holidays, what you wear, what you eat, and all the little rituals of daily life. All of them are restrictions and inconveniences, none of them logical, but all reinforcing that belonging to the group.

    It’s the flight from anomie and alienation, the struggle against the organized lovelessness and flatness of Western life.

    It’s a way of shouting out what we are still human.

    Have a very human holiday.

  40. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    As I said before, there’s plenty going on in the world markets to affect the US, even when the US markets are themselves quiet.

    I have been thinking about this and I would also like to add that it’s possibly a bit dangerous to point out that the Jews dominate Wall Street, or indeed that any ethnic group dominates any industry. Some people will seize on anything as a problem and it’s depressingly easy to stir up sentiments, especially at a time like this. Be careful.

  41. aceofsomething
    aceofsomething says:

    I grew up in Madison and while I admit there isn’t the jewish community of New York or Chicago but there is a community. In all my years of being a student at Madison schools there was always an awareness of jewish holidays, and I went to the catholic schools!! Perhaps it’s less of an issue of a lack of community than a lack of desire to find it. I will not be one of those noble-madisonians who say the city is perfect and has everything anyone could ever want or even think to want, but there is far more community than you give it credit for.

  42. Bob Dobbs
    Bob Dobbs says:

    being jewish is not about feeling special, its a responsibility to make the world a better place, as commanded by god “justice, justice you shall pursue” and 612 other commandments in the torah…

    you and kids should be worrying about how you improved the world, not how you feel- that is what being jewish is all about

    questions? see the torah, and a good teacher. the rest will follow

  43. Geroge Patterson
    Geroge Patterson says:

    1. First, take a day to appreciate your environment. You won’t fit in at school if you don’t know the school. Ask where places are or ask for a school map.

    2.Get to know your teachers. Talk to them and find out more about them. See how strict or lenient they are.

    3.You need to make friends. Talk to different people, but don’t ignore a certain group. Find out who you like to hang out with. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

    4.Pay attention in class. Teachers always pay attention to new students.

    5.If your first day in the school is the first day of the new year, then some people will notice you, especially if it is a small school. When people talk to you, don’t be nervous, but don’t be too loud. Be confident and make eye contact.

    6.Don’t worry about getting to know the school too much. Know where your locker is and have a map in case of emergencies, but whenever possible, ask the person sitting near you where something is. It’s a good way to talk to people and meet a lot of people on your first day.

    7.When you talk to those of the opposite sex, don’t flirt too much before finding out if they’re already with someone. Once one person hates you, their entire group will hate you too.

    8.For your first lunch, talk a lot to people in the class right before lunch. Usually, they will ask you if you’re sitting with anyone, but if not, steer the topic towards school lunch (as in is the food good etc) If no one specifically mentions eating together, but you’re walking to the cafeteria together, then it’s implied that you’ll eat lunch together.

    9.For the first week at your new school, be nice to everyone and talk to everyone, even if they seem weird. They could always know people you’d rather be friends with or introduce you to more people.

    10.Pay attention in class and try hard in school. If someone passes a note or whispers something to you, ignore them so you can pay attention to the teacher.

    11.Join a few clubs or sports and make more friends this way. Make sure you are committed to that sport or club.

    12.After you’ve talked to someone a few times, ask for their contact information. Even better, ask them to do something over the weekend.

    13.Please the other kids. While you don’t want to be a complete kiss-up, kids like the people who will cooperate with them. If they ask you a favor, do it.

    14.Force yourself in. Being obnoxious or annoying will turn the other kids off you immediately, but remember, since they don’t need you, they’re not going to invite you in unless you put yourself there for the inviting. Whenever possible, tag along with them and talk, but make sure not to talk too much. If you just wait for them to befriend you, you’ll be graduating friendless.

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