Pin It
Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Identity Confusion: An Israeli Mom in NYC

By
raising-multicultural-kids

In Israel almost everyone is Jewish, except of course for the Arabs with whom Jews rarely interact. As a Jew, if you decide to marry outside your religion or even do something as minor as celebrate a non-Jewish holiday in your own home, you experience a sense of betrayal. Betrayal of your land, your family and your supposed identity. But is religion really who we are? Or is it only a part of who we become after we taste and experience the world with openness and love.

 

I came to New York City as a young woman determined to make it as a star. I lived this city to the fullest and loved everything about it especially the culture, the people and the intensity. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate my own Israeli culture, of course I do, it is who I am. But, like many, I also feel intensely connected to everything New York has to offer.

 

In 2007, I married an Israeli man and we decided to stay and live our lives in New York. He is much more connected than me to his culture whereas I am slightly confused about my identity. My split identity is increasingly becoming an issue now that my son, at 2.5, understands more. He goes to a local daycare and although they acknowledge the Jewish holidays, he still comes home singing “Jingle Bells” around Hanukkah. Because I love the festive atmosphere of Christmas, I insisted on getting a small Christmas tree this past holiday season with lights and crafted homemade ornaments with my son. The problem is that I felt guilty. It is that pure built-in guilt that I have as a Jew, feeling that I should not step outside of my religion. My father was surprised and disappointed that I had a Christmas tree and my husband didn’t mind but felt no connection to it. My son was thrilled and kept saying how beautiful the lights were. We didn’t neglect Hanukkah and lit the menorah, which my son loved just as much.

 

So what is the answer? Am I confusing my son? Is the fact that I have lived in New York for half of my life and feel connected to certain things that represent this city and the people wrong? Is the reality of being Jewish supposed to prevent me from exploring other cultures and traditions and from teaching my son that it is ok to do so?

 

Judaism is my religion and tradition and I love and respect it. I grew up in a home where kiddush (sanctification before the Sabbath) was a weekly event. My father sang the prayers and we all anticipated the arrival of the special day. I truly loved it, so why don’t I continue this tradition with my own family? People talk about identity and a sense of belonging to a group or religion as a big part of being confident in who they are. While I recognize this is important to some people, I can’t help but notice that others who belong to several groups do just fine.

 

I do not know all the answers. What I do know is that leaving your culture and joining a new one is not easy. But it makes life colorful and beautiful and that’s what I want for my son and my new baby daughter who should be arriving any day. I want them to experience all kinds of ideas, customs, traditions and people and become citizens of the world who care about the people they meet along their paths. I want them to appreciate the neighborhood they live in and respect the earth on which they walk. I hope I find a way to pass on my beliefs to my children with confidence and that they will impart these to their children, even with confusion or dilemmas along the way.

© 2011 – 2013, Ofrit Peres. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


The African Guide to Co-sleeping

10 must-read tips on co-sleeping from Africa

A Different World: No Longer Brown in White America

Is it racist to not want to raise your kids in white America?

How I Made My Forgotten Native Language My Child’s Strongest

I started off by speaking dodgy Cantonese. No word for remote control? No problem! ‘Pressy thingy.’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Ofrit Peres is a musician and teacher with an extensive performance background and eight years of experience teaching young children. She is the founder and creator of Rug Bug (www.rugbugny.com), a Brooklyn based company. They create environmental programs, workshops, events and products and give families with young children an opportunity to experience music, movement, art and play with an emphasis on caring for the earth and giving back to those in need.

Leave us a comment!

1 Comment
  1. CommentsMike   |  Sunday, 10 April 2011 at 2:39 am

    Hi Ofrit, people in the States tend to wish ‘Happy Holidays’ around December to be inclusive. People in Israel and Jewish-Americans in New York were very open and welcoming to me, a non-Jew. Identity can be confusing, but just being who you are seems to work. Shalom and Mazel Tov, Mike









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
[…] Peru, 97 percent of newborns are breastfed, according to LLLI. In Culture Parent reported that 69 percent of Peruvian children are breastfed exclusively from birth to five months, and ou...
From Breastfeeding Around the World
Hi I was googling Islamic beliefs when I came across your post. We are American and our neighbors are from Pakistan I think. Our kids love playing together but their dad doesn't allow the kids to co...
From An Islamic Perspective on Child-Rearing and Discipline
Mother’s Day is the most perfect and accurate Occasion to express your Love and Gratitude towards Mothe...
From Holi Craft: Straw Painting
[…] Muslims fast for 30 days every year for Ramadan, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Ramadan this year is happening during most of the month […...
From Ramadan: June 28-July 28
[…] Raising a Little Buddha – Part 1, InCulture Parent — Post by a Buddhist Minister about raising an enlightened child.  It starts with intimacy, communication, and community. [R...
From How to Raise an Enlightened Child — Part I
[…] Breastfeeding in Jordan, InCulture Parent — Not as restrictive as one might think. […...
From Breastfeeding in Jordan
[…] Best and Worst Countries to be a Mother, InCulture Parent – “The 2010 Mothers’ Index rates 160 countries (43 developed nations and 117 in the developing world) in terms of th...
From Best and Worst Countries to be a Mother
[…] Why Americans Value Independent and Competitive Kids, InCultureParent — Interesting look at how our values impact our interactions with our children (babies in particular). […...
From Why Americans Value Independent and Competitive Kids
[…] Multiple Fathers and Healthier Children in the Amazon, InCulture Parent — a fascinating look at cultures in the Amazon where pregnant women have sex with more than one man as a means...
From Multiple Fathers and Healthier Children in the Amazon

More Tradition and Parenting