In the old days I used to try to hide my Jewishness as much as possible. I remember in particular teaching at a rural Illinois high school on the Jewish High Holidays a) because I didn't want anyone to know I was Jewish and b) because I thought nobody else in the school celebrated the holidays.
I actually didn't even realize I was Jewish until I was about seven years old and my mom who had originally allowed me to go to summer Bible school with a neighbor decided that she was finally going to send me to Jewish Sunday School.
Most of my life I have intersected almost more often with gentiles rather than Jews but not always was it comfortable for me. I remember an acquaintance at a dinner party once asking me why Jews were such whiners.
In our suburban high school, there was an uneven split between the gentiles and the influx of Jews moving into our suburb. We named the majority (the gentiles) "The Clan." They were most often the prom king and queen, the cheerleaders, and the students whose photos appeared on the main yearbook pages. I always wanted to be a part of the clan, but alas I wasn't blonde and thin and I didn't like beer parties.
When I went to college, I thought it would be great to join a gentile sorority that I liked, but the president called the Jewish sorority and recommended that I pledge them. It was an unwritten rule that the sororities were to keep separate identities.
Later I attended graduate school at Northwestern University that had only recently lifted its Jewish quota restrictions. I was probably the only Jewish student in my class. I recall particularly that many of my fellow students were children of government ambassadors or corporate executives, not exactly my background.
I grappled with my Jewish identity especially after I moved to a suburb with a substantial population of mostly second and third generation Jews who had become very successful in America.
I started to study my history.
On another occasion I was devastated when another friend of ours, a diehard WASP, told me one day when I listened to a presentation by a Jew and a Palestinian that I should just face the fact that Jews would always be hated by the Palestinians.
In short, I now know the good things and the bad things about my religion, my ethnicity, my tribe, and I'm finally proud to be a member and I no longer hide from this. True, there is a huge diversity among us, but we are held together by several of the precepts of our teachings that I revere: most importantly that we favor humanity over hatred and violence. I'm extremely proud too of the fact that we Jews have a reputation for making the most of a situation and of moving forward with positive new ideas in an effort to make the world a better place. I especially like it when it's done with humor.
Terrorists like Hamas plan their violent strategies to kill their enemy just for the sake of obliterating them. They can't think of anything better to do than to drum up horrific murders and annihilations.
I'm not sure how we all got bundled together as Jews. Certainly the Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe are not at all like the modern Jew my Reform Jewish German mother raised me to be. Regardless I have learned to accept that there is more that holds us together than divides us and that we must continue to bond together to tell the world that we are good people and hold a distinct place among our universe.
I will do my darnedest to accept the differences in the many diverse sects of the world that I live among and I want others to do the same. I know it's not possible, but I wish I could figure out how to make those who don't want to tolerate any differences in beliefs other than their own and spend their lives on a mission to destroy us would disappear.
That's probably not going to happen because we live in an imperfect world, but that doesn't mean I can't keep trying.