Juliet Moses reflects on her almost-typical Kiwi childhood – and her concerns for her children as antisemitism stirs from its long slumber downunder.
Growing up in Auckland, I knew I was a bit different.
Christmas wasn’t a big deal for me. My family didn’t have a Christmas tree and a wreath on our door, and 25 December was the most boring day of the year. Often, we would travel to a holiday destination on that day. Once, we excitedly discovered the movies were on, and had pretty much the entire theatre to ourselves.
Around Easter, my customary school lunchbox sandwiches got replaced with thin, dry tasteless crackers that my friends would ask to try, but only once.
On Sunday mornings, I begrudgingly went to a special school – listening to Bad Jelly the Witch on the radio as we carpooled there – where I learned a script we read from right to left. Sometimes I would use words I thought were part of every family’s lexicon, but when I was greeted with blank stares I realised they were Yiddish. When the subject of World War II came up, or what was happening in the world, I often sensed a raw and bitter pain in my grandmother.
Yes, I knew I was a bit different, but I was proud to be Jewish. My family, although not religious, was observant. I had a bat mitzvah (a coming-of-age ceremony) when I turned 13. Some of the highlights of the year for me were the Jewish festivals, when we took a day off school to attend synagogue and gather together with close family friends for a ceremonial dinner that included much rowdiness and hilarity.
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This article was first published in the August 2019 issue of North & South.