I had several interesting experiences last week at a trade show I attended.
The first incident comes straight from the “you are only as happy as you want to be” book of life experiences. I had just finished eating my home packed kosher lunch and making a bracha (blessing) afterwards in gratitude of sustenance. I had really appreciated my meal, and although I was amongst hundreds of people who had a smorgasbord of food from one of Perth’s finest catering establishments, I didn’t mind at all that I provided my own kosher fare.
At that moment an oversized man came up to me, full of complaints about his lunch. He said it was that bad that he wouldn’t feed it to a dog, and it was a disgrace that there were only two meat dishes on offer. There are some real serious problems around us, and many people not fortunate enough to ever received a quality cooked restaurant lunch. When events like this occur it helps me put things into perspective. I am very glad that my expectations are not set so high, that my appetite can be satiated with a level of appreciation, and that I can be perfectly happy to forgo a five star lunch. Above all, I am very glad that I am not one of those people who, no matter how good my circumstances, can never be satisfied with what I have.
The second incident that occurred relates to the never ending experience I have in the marketplace, where people discuss their theology (and on occasions their own Jewish heritage) with me, without hesitation or invitation. My Jewish visibility can be a conversation magnet at times! During the trade show I had a long conversation with a Christian businesswomen about the universal nature of religion. I drew a quote from Rabbi Sacks, that Judaism was the world’s first monotheism, but it is not the only one. I was able to dispel the misconception of my friend that Judaism projects a spiritual “superiority complex”, one that erroneously projects the Jewish religion to be the only universal truth, or a truth that cannot exist compatibly with other faiths. I followed up with an article I saw last week on this topic which is well worth sharing. Rabbi Richie Moss from Sydney writes as follows:
“Believing Judaism is true does not mean negating other spiritual paths. Judaism teaches that while Judaism is the way for Jews, it is not for everyone. We are not out to convert the world to Judaism. Unlike almost every other religion, Jews do not missionize. This is because we believe not everyone needs to be Jewish.
A non-Jew can be close to G-d, go to heaven, and lead a moral and meaningful life, all the while remaining a non-Jew.
This leaves us with an astounding conclusion. Other religions believe in Judaism, and yet Judaism leaves room for other religious expressions. I am proud to be part of a belief system that can accept others, and is accepted by others. Not that this is the basis of my faith. Judaism doesn’t need outside confirmation to be acceptable. But this is a strong argument against those who think that faith is a zero-sum game. And it provides a vision for how the world can live in harmony – many paths, one divine truth.”
The third incident I encountered was a political conversation from a misguided consumer of the media who wanted to know how I could justify Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, particularly as Jewish people had suffered at the hand of the Nazi’s. I won’t bore you with the details of that discussion, but I mention this because there is an exceptional article on this topic written by Chas Newkey-Burden that I highly recommend reading. It sums up exactly why this line of conversation is so odious.
In many professional settings I carry conversations that relate to my Jewish identity. I am proud of who I am and do not shy in displaying what it is that I stand for. I am often misread based on prejudice and ignorance, but I am always satisfied when I get the chance to put the record straight. It’s even better when I get the opportunity to demonstrate in both word and deed those values that I hold high, as an observant Orthodox Jew.