I practiced my Hebrew on Shabbat, as I waited with my yarmulke on the desk I was waiting for it to dry after I washed it carefully ready for synagogue next Friday.
As I learned intensely my mum took the Keppel away and put it on the washing line, at that moment a sudden fear gripped me as the patio door shut, alarm bells rang as my mind raced in panic thinking “WHAT IF THE NEIGHBOURS SEE?”
You see, being a convert in a non-Jewish family in a working class, blue collar non-Jewish town I was very fearful especially as my neighbours are for one nosey and two are very non diplomatic: not a good combination I think you’ll agree.
It is this fear that made me hide from everybody who knew me, way back when, even my parents didn’t know I was Jewish and I even had to sneak away to synagogue one week saying I had gone to a “study club”.
Fast forward to now and most of my family know and are incredibly kind and accepting, with my parents buying me vegetarian food (as kosher food is not available in my town). However the community at large does not know about my change in faith.
This is due to the negative attitudes of a considerable minority towards difference in my town. Even though there are some incredibly good, kind and friendly people, I believe it would not be wise and would be bringing trouble to me and my family’s door if people outside of my support network of friends and family members knew about this, hence why I type using my pseudonym on PunkTorah.
There is a Dutch film about the subject of hidden identity amongst young modern Jewry (Cap or Keppel) after which this article title is named, as I can speak Dutch I view a lot of Dutch TV and viewed it online. The story revolves around a young Jewish boy called Bram who lives in Amsterdam and feels he has to hides his Jewish identity because of his fear of discrimination from his classmates. However there is one place Bram feels he can express his identity: The Amsterdam Arena, home of real life football team Ajax, the Amsterdam football team is associated with Judaism much in the same way Tottenham is in England, fans chant “SuperJoden” or “Super Jews”.
Instead of his yarmulke or Keppel as it is known Bram wears his Ajax baseball cap outside of shul, the film ends with him finally accepting this Identity saying “Ik ben Bram, Ik ben wie ik ben” (I am Bram, I am what I am.)
In the film we see the character go full cycle from a fearful child hiding his identity to making a very brave choice to step out and show who he is. Thinking about this I silently meditate and pray for the day when I and other converts can be like Bram and not be afraid to be who we are, as I grow in confidence I go even further past caring what others think, but there are still time when fear grips me and the need to hide raises its ugly, ugly head.
P.S: That being said converts should bear in mind they should only tell others when they feel it is appropriate to do so, if you are struggling with identity issues please discuss this with a trusted friend, family member and/or contact Punktorah