What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.
I sleep in on Sunday, I stay home on Wednesday nights; I don’t belong to any youth groups, and if you walk into my house there’s not a single cross to be found. Instead a big blue candle bearing the star of David is perched on the mantle, and two small menorahs sit comfortably on their shelf above the wine glasses. I was raised to stand out from the very day I was born in a tiny living room in Fullerton California. It was on this windy September morning that my young, first-time, parents decided to name me “Dream”. My chances of a simple suburb and a golden retriever didn’t look too high. However, despite the weird name and my many unconventional living arrangements, being Jewish was never something that I thought would set me apart from my community.
My parents had itchy feet and weren’t keen on settling down in one place. Therefore, growing up it became a routine to pack everything I owned in one suitcase and move every two years. I lived everywhere. In a tree house near Grover Beach, a cabin in the mountains of Paonia Colorado, a rather large tent on the big island of Hawaii (which by the way, lacked electricity and running water), and most recently a standard brick house in a nice neighborhood up in East Texas. Now one may think that 24 hour access to a warm shower would make life more comfortable than a composting toilet; but for an awkward prepubescent Jewish girl in the Bible Belt, comfort was nowhere to be found.
Despite the fact that I have always made friends easily and am always very involved in my school, there is a solid gap that leaves me alienated at Pleasant Grove. Being raised Jewish in a conservative Christian community made it hard for me to fit in with my peers. During middle school and my freshman year of high school, my identity became a huge insecurity of mine. The lack of knowledge that my classmates had pertaining to what it meant to be Jewish, oftentimes led to a lot of misguided information and teasing. The bad-taste holocaust jokes and the attempts to “save my soul” are all still vivid memories. It wasn’t until sophomore year that I realized I didn’t have to victimize myself. I didn’t owe anybody anything, and my new gained confidence completely changed how I felt about who I was. It was liberating, and because I wasn’t focused on other people, I was able to flourish as a person in and outside of school.
While things like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Fields of Faith, and the Baccalaureate service before graduation make me feel more than a bit estranged from everyone else, I have grown to become so proud and accepting of my heritage and personal identity. I used to cry myself to sleep wishing I could move back to a more diverse and liberal demographic, but now I couldn’t be more grateful for these last five years. I have become such an open minded individual, and have been able to educate others in the process. Now I love having something that sets me apart and prompts people’s curiosity. Whether it’s my flower child name, or my lack of a Christmas spirit, I end everyday knowing that I can be at peace with myself despite being an outsider in this small East Texas Town.