David is a Grade 9 student who is Jewish, and is attending a school with a student population that is primarily white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant in background. He is one of only two Jewish students in the school. David generally finds that he fits in quite well with his classmates, and his Jewish identity has never really come up for discussion. In fact, David’s family is not observant, and David has never thought much about the fact that he is Jewish.
Recently, David’s school made it to the semi-finals of a debating competition and some of David’s classmates would be participating. David and his friends were thrilled to discover all Grade 9 students would be able to attend the event.
David and his friends were in a boisterous mood, looking forward to spending a day outside of class and hanging out together. They managed to get seats together and this helped to fuel their celebratory state of mind. The debate took place in a large auditorium in a primarily Jewish neighbourhood and the student population of the competing school was primarily Jewish.
The boys laughed and joked around as they waited for the competition to begin. When the students from the other school arrived, some of David’s friends began to snicker when they saw that some of them were wearing yarmulkes, or kippot, the traditional Jewish skullcap worn by observant Jews.
David squirmed uncomfortably when he saw that some of his friends were whispering to each other, laughing and pointing. He froze when one of them called out a mocking comment to the students from the other school. This comment seemed to trigger a barrage of similar comments, all of them making fun of Jewish customs and food, and calling out insults based on stereotypes. The students from the other school did not react, and did not even look at David’s friends; they simply took their seats with silent dignity.
For the first time in his life, David felt out-of-place and even afraid, with his friends. His friends seemed indifferent to the insult to him, his religion and his culture. He felt enraged, and also very lonely.
He sensed the futility of trying to stop them. Instead, he announced in a calm but clear voice, “I can’t believe you guys are acting like this. I’m taking off.” He walked out, his head high, and waited in the lobby.
As he waited, he resolved to find out more about his culture, religion and background. Suddenly, it was very important to him that he was Jewish.