When Life Gives You Lemons...
Updated: Jul 30
Do you ever have that feeling where you have this overwhelming anger that just consumes you? Well… I do… ALL THE TIME!
You may be wondering why I’m angry. One word for that: Inequality.
Elon University is known as an inclusive and diverse campus. For the most part, this holds to be true. On the other hand, there are some hidden parts of our culture. For example, recently black students have been harassed as they walk down the street, gay and lesbian students get stereotyped and outcasted for not being “normal”, and most of all there is so much tension between religious groups on campus. One group in particular that I want to discuss is the Jewish students.
Every year as it comes a time for holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) or Yom Kippur (the day of atonement). Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is my time in the year to celebrate being alive and practice gratitude, and over the years it has held so much importance in my heart. This is a privilege that I feel has been taken away from me because I am not granted the same time to celebrate my important holidays compared to other worldviews on campus. Let me put it in context: if this were reflected in other religions, Christians would have to go to work and school on Easter, Muslims would have to cancel their celebrations for Eid Al-Adha, Hindus would not be able to celebrate Diwali in their households and in their communities, and Buddhists would be told they could no longer do their meditations in the middle of the day or they would get penalized at work.
I have found it to be extremely difficult balancing my religious holidays and being a student. Yes, I do get excused from class most of the time, but I have twice the amount of work to do to catch up. While from an outside perspective this would seem to be acceptable, but it has never felt that way to me. Instead, it makes me feel like I don’t have a significant voice at Elon because I am still penalized and held responsible for missing a mandated school day. I don’t want to have to choose between the two things that are most important right now in my life as a young adult, but every year I have to. I usually end up missing the meaningful and reflective times that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur provide that I would not normally get during any other time of the year. Do you see the problem? Every year that the high holidays come around I start feeling really guilty about the choice I make to practice my faith or attend to my school work.
On top of having to worry about my religion, I also have to worry about my identity as a female. One example being women in the workplace. Women make 80 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Harsh right? Don’t even get started with women of color and ethnic minorities. Those women only make 40 cents on the dollar compared to white men. Insane! (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2018) I have felt this first hand all throughout my journey as a woman, especially being a Jewish woman. These identities may not seem like they overlap, but I assure you they do. Being Jewish comes with many acts of discrimination and prejudice as well as my identity of being female.
I am not bringing this up to pick a fight or complain, my goal is to bring awareness to what is going on in our surroundings. I’m sure that other Jewish students have the same concerns as me, as well as students from other faiths. The dominant culture of Christianity in society is allowing other worldviews to feel the effects of inequality. The fact that we are different and not a part of the dominant culture makes it even easier for the inequality to be justified and ignored.
I love who I am and what I believe in. The thing I want to change is how people like me are being pushed to the sidelines for being different.
I want to end with a quote that could be helpful to explain how I strive to fight of equality of all religions orientations and spirituality.
"Not everybody feels religion the same way. Some it's in their mouth, but some it's like a hope in their blood, their bones."
— Tillie Olsen (1912/13- ), American writer; from "O Yes" (1956), Tell me a Riddle, 1960