Dear patrons, this poem reflects a common experience among Jews who do not fit the rigid ideas of what Jewish looks or sounds like – defined that hailing exclusively from Central and Eastern Europe. The experience is alienating to the point that people may, and do, flee from the Jewish community, looking for a place where we are not constantly called into question. Find out more about the topic in this review of my book, The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage.

In a roomful of people
Gathered to celebrate the holy new year
You ask me
If I’m Jewish
Your only words to me
An otherwise perfect stranger
It’s that kind of ignorance
Arrogance
And distorted sense of entitlement
That push me
Farther and farther away
From Jewish life
Until one day
My answer
Just might be
“No.”

©2017 by Loolwa Khazzoom. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be copied without author’s permission.