When I was in high school, my dad suggested to stop and explain any and all questions a non-Jew or even a Jew asks about anything Jewish — the rituals, the holidays, the philosophy etc. He told me that in answering such questions, I would gradually build an immunity from the ignorance and possible future acts of antisemitism.
I soon experienced in college — The University of Tulsa, with few Jews — that many of my classmates and professors had never met a Jew nor had any idea about anything Jewish.
As I was starting to develop my Judaic art, I was asked, what language was I using in my illustration? What were the two candles for? What was the holiday about? What was that tiny little hat on the guy’s head?
As my dad advised, I took the time to explain and teach. By graduation, I had gained a substantial amount of respect for the many aspects of Jewish life still with many more positive, curious questions.
I have observed way too many questions unanswered by Jews. Given the anti-Jewish happenings all through the U.S. and here in the D.C. area, I feel our rabbinical and Jewish organizational leadership need to advise our Jewish community to stop and educate one on one when sincere questions are asked, so as not to leave these empty information gaps open to the wrong hateful ideas about Jewish anything.
Obviously, when hateful words and events happen, do call the right authorities, but we can prevent some of these hurtful, dangerous attitudes from forming. Where there are real sincere or mistaken ideas expressed or questions asked of you…educate.
Avy Ashery, Rockville