Almost 13 & Seventeen

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13/17 Series - Aliza Abusch Magder - jGrils Magazine

Almost 13

An adult in eyes of the Jewish community
But what does this mean
you only see this community a few hours a week

You lead a service all on your own
Surrounded by family and teachers who’ve watched you grow
The rabbis are proud and your parents are gleaming
Your friends from school giggle at the funny Jewish hats,
And remind them again…what language are you speaking?

We enter adulthood with Torah and tradition and the Talmud,
And celebrate with the hugging game and the Cha Cha Slide
So am I an adult? And does it matter?

On school next Monday, you enter back into the world of the seventh grade,
Where someone held hands in the hallway…and someone kissed this past weekend
I am a “Daughter of the Commandment” now, but what does it matter
When all I wanted was to be part of the glamour?

In the eyes of the Jewish people, I am an adult,
Ready to take on the full mitzvot
But at school I am asked,
“Can you go to heaven if you don’t believe in Jesus?”

Seventeen

At the end of eighth grade
A boy wrote in a book: “Audrey Honig: Concentration Camp.”
This was during our Holocaust unit
when we learned the tragedies that so many endured,
Six million Jews died, and when he learned that
He made a joke.

This same time, other kids were banging on our door
Yelling dreidel dreidel dreidel at my father
The same man who had taught them the word in Kindergarten

How could they not know that ‘Jew’ is not an insult?
That being Jewish is a way of expressing humanhood:
Not a punchline to a joke.

At this point I knew that being Jewish was not a burden.
It can mean any number of things in any moment,
But I know that I am proud of everything it can mean
Whether it’s celebrating a holiday
Being kind to myself
Or passing the love of Hebrew on
I love who I am, different or not.

My Jewish experience
Is my human experience
And my human experience
Is my Jewish experience:
They are woven together into one journey.

Artist’s Statement: I wrote this series of poetry during my junior year of high school to illustrate the evolution of my Jewish identity from my Bat Mitzvah to now, looking back on the difficulties and joys that I have faced, and looking forward to continuing my growth. In the first poem, I used the voices of others more than my own to demonstrate how my identity was dependent on others and in the second poem, I use only my own voice.
Accompanying Photo: “Butterfly” by Aliza Abusch-Magder
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