As I stood on the platform I nervously fingered the Star of David around my neck. Because I’m not a jewelry person the necklace is simple – a small, sterling silver Star of David (given to me by my wife) attached to a box chain that is longer than I’d like but the only one I could find that fit over my head (I hate having to clasp and un-clasp things). The silver stood out against the dark t-shirt I had on.
As we were waiting for the Metrolink I noticed the people around me. We had traveled from the Norwalk Station to the Harbor Freeway/Artesia Station and were supposed to continue on to Downtown Los Angeles. I had reluctantly agreed to accompany Scully’s Mom (the name my wife has chosen for me to identify her in the blogging world) on a trial run to the county building she works out of, hoping that her commute from Orange County to Downtown Los Angeles would take less time aboard the train than it does sitting in her car inching along through bumper-to-bumper traffic. As a red-headed, very fair-skinned woman wearing a Star of David and holding hands with another woman, I was definitely in the minority… in more ways than one.
When I made the decision to convert to Judaism I stopped wearing the cross and St. Francis medallion I had worn for years and began wearing the Star of David. For me, wearing religious jewelry is an outward symbol of who I am and what I believe and for the most part, I don’t wear jewelry that doesn’t have some kind of meaning (I sometimes look at stylish earrings or dangley bracelets and wonder why I’ve got it in my head that my jewelry has to have “meaning;” that’s another blog for another time). 10 years ago, I would have welcomed comments about the rainbow-striped bracelet I used to wear or some kind of political pin that announced to the world that I was (and still am) a very liberal Democrat, but yesterday I began to feel very self-conscious (more so that I usually do) and I was surprised and ashamed that I considered hiding the necklace inside my t-shirt.
When I wore a cross I never felt that my behaviour was called to a higher standard and I never felt afraid that my necklace would arouse hatred in others. When I wore a rainbow-striped bracelet I never felt afraid to engage with those that spewed hate-filled rhetoric outside my undergraduate campus. Now that I wear a Star of David I realize how much I’ve changed and how important it is to me to represent Judaism in a way that my ancestors would be proud of and now that I wear a Star of David I also realize that this simple yet powerful symbol has been used as a reason for exclusion, prejudice, and even as justification for murder. Standing on that platform waiting for the train I suddenly realized what an awesome responsibility it is to wear a Star of David and how I, too, even in 2010 could become a target of the ignorance and fear of others.
I realized this weekend that when the Rabbi and I spoke about accepting ALL of Judaism, he meant the fear of those that have gone before me. The fear that the Jews living in Spain experienced under Ferdinand and Isabella. The fear that the Jews living in Germany experienced under Hitler. The fear that countless Jews across the ages have experienced as a result of the ignorance of others and even the fear that is brought on by my ignorance of people who behave, look, and act differently than I do.
I never hid the necklace inside my t-shirt but we never made it all the way to Downtown LA. I told Scully’s Mom I was “uncomfortable” and wanted to go home and I pondered the experience for the rest of the evening and continue to ponder it today. I now have a better understanding of the responsibility I have when I wear the Star of David; it’s a responsibility to Judaism, to my ancestors, and to myself and it’s a responsibility I will no longer take lightly.