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Being Visably Jewish and Proud of it

By chance a group of work colleagues swung past Baskin and Robbins in Subiaco today.  Accustomed to my habit of generally not joining them for their obscenely frequent trips out for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and a never ending series of working meals on the run, they were surprised to see me buy an ice cream with them. 

Baskin and Robbins is one of the few places in Perth where kosher consumers can comfortably sit and enjoy some time out in a commercial setting.  I was asked, and started to explain that the ice cream was certified and I could happily indulge, but only in the tubs as the cones wern’t kosher. 

One of my colleagues pointed out a sign on the wall.  It was from Kosher Australia, and noted that certified kosher cones were now available at the store.  A similar sign was on the checkout.  What choice did I have, but to buy a second ice-cream, this time in a cone?

The reality is that the number of kosher consumers who visit that shop would be less than one tenth of one percent of their customer base.   However the store is making an effort to cater for kosher consumers, and has notices relating to their kosher products visibly on display.

Having been stuck in an arguement with a fellow Jewish colleague not so long ago about the visibility of the Jewish communitiy, and what it means for our identity and presence within Perth, I feel very vindicated by this seemingly small experience. 

The level of visibility of the Jewish community is relatively low in Perth.  There would probably be less than 100 Jews in this City who regularly wear Kippot to work and in the street.  There are few Jewish places that are clearly identifiably Jewish.  Even our Jewish Centre has no sign out the front indicating that the building is in fact a Jewish Community centre.  Supposidly that is for security reasons. 

My friends contention is that we should not be seen to be Jews as this provokes anti-semitism and makes us (as Jews) appear different when we really are no different at all.  My response is, whether you like it or not we are different, and that is nothing to be ashamed of, and no reason to conceal our identity.  On the contrary, I am proud to live in a place like Perth, where I can safely and securely identify myself as a Jew and uphold my tradition.   I am even more proud to be able to visit a regular ice cream shop, where both I and my work colleagues can clearly see the public endorsement that allows for kosher consumption.   

Being seen to be Jewish should not be approached with a sense of fear or embarrasement.  I don’t understand Jews that are bashful, nervous, or downright ashamed to be seen as Jewish.  Maybe it is a lack of Jewish self confidence?  Maybe it is a feeling of insecurity, or just a desire to conform (assimilate) into the perceived protection of ones general surrounds? 

Nothing gives me more pride than to see Jewish symbols, facilities, signs of identity, and people who outwardly identify themselves as Jews in and around Perth.  May we continue to grow and see more signs of outward visible Jewish expression.

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