A Balancing Act

by bonnie azoulay

   I’ve never seen a cheeseburger up close before up until college. Pressing my nose up against the TV as a kid whenever the Mcdonald’s jingle came on didn’t count. The realization came to me my first semester in college when I had to run 15 minutes in the freezing cold just to grab a kosher bite from Circa. Sitting in the cafeteria eating my kosher meal next to a happy meal made me feel very different.

    Aside from my dietary restrictions as I like to call it—(because in this decade who isn’t vegan/vegetarian/ gluten-free/ Allergic/Picky-eater)— being Jewish made for great writing material. Everyone wants to hear about the Jew who can’t use electronics every Saturday for a full 25 hours or about the Jew who lives in a community where girls get married as young as 19.

    After trying to describe to someone last week how difficult it is balancing my religious and Jewish identity with the “real world” as we call it, they answered me by saying, “You have one foot in the community and you have one foot in the real world.” It’s a balancing act. A balancing act I haven’t had to feel as much in college where I don’t dorm or have school friends that I hang out with outside of school.  However, in the past year when I started interning for American companies, that’s when I really felt the struggle. I felt both my worlds colliding. My foot in the community and my foot in the real world. I did some reflecting as I end my last internship and here are a few things to note when you’re out in the “real world”:

1: Diversity in the Workplace

My co-workers (Hi guys if you’re reading this lol) always asked me questions about being kosher and keeping the Sabbath, genuinely interested in hearing more about it as I was equally interested in hearing about their traditions and culture. My boss was interested in hearing about Chanuka and I was interested in hearing about Christmas. It makes for great table conversation, or in our case—conference room table conversation.

2: Keepin’ it Kosher:

After a long workweek, your co-workers are v down to go for drinks on Friday. But “I have to make it home in time for the Sabbath.” In the summer when I’d open my phone Saturday night to see pictures of my co’s on a rooftop bar the night before drinking margaritas, I felt left out. Those are the nights that bond you when you come into the office on Monday. During my fall internship, thankfully, my co’s and I would go for drinks Thursday nights. And if you’re kosher, seamless is your bff. Just eat at the office before you go out or you’ll only be washing down your starvation at 7PM with more alc. Never fun.

And definitely invite your co’s over for a Shabbat meal! My father always hosts his workers to our holiday or Shabbat table whether they’re Asian or reformed, they’re fascinated by the succah, dipping the apple in the honey, and it shows me how much I take challah for granted.

3:Being Religious isn’t an Excuse:

I only had to go on one business related trip last year. Thankfully it didn’t fall out on a Saturday. I knew there would be no kosher food so I called the hotel beforehand to make sure I got a room with a fridge and brought lachmagine and samboosak galore! Cool side note: Happened to be sharing a room with someone who was wearing a Jewish star necklace, and when I asked her if she was Jewish she was like Yaaaas! So she kind of understood my situation. Don’t let being religious be an excuse not to see other countries, go on business trips, or take a job because you feel “restricted.”

4: Holidays: Just don’t get sick. Ever. Because holidays are your sick days. Eat Grandma's kibbe that night like it has purpose.

5: Refrain from using your Home Terf's Dialect: Keep the Hazita's and Aboose's at home. One time my dad face timed me during work, thinking it was a call I answered it. Him not knowing I was in work opened up with a, "Hi Batya!" (My Hebrew Name). Things got awkward quick. 

6: Self-deprecation: If you’re the only Jew in your office take it upon yourself to, BE THE TOKEN JEW. Like make fun of your nose or something. I always talk about how I’m such a nun for not having tinder or scandalous sex stories to share. Just own it.