I rip the Christmas wrapping and then pull a silver menorah out of a cardboard box. I squeal in delight. Rachel and Danny know this purchase is appreciated. It is the best Christmas present ever! Another onlooker, Heather, is mystified by my exuberance.
“Tamara, why do you like Judaism so much?” she asks.
“Because Jesus was Jewish!” I reply.
A few months earlier, a similar conversation happens. I am walking in the mall with my friends, Joy and Joe. We pass a kiosk with a sign that reads: Hand carvings from the Holy Land. I squeal and drool over every carving. The kiosk vendor speaks with a Middle Eastern accent. He looks Jewish. My blood starts to race. My breathing increases, and I feel like I am about to faint. We finish gawking at the trinkets and head for the exit. I giggle and talk with Joy about the experience. I tell her how marvelous the entire experience felt.
Joe asks, “Why do you get so excited over an accent?”
I don’t know how to answer. It isn’t something I intentionally do. It is automatic. It isn’t something I control or conjure up. The same race as Jesus?!! Standing a few steps away from me? It messes with my chemistry.
Experiences like this happen to me often. They single me out. A few days ago, our theatre touring group is discussing a trip to Florida. My director announces we might perform for a Jewish community. Everyone in the room remains as they are, not me. I gasp in delight. My blood races. I feel like the Lord has handed me a rare diamond. I expect everyone else to smile and beam at each other. They remain calm and unmoved. I want to dance! I want to whoop and holler! Performing for a crowd of Jewish people? What more could I ask for?
I now know my fascination with the Jewish race is an oddity. I use to think that all Christians instinctively valued the Jewish race. No. Christians treat the Jews just like any other race. I suppose that is the humane response. “All men are created equal”.
However, I can’t treat Jews the same as every race. There is something programed into my soul. I physically react to the Jewish presence. Whenever someone tells me they are of Jewish decent, I feel instantly enamored by them. They can be the vilest person, and I still consider them heavenly. I even have a soft spot for the Pharisees. I know, I know. Jesus hated those hypocrites. However, for whatever reason…the Jewish race and their traditions inspire me, feed me, and draw me into beauty.
My cousin, Laura, married a Jew. When he smiles, I can’t even look him in the face. I am too awestruck. If I hear the Hebrew language spoken, I get chills and sometimes experience minor convulsions. In my rational mind, I think…”Tamara, they are just normal human beings. Just like you. Just like everyone else.” However, just knowing that Jesus was a Jew. Just that tiny piece of knowledge makes my physical body and my soul vulnerable. I can’t explain it because it isn’t something I understand. My spirit comes alive in the presence of the Jewish race. I feel a deep kinship with them. I can’t explain it and I can’t escape it. They are beautiful and I am odd.