Let's get this out of the way: I'm Jewish. Not particularly observant, can't speak Hebrew or Yiddish, but I can make a mean brisket and I've always been proud to identify as Jewish. Having grown up in some homogeneous places like Newfoundland, Canada and Wiesbaden, Germany, I am not unfamiliar with my religious preference being in the minority. But now I live on the east coast of the United States, a true melting pot if ever there were one. And we have our first African-American president and soon-to-be first Latina Supreme Court judge. So why am I even bothering to talk about being Jewish?
In the past several weeks, I've opened my front door to well-dressed people -- men and women, Black and white -- whose sole purpose seemed to be to talk to me about Jesus. When I pointed out to one couple that the lovely cylinder over my front door is a Mezzuzah signifying that I'm Jewish, the woman exclaimed, "Yes, that's why we were sent here!" One gentleman informed me that he needed to tell me about the "real" Bible, not the version "you people" use. And on more than one occasion I've been solemnly informed that I am heading straight to Hell. It can't be because of my well-manicured lawn so I'm guessing it has something to do with my religion.
One of my earlier Huffington Post-ings received a comment asking, "Where are your Christian values?" Earlier this week I was copied on an email that was about me, but not intended for me. It referred to me as a "non-believer." At first, I was confused since I am certainly not Godless. But eventually I realized that it meant I don't believe in Jesus as a savior. How distressing. Shouldn't we be united by our common faith in something larger than ourselves? Why is it necessary for me to hold the same beliefs as those knocking on my door to find salvation in the afterlife? Why, in this day and age, where faith can be so hard to come by anyway, is that not enough?
Mutual respect for one another's beliefs should be foundational in the U.S. It is what keeps us from turning on one another as we've seen happen in other corners of the globe. It is what binds us as Americans and neighbors. My Judaism is no threat to anyone; your Christianity doesn't threaten me. But I am not interested in being converted, or educated at my front door or being labeled in a negative way. One piece of my religion that has always resonated with me is "tikkun olam" which means "repair the world." Maybe we should all focus on repairing and less on tearing down.