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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Wearing My Identity Again

Since receiving my first necklace adorned with a Star of David in fifth grade, I’d worn Jewish-themed jewelry in some form or another fairly consistently. I’d begged my parents for that first necklace for months, with every weekend trip to the local mall. The triangles were crafted from the letters for the word “love,” which I thought was the perfect expression for my love of Judaism. Wearing it each day strengthened my Jewish identity. My friends at camp and youth group wore Jewish jewelry too, and comparing styles (mezuzahs, chais, Hebrew names and hamsas were all common) became almost as ubiquitous as our rounds of Jewish geography (“wait, you know Isaac from the Midwest region too?”).

Over the years, my collection expanded with bat mitzvah and Hanukkah gifts, cool finds at local craft fairs, and a trip to Israel while in high school. I had rings and earrings, and could find a way to weave Jewish jewelry into practically every day. I kept it going all through college and my first full-time job too. At that point, it felt like something to latch on to as I entered the “real world” and left behind the Jewish bubbles I had maintained for so long. By then, my most treasured piece was a hamsa with a bit of turquoise that my boyfriend gave to me shortly after we’d begun dating.

Then one night a few months before that boyfriend became my husband, our apartment was broken into, and all of my jewelry was stolen. We didn’t have much worth stealing then, and most of the jewelry I had wasn’t particularly valuable, but the sentimental value was priceless. My fiance and I scoured pawn shop logs, but the police thought the thief likely threw all of it away upon closer inspection. That idea simply broke my heart.

Friends and family knew how sad I was, and over time, replacement jewelry was purchased with the best of intentions, but I didn’t wear it much. It didn’t hold the same meaning for me, while new pieces in my life did. My engagement and wedding rings, in particular, were precious, and later, a circle pendant that my husband gifted me upon finishing my MBA. I wore it when my son was born, and as he got older, he often looped his fingers through the pendant. I’ve worn that necklace almost every day for the past decade.

The break in was many years ago, and things have changed. Unfortunately, we now live in a more politically charged environment, and wearing a visible sign of my identity feels important again. It took awhile for me to find something that expressed my Judaism but felt like it fit with the 40 year old me, but I finally settled on a delicate bracelet with a Star of David in the center. I thought it might feel awkward wearing it at first, but I noticed how quickly I got accustomed to it. The bracelet felt like it was always supposed to be there. I think that it probably was.