Every time I am in a majority-Jewish setting, such as in a synagogue, an Israel event, or TJ MaXX when they are having their 50% off sale, I get the feeling that other people don’t think that I’m Jewish.Â I usually get this feeling because people tell me they don’t think I look Jewish.Â In one particularly harrowing incident at Holy Land Restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia about two years ago, I spoke to the waitress in Hebrew.
×¤×œ××¤×œ ×©×œ×›× ×˜×•×‘ ×ž××•×“.Â ×ž×ª×’×¢×’×¢×ª ××•×ª×• ×ž××¨×¥.Â ×§×©×” ×œ×ž×¦×•×ª ××•×ª×• ×‘×—×•×œ” , I said, smiling at her.
(Translation: Your falafel is most excellent.Â Oh, how I pine for falafel from Eretz Israel.Â It is hard to find such sustenance in the New World.)
She started.Â “You Jewiiish,”Â Bracha (Or maybe it wasÂ Vered) asked me.
“Ken,” I replied, a bit flustered.
“Bat you don look Jewiiish!Â Nat even a little beet!”
I burrowed down into my thinah pool of shame.Â Just because I looked like an Aryan poster child didn’t mean I had to go through this kind of discrimination.
What is my point in telling this story, except to show off that I can spell mitgaga’at in Hebrew?Â Now, blonde Russian Jews are becoming more accepted in Israeli society, going so far as to being hot in the Knesset!Â Ok, so the blonde in this story, Anastasiya Michaeli Samuelson, is actually an ethnically Russian convert to Judaism.Â ButÂ it’s a start.
The Forward writes about her,
A Russian-born convert to Judaism, former beauty queen and celebrated TV personality, Michaeli is, in many ways, the perfect bright and sunny face for Lieberman’s highly controversial political party, one often accused of advancing a racist agenda. Michaeli, a kind of younger Sigourney Weaver look-alike, adamantly rejects the charge. â€œI am not a racist,â€ she insisted.
The pixie-haired blonde immigrated to Israel from St. Petersburg in 1997 and converted to Judaism in 2000. She wed her husband, Yossi Samuelson, a Latvian-born Israeli Jew 10 years her senior, twice: once in a Russian civil ceremony after the birth of their first child, when Samuelson was employed in Moscow by Tadiran, an Israeli electrical supplier, and a second time after her conversion, when she and Samuelson already had three children and were living in Israel.
Influenced by her Soviet upbringing with its emphasis on â€œpatriotismâ€ and â€œloyalty,â€ and its view of Judaism as a nationality, Michaeli doesn’t distinguish between being a good Jew and an Israeli patriot. â€œJudaism is at the basis of why we have this country to begin with. It’s not just a religion,â€ she said.
So inspired was I by her story, that I decided to see if I could follow in her footsteps (minus the part where the Forward says that she’s a lot like Sarah Palin, because that’s just crazy.)
What’s that?Â No?Â Don’t quit your day job?Â Ok, ok.I’ll just live vicariously through AnastasiyaÂ for now.