Posted by: Lydia | September 8, 2010


The High Holidays are coming up and I want to go to shul. This is not a good sign.

The only other occasion on which I felt the need to sit quietly in a pew in order to feel more Jewish was my freshman year of college… probably the last time I felt anywhere near as culturally disconnected from my surroundings (and utterly, helplessly surrounded by goys – I was the only Jew in my dorm) as I do now. I made the mistake of going for Yom Kippur services and suffered through the utter misery and stultifying boredom that is a Conservative (as in the sect of Judaism, not the political flavor) Rabbi on the Day of Atonement.

I don’t know exactly what brought this on.. Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur were never big holidays for my family. We put much more emphasis on what is essentially the Jewish Thanksgiving; Passover (typical, as gluttony is our foremost and favorite sin). Probably some combination of missing my family, being the only Jew west of Puerto Plata, and recently having been told by a respected member of the community I consider my friend that Jews are less advanced because we didn’t accept the New Testament (at least he didn’t try and tell me that my people killed Jesus, as happened to a fellow Heeb volunteer).

This is not to say that religion is a constant source of strife for me here. I live in an easygoing Catholic community whose only religious request of me and Matthew so far is that we help find money to fix the pews in church (apparently the past volunteer had a devoutly Catholic family back home in the states that was a source of money for our local chapel. I think I will try and hit up the board of the Catholic hospital on which my abuelo serves). I could have it much worse… a friend of ours here was inadvertently converted from Catholicism to Evangelical Christianity in one of those intensely creepy laying-on-of-hands ceremonies, completely against her will I might add. She was only trying to get out more and socialize with her community, but apparently once you set foot inside a prayer meeting, no ceases to mean no. The best part about her story, if there can be anything good about a forced conversion, is that during all the Gloria-a-Deus-ing two dogs started humping each other in the middle of the room. Ah the Dominican Republic, a delicious batida of the sacred and profane.

The old cliché that you never appreciate what you have until its gone is nowhere more true than in the life of an outsider… an extranjera. I am unhappy because I can’t be bored to tears in a room full of old Jews once a year, and my friend is upset because even in a country in which she is the majority religion, people can use linguistic and cultural barriers to trick her into having something taken, if in name only, from her.

I do not want to live in a majority Jewish society. You don’t see me hankering for the next plane to Israel or Crown Heights. I have realized that I can’t happily make my home in a community with any kind of overwhelming homogeneity, even if the dominant culture is my own.



  1. Hey, wait a minute, they were big holidays, but celebrated as the last big Fire Island weekend of the season, LOL.
    If you go look for a comidas chinas in whatever passes as the ghetto judio in SD, perhaps you’ll find some kindred spirits.
    Le Shana Tovah,
    Ma xoxoxo

  2. Oh yes, This was the case in the 1800’s in the U.S.A. Women were to do most of the labor and of course childbearing and the men had the meetings and made the decisions. So yes you are perfect to labor in the fields. You can now see how far women in the U.S. have come. Take Heart Dear One.

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