I can’t talk to children below the age of 14. (I was a high school teacher after all.) For me, talking to people under the age of 14 always leads to awkward, strange conversations. My husband shares this same fatal flaw, a group of 10-year-olds once revoked his talking privileges at the Shabbos table.
But of course, avoiding children is unavoidable since every other Orthodox couple my age has about two or three kids under the age of 10. One of these little girls, lately, has taken to inform me on different occasions that my hair makes me look like a dog or a monkey.
Recently, she has decided that she can “tell” when people are Jewish.
“How can you tell?” I ask her cautiously.
“By looking at them,” she says shyly. I already don’t like where this is going but I quickly decide to let her do most of the talking. “They look Jewish.”
“What makes them look Jewish?” I ask nervously. Why does it always come back to this “Funny, you don’t look Jewish” conversation?
She points out a woman in a kosher restaurant. “I can tell she’s Jewish because she has her hair covered. And she’s wearing a skirt. Like you.”
“Hmm,” I say. “But what about your Mom? She doesn’t cover her hair and she’s wearing pants.”
“Well, I can tell she’s Jewish by her face,” she says full of the certainty only a seven-year-old has. She looks into my eyes and leans in. “You look Jewish.”
“How?” I push but she can’t elaborate so I tell her. I’m thinking about how her cousin last week assured me that I did not look Jewish. “I don’t think you can tell if someone’s Jewish from their face. Sometimes, you can tell by their clothes. But everyone looks Jewish.”
“Everyone in here is Jewish,” she says looking around the kosher restaurant again. “But you know, it’s a lot easier to tell if boys are Jewish because they wear kippahs.”
I nod in agreement, waiting for her to continue but thankfully she’s silent and I’m terribly glad when the conversation is over.
“I Love Jewish Faces” by Debra Darvick, which debuts in September, will certainly find its way onto this kid’s bookshelf. You can buy it at URJ Books & Music. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you again in September.
In the meantime, check out 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Read”.