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An Open Letter to My Younger Self about My Judaism and More

An Open Letter to My Younger Self about My Judaism and More

The author smiling while standing in front of scenery in Israel

Dear Destiny,

You definitely don’t know this yet, but you are strong, and you are important.

I chose to tell you that first because you may not always feel that way, and I know you don’t right now. As you go through life, you’re going to be looked at as “other” or an “outsider.” I want you to remember this: Keep your head up, especially in school. You’re going to receive hate in every fashion. Cry if you need to; it’s not a sign of weakness, so use it to make you stronger. Your ancestors did not go through their trials and tribulations for you to feel that way, though – so take up some space!

Your formula is made up of three things society doesn’t view positively – and I’m working to change that for you.

You’re a woman.

You’re Jewish.

You’re Black.

Some might call it a recipe for disaster. I call it greatness.

In life, you’re going to meet people who will test your boundaries, and as much as you might want to retaliate, remember to choose your battles wisely; we need you to shape the future.

It’s your job to help educate the uninformed, but it’s also your job to educate yourself. Throughout your school years, you’re going to experience a lot of positivity, but negativity will come your way too. That is just the way of the world; we don’t have to accept it, but we also have to do something to fix it. So if someone asks you questions like, “Are you really Jewish?” or “Well, who’s the white one in your family? Because Black Jews aren’t really a thing,” choose to educate them – because it is clear from their statements that they have not been educated in this realm of life.

Explain to them that, yes, you really are Jewish, and tell them some of your favorite things about being Jewish. Tell them all about how much you love Hanukkah and how you nearly burn the latkes every year. Tell them about your experiences in Israel and how they’ve shaped your faith. Tell them that, yes, there are Jews in all hues who come from all across the world! Tell them all about the Latinx Jews of South and Central America, and the African Jews of Uganda, Ghana, and Ethiopia; tell them about the struggles and oppression those Jews still face to this day. Tell them that “Jewish” is not synonymous with “white” and “European.”

Know that it is possible they’re not coming from a place of hostility but maybe of curiosity. Not everyone is educated the way you are, and not everyone has had the family and people in their life to answer life’s burning questions when they ask. But you have – so use it. Choose to teach them and to empower them so you can have another ally on your side.

Finally, know your worth when it comes to your identity – and then add tax. If these individuals choose not to take your teachings to heart, leave them; you’re too powerful, you’re too strong, and you’re too smart to deal with anyone who tries to tell you you’re anything less. In life, there are always going to be people who want to bring you down, so show them why you’re on top. If they’re worth your time, they’ll listen, and you can bring them up to your level.

I’m always here for you – because I am you.

All my love,

Destiny

Destiny Karash-Givens is a middle school teacher in New Orleans, LA, and a member of the Union for Reform Judaism's JewV'Nation Fellowship's Jews of Color cohort. A graduate of Loyola University New Orleans, she holds a degree in environmental sciences. She grew up in Houston, TX, where she discovered that tacos and elote are the best foods known to man. Destiny has an affinity for all things science and animals (specifically reptiles), and when she's not teaching or eating, you can catch her at home snuggling with her gecko and watching true crime documentaries.

Destiny Karash-Givens
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