It’s Friday night and I’m standing outside a circle of 20 or so people, all gathered around a dinner table. The women begin to sing, “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha‑olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.” At this moment I realize, that no matter how much I want to be, I am not Jewish.
This is not a fact I readily admit. Growing up in Los Angeles and going to school in New York, almost all of my closest friends and more than half of the girls I have dated have been Jewish. Never has this been as big of an issue as it is today. Most of my friends graduated from college this year, and many decided to take advantage of Birth Right, an organization that provides every Jew under 25 a free 10-day trip to Israel. The trip pairs cultural history with a bit of indoctrination. In fact, it may be the most effective marketing tool I have ever seen. Since returning, more than 90% of my friends say they:
1) Know more about what it means to be Jewish
2) Feel more connected to Israel
3) Will only marry a Jewish man/women
At a recent party I was sitting with a group of twelve friends, most of whom had just returned from the homeland. “Absolutely, I have to marry Jewish,” a female friend of mine professed. All seemed to agree with nods and words of approval. “Don’t worry Bryce, you can convert,” another girl said.
Amongst my groups of friends Judaism is more of a culture than a religion. It is a culture that I too have grown to love. Whenever I am in LA I jump at the opportunity to have Shabbat dinner with my best friend Jaspar Weir’s family (Jaspar Weir is also my business partner/social guru for more on our adventures check out Jaspar Weir). From the bar mitzvah services I attended as a preteen to the end of Passover celebration I got to go to this year in Buenos Aires, Judaism has long been a part of my life. But as my friends have grown up and their Jewish consciousness has increased, especially with so many of them recently returning from Israel, I have felt more and more excluded. The lighthearted Gentile jokes, have turned into a conscious recognition that I am an outsider.
Last weekend I was flirting with a girl, when the fact that I was not Jewish came up. “You’re not Jew?” she asked, totally surprised. “No,” I was forced to admit. Needless to say the building sexual tension was instantly deflated like a popped balloon.