Esther says to Ahashverosh, “If your Majesty will do me the favor, and if it pleases Your Majesty, let my life be granted me as my wish, and my people as my request,” (JPS Translation) Next, she tells how her people are about to be “destroyed,” “massacred,” and “exterminated.” In order to stand up for her people, Esther risks her life to tell Ahashverosh her Jewish identity.
Have you ever had the experience of trying to keep part of you a secret, the way Esther did? Living with knowledge of yourself that those around you don’t see or know? I think we probably all have some story like this. For me, it was 17 years ago in Cairo, Egypt. My husband was doing an immersive program in Arabic at the American University of Cairo, and I was spending several months living with him in an apartment near Tahrir Square. I became quite friendly with a woman named Hoda. Hoda was the wife of our Baabwab, our doorman/superintendent. Hoda’s family lived in the building, and I spent a lot of time with her and her two young daughters. We spent many hours drinking tea together, talking in her halting English and my emerging Arabic vocabulary. She showed me how to shop in the local market, how to cook, and how to get around the town. Hoda always presumed that as an American I was Mesichi, Christian. At first this didn’t bother me. My husband and I were being careful with whom and how we shared our Jewish identity. But, as Hoda and I spent more time together and trusted each other more, the issue became difficult for me. I remember some vivid dreams and uncomfortable nights not able to reconcile being considered Christian by someone who otherwise knew me well. Being Jewish was too much a part of who I was to be able to keep it a secret any longer. Finally, one day I told Hoda that I wasn’t Mesichi. I was Yehudi. By the time I told her, it felt imperative to speak my truth, and not to pretend to be anything other than who I really was. We all have truths about who we are. We value when we and our truths are seen, heard, and understood; but sometimes it is hard to share and tell the world who we feel ourselves to be. This is one of the reasons that I strongly advocate for the rights of all people to be able to express their whole selves and am working with our LGBTQ group at TBI.
Do you have any stories of when you felt it imperative to speak your personal truths or to reveal something important about yourself? I’d love to hear your story. Please email me or call: Educator@tbipomona.org, 909-267-3924.