During the Jewish holidays in September and October, we often reflect on making a better version of ourselves.
Well after reflecting for these months and more, here is my takeaway: Growing up, my family was always an embarrassment to me. And going forward, I’m no longer going to feel that way. I know that I love and will always love my family. I also couldn’t express myself without the help of my Congregation B’nai Amoona family, including Carla Weintraub, a lovely woman who has become a trusted friend, and Rabbi Neal Rose.
The sad part is that for many years, I would walk in front of my parents because I am Black and Jewish, and my parents and family are white and Jewish. It was as though I was letting everyone get to me.
In fact, I did let everyone get to me, including me. This was my reality at a very young age. People called the cops on my father because they thought he kidnapped me. Although I was adopted by my white parents at 3 days old, people told me I was worth nothing because no Black family would adopt me, and that my family didn’t look like me. People called me an “Oreo” because I couldn’t relate to the Black community. They said I was Black on the outside and white on the inside. Comments like that made me cry again and again.
I would go to synagogue with my father and be the only Black person there, wondering what people were thinking of me. I now realize that probably no one cared that I was Black. But then, it felt like I wasn’t accepted by anyone. I was too white for the Black kids but too Black for the white kids.
I always wished I could tell these great stories about my Black history. But I don’t know my birth father’s name or anything about him. I know my birth mother’s name but nothing else about her.
I wish I could say that these feelings of being misplaced or wondering about my birth family are gone. But that’s just not how it is. Many teenagers don’t want to talk about their feelings with therapists because it’s “embarrassing” and, believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve had so many therapists that I can’t even count them. It’s impossible to feel accepted when you can’t accept yourself.
At synagogue, I would try to be friends with everyone because I was so self-conscious about myself that I needed validation from others that I was enough. Many times, the people who I thought were my friends actually weren’t, which only made my depression worse. Other times, looking back, I may have been guilty of pushing them away.
But now I have forgiven each and every one of them, as well as myself, because I have realized I can’t hold in too much pain or it will consume me. What I don’t want is any pity, because that’s what I’ve been giving myself for years. What I do want is strength and support. I want to feel like I belong.
In the end, we need to accept our differences and embrace our similarities because that’s what makes love in the world. Now, I realize I have the courage and strength to tell people being you is the best thing. The only way I could have gotten here is with the support of my friends who stuck by me, my family and my synagogue.
In this world of darkness, there is always light. If people can hate for no reason, then I can love for no reason.
And I love each and every one of you.
Amissa Blumenthal is a senior at Webster Groves High School and a member of Congregation B’nai Amoona.