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Don't Think of Me as Different--I'm Not

Reprinted with permission from The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

July 14, 2006

My name is Rachel, and I am a Jewish American girl who was born in China. I was adopted. I am finishing the fifth grade, and I go to a Jewish school where I am not the only Chinese girl--there is one other girl from China named Willow, who is in the fourth grade. We are friends.

Sometimes I do not want to be different from the other kids, although people at school do not make me feel different because I am Chinese. And anyway, I think to myself everybody in the whole school is different in their own special way. I think I am also different because I am very outgoing and active. All of my friends have great qualities.

I love all of the Jewish holidays that my school has taught me about. I like the Purim shpiel because it is funny and a great way to learn about Megilah Esther. On Tu B'Shevat, my school takes a long walk up to Runyon Canyon and interacts with nature. My favorite holiday that my school celebrates is Lag B'Omer, when we go to the park and are teamed up with our whole class. We play games and have fun. We also have a jogathon to raise money for the school. I do not think of myself when I'm having fun as being Chinese or different, just as equal to everyone.

At camp a lot of people ask if I am Chinese. Then I tell them I am adopted, and that I was born in China. Sometimes they offend me with the way they look at me after I tell them that I am from China. They look as if they have never seen a Chinese person before. It can get kind of annoying telling your background to a lot of people. I am also proud when I do tell them my background, because you should always be proud of what you are.

Every week at school, we have services on Monday and Friday. At the end of this year, I helped lead services in front of the upper grades in my school. I felt really good when I was leading prayers in front of everybody, because it meant a lot to help the congregation start a prayer. I try not to get distracted during services because sometimes my friends do not want to pray to God, so they start to talk. I always try to sing my best, with respect and meaning.

I am having my bat mitzvah in about two years. I am very excited because this way I can have a better connection to God. I know it will take work, but the work will pay off. I cannot wait to show on the bimah how proud I am to be a Jew. In first grade I went to a mikvah with my mom. My dad is preparing to convert, so my whole immediate family will be Jewish. Still, right now my family considers ourselves all Jewish. I am a Jewish American girl from China ready to take on the Jewish world.

Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." Hebrew for "collection," referring to the "collection of water," is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism. Today it is used as part of the traditional procedure for converting to Judaism, by Jews who follow the laws of ritual (body) purity, and sometimes for making kitchen utensils kosher. The elevated area or platform in a synagogue, from which Torah is read. Worship service leaders, such as clergy, may lead services from the bimah as well. Hebrew for "lots," referring to the lots cast by Haman, the story's antagonist, to determine the date on which to kill the Jewish people. It's a spring holiday commemorating the Jewish people's triumph. The story is told through the biblical Book of Esther; the namesake heroine, a Jewish woman, marries the Persian king. Their interfaith relationship is central to the story. Hebrew term for a unit of dry measure, it was used to measure barley and is sometimes translated as "sheaf" (as in, "sheaf of barley"). Omer now refers to the period of 49 days from Passover to Shavuot. Today, instead of bringing an omer of barley to sacrifice, the days are counted ("counting the Omer"). It's also a period of semi-mourning, when traditional Jews will refrain from partying, dancing, listening to live music, or cutting their hair.
Rachel Core

Rachel Core lives in the Los Angeles area with her family.

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