me (+you)


I've been thinking about this one for a while, ever since partner came home and told me that everytime it is mentioned that I'm Jewish to colleagues, they act surprised. I know them quite well and work with them from time to time myself.

I have spent some time thinking about this and I have decided that it is because for those colleagues I don't fit their stereotype of a Jew so it always comes as a surprise that I am, in fact, Jewish. They are mostly white, dominant culture (Protestant Christian) people and some are Bengali Muslim. I am aware of the stereotypes that both communities have of Jewish people and I guess I don't fit - for them. What a surprise... and individual not fitting a stereotype...
One of the reasons I don't think I fit is because I am Australian so I am usually understood first in those terms, according to that stereotype. It's funny because 'brashness' and 'openness' is a both an Australian stereotype and a Jewish one, but they are subtly different in manifestation. In Australia, my behaviour was usually understood as quite untypicial - too loud, too opinionated, too... I don't know...

It strikes me as funny that I get away with a lot because people seem to assume a 'cultural difference', people assume that I couldn't understand because I am new, or a foreigner, an immigrant. But I do, I just choose to behave or react differently.

By the same token, things I say or do seem to be swept under the stereotype of Australian-ness and not something that may be unique to me and my way of seeing or doing things. My stereotype - my Australian stereotype - that follows me around is both liberating and de-invidualising (if that's a word).

I've also thought about the one colleague who doesn't forget that I'm Jewish, who is not fussed about it. She is Somali - also a Muslim culture - but maybe one that doesn't have the same stereotypes around Jewishness. I don't know. I'm extrapolating from one individual which is stupid... I know Ethiopians have a more sympathetic view partly because of ancient biblical connections... but that in no way guarantees a sympathy across the border... I think I am searching for a sweeping generalisation. I guess I should ask.

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