Melisa Carr-Ashkenazi
I'm not saying anything, I'm just saying....

Outsider Syndrome comes with dual citizenship

Lady Liberty standing tall in my hometown (Photo Source: Melisa Carr-Ashkenazi)

Dual citizenship has left me feeling like a person that belongs nowhere. 

When I lived in New York, I was a “New Yawker” and classified as American when I stepped out of the country. How obvious it was that I was American and with a heavy New York accent to boot.
Making Aliyah (immigrating to Israel) was a good feeling. I thought I was among my people, and being Jewish was my qualifier, but boy was I shocked to find out that wasn’t a true statement.
I arrived at the Airport taking a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight for Americans making Aliyah. I was wearing a hot pink tank top and holding a wedding dress in my arm, ready for my new life. I had a ton of luggage like all the other passengers getting on the flight. I saw the sign that said, “Nefesh B’Nefesh”, proceeding to the back of the line, a woman also on the line, looked at me and informed me that I was on the wrong line.

“This line is for people immigrating to Israel,” she said. How insulted I was.

My dad sent me off, in my hot pink tank top (Photo Source: Melisa Carr-Ashkenazi)

While I may not have fit the picture of what a Jew would look like making Aliyah, I was on that line for the same reason as her– to catch a flight to my new home–Israel

In New York, no one is lining up around the block wanting to be Jewish. It was enough to say you were Jewish; most of the time. I would be the token Jew within a crowd. Not a religious Jew but a cultural Jew. A person who identified as Jewish so I was Jewish.

Technically, I am Jewish because my mother is, which makes perfect sense in my mind. You are whatever your mother is since you came out of her; you always know the mother but not necessarily the father.

I enjoy the holidays, the food, and my family heritage. I do not go to Temple, and I don’t follow the Kashrut laws, yet I am still Jewish. I eat bacon and cheeseburgers year-round. Enjoy Matzo during Pesach as well as homemade challah for Rosh Hashanah. I like all the good parts and not really all the rules, since following the rules blindly has always been a difficult thing to swallow.

I am far from what it means to be Jewish according to the religious people in Israel. Yet what are the standards, or should I say stereotypes that circulate around. Should I keep kosher? Should I not drive on Shabbat and walk to the synagogue instead?  Am I less of a Jew because I choose not to?

Lots of Israelis are what I call “regular” Jews, not religious and not kosher eaters. They are like me, just a culturally identifying Jew that lives in Israel. There is a multitude of varying types of Jews here in Israel. Some people are like me, some are non-religious that keep kosher, some are conservative or orthodox, and even ultra-orthodox, to name a few. So finding people you can identify with isn’t the problem, like the saying goes, “there’s a seat for every ass”. 

The problem arose when I realized that being Jewish wasn’t enough of a qualifier for fitting in if you will. I was Jewish enough to make Aliyah but needed to prove my Jewishness again when wanting to get married. My Hebrew is lousy, to say the least, and so using language to assimilate is still a problem for me, like many Anglos that immigrate to Israel

I am always seen as an American living in Israel and not necessarily an Israeli. On the flip side, I’m not seen as American when visiting the States anymore either. I’m regarded on some occasions as not American at all because I don’t live there. This is also insulting as if the thirty-four years of my life living in New York counted for nothing.

Where did I go wrong? I have two passports holding citizenship in both countries, yet each country regards me as an outsider. Funny enough, I identify with neither anymore. 

The States has changed so much since I lived there full-time. I’m embarrassed to say I’m American because of what it currently represents, which is nothing I align with. Call me “old school” for believing in freedom and equality for all, yet that seems to be slipping away more and more these days. Intelligence and critical thinking are on-the-outs there and blind faith is making a comeback even when they don’t have their own interests in mind

Here in Israel, I’m a non-Hebrew-speaking American. I have trouble making Israeli friends, and most other English speakers are far more religious than I am. This makes it a problem having kosher keeping friends at my place. 

I wouldn’t change a thing about moving to Israel to be with the love of my life. I’ve been happily married for ten years now. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that the sense of belonging to someplace would disappear

It’s like I belong nowhere and everywhere at the same time. The constant outsider to the two places I hold most dear to my heart. 

About the Author
Melisa is from New York City and lives in Israel with her husband and two boys. Sometimes she's a full-time homemaker, and sometimes a full-time career woman. Melisa's passion and curiosity lead her on many paths in life. She holds an A.A.S. in Criminal Justice, a B.A in American Studies and an M.A. in Education, all from the S.U.N.Y. Currently, it’s her passion for writing.
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