After a long hiatus filled with applications for scholarships and preparation for standardized tests, I have recently returned to my primary duty as a graduate student: graduating – that is, fulfilling the requirements necessary to graduate. In this case, that means writing my MA thesis, which is an examination of memoirs and personal essays by Iranian Jewish women who are living in the United States. It’s an interesting project, if occasionally overwhelming, and it reminds me every day that my own experience of Jewish life is not consistent with the lives of Jews everywhere.
The centrality of food to the Jewish experience is a fact that is undeniable. It serves to identify one as a Jew, while at the same time defines one’s particular identity within the wider sphere of the Jewish community.
I recently attended a Yiddish culture conference where participants were required to wear nametags printed with their full names. Thus displayed, my conspicuously Puerto Rican name provoked endless fascination and scrutiny. One day I was asked to identify my ethnicity five times -- before the end of breakfast.