As a religious Jew, I was so excited to start working in a Jewish agency. I quickly learned that not only was approximately half of the staff not-Jewish, about half of my Jewish coworkers are twice-a-year-Jews. I am easily the most observant person in my office and only one of my colleagues is even close to being in my realm of religious living. This woman is quick to point out that while her husband is frum (religious) she is definitely a work in progress and not there. So while she is a phenomenal woman and really spiritual and in-tune with a religious life, she has not set herself up in the same visual way as my clothing and food choices do.
Once upon a time, there was a Chabad woman who worked there though, so many people learned things from her. This however only leads to more questions. She was married, and as such wore a sheitel. So my hats/scarves have made women’s head covering a question. I also get asked many questions about kashrut, shabbat and holiday observance, and anything else that you may think of! I try not to be the token and set the example of being an observant Jew – however it seems to have become my life.
When Jessica and I decided that this would be the perfect topic to bring RR on, I was so excited, yet I discovered that I cannot articulate what this experience is like. I do not think of myself as an expert on many things, and certainly not about Orthodox practices across the board. I find myself between a rock and a hard place as I get cornered and questioned on a regular basis. While I love teaching and having conversations about Jewish topics, being expected to know every answer and having people believe whatever I tell them unequivocally gives me way more power than I feel comfortable with.
For those of you who are religious Jews in secular Jewish work environments – what would you say about the experience? How do you avoid being a token, or do you embrace it? Give me some feedback, because I am struggling here – as evidenced by the rambling nature of this post!