My Hebrew name is Simona (Simone-ah) Yochanah bat Yoseph, and I was given this name when I was around a month old. My mom would say that I was named because her parents wanted me to, but it always made me feel more Jewish, and I’m happy that I got it. I never really identified as Jewish until the end of 8th grade when I started looking into joining BBYO. The friends that I have made there are amazing, but I always feel like I’m faking around them. When I’m around them I always cover my shoulders and say that I go to synagogue way more than I actually do. It’s not like they don’t wear tank tops and go to synagogue every week, but they know that they’re Jewish, and they don't feel like they have anything to prove. I hate when they all talk about their Bat Mitzvahs because I never had one, or their amazing Passover seder because mine was at Chipotle.
My mom’s parents were Jewish and she was raised Jewish, named, had her Bat Mitzvah, did the hora at her wedding, the whole shebang, so to any Rabbi, I am a Jew. Because of this, some people are still not that kind. Once I was in a musical with a girl that I am now great friends with, but she came late on a Saturday because she waited until sundown to leave her house because of Shabbat, and another girl in the show came up to her in the dressing room while I was talking to her and asked why she was late. My friend answered her politely expecting the conversation to be over, but then I brought up that it was a holiday next week, and she asked: “Well, what Jewish holidays even are there?” So we starting listing them. “Passover, Purim, Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah…” She asked what Passover is so we gave her a brief explanation and then made the mistake of telling her that you are not supposed to eat anything with yeast during Passover. “What do you eat then, Jewish dirt?” she asked. Our mouths dropped to the floor, and we politely told her that we just don’t eat bread products and foods that rise in order to end this terrible conversation immediately.
As horrible as it sounds, this made me feel more Jewish. People have always talked about all the discrimination and ignorant people that they have had to face as Jews, and now I had experienced it. Then I started to think, ‘how could someone be so ignorant,’ then I realized that it’s everywhere. When I was in Girl Scouts they treated Judaism as a race and were completely insensitive to the fact that Jews are people too, and are everywhere. They can be white, black, Latino, Asian, indigenous; basically any race or ethnicity. I have been dealing with this since I can remember, I just never saw it at the moment.
BBYO is an interesting environment, I used to think that I had to adapt to it, but you can also make it adapt to you. BBYO can be whatever you want it to be depending on who you surround yourself with, the programs you go to, and how involved you are. Some people may look down upon you or not think that you are good enough because you didn’t have a Bat Mitzvah or naming. However, these people are few and far between, and this conflict is more internal than anything else. It’s hard to understand that you are enough just the way you are and people may not feel Jewish enough for a number of reasons. One thing's for certain, you are enough, we see you, we hear you, we love you.
Lily Granai is a BBG from Hilah BBG in Northern Region East: DC and loves theatre, Grey’s Anatomy (Jolex for life), FaceTiming with friends, and BBYO of course.
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