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Shiksa Diaries: Shiksa in the classroom

Published: October 19, 2007
Section: Opinions


One of my all time favorite classes in high school was a seminar called Modern Political Theory, in which we compared the likes of Socrates and Aristotle to more recent philosophers like Marx and Nietzsche. There was one particular day after a discussion on Saint Augustine that I snapped. My class assumed my beliefs to be similar to those of Augustine, a philosopher with whom I vehemently disagreed, for the sole reason that we were both Christian. The following morning I agitatedly stormed into my teachers classroom and demanded an explanation for what had happened, and why he had said nothing to come to my defense. After I ran out of steam, and he still had said nothing, I realized that he had let the class continue as it did to provoke us. He wanted to get a reaction from me, to get me to think, to push me beyond my limits and question the unquestionable.

At Brandeis I am often still the token Christian in any given classroom, but this time in a sea of believers of a faith different than mine. Especially in smaller classes, I am often one of a few, if not the only, person of non-Jewish descent in a room. At times this can be exciting and can lead to amazing opportunities to learn from my peers through discourse and debate. Other times it can be uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful.

In one of my philosophy classes, a peer of mine had made an observation that inspired me to mention a passage of Augustine. Much to my dismay, a girl sitting close to me piped up, Well of course you would argue Augustine;

youre a Christian. I can still remember my throat catching a little at the memory of my previous entanglements with Augustine and modern Christianity. How could this be happening again?

In another seminar I can remember the term mensch coming up in a discussion. I defined the word first from a Yiddish perspective but later developed a primarily German interpretation. A girl raised her hand and kindly informed me that, I suppose you W.A.S.P.s can have your own definition too. I was so angry that I was literally at a loss for words.

Unfortunately not all encounters as a shiksa in the classroom are as harmless as these. Take for example, a friend of mine who was asked by her professor to remove her cross because it made him feel uncomfortable. This blatant lack of respect is appalling, especially given the rich tradition