Written and photographed by Tamar Weir
Ella and Libbi are fifth and second graders who live in the Mar Vista community in Los Angeles. They have two Jewish parents: their mother was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, and their father was born in Haifa.
Tamar: What is your favorite part about being Jewish?
Ella: I love food. I love Choresh, Tabouli and, Dolme, but those are all Persian foods. I like cooking and I feel like everyone in our family has learned how to cook at least one dish from our culture by practicing together. I like that there are more days of Chanukah then Christmas. It’s like we have 8 days of Christmas, but really it’s Chanukah.
Libbi: Well, I’m not like everyone else and I get to celebrate different holidays and it makes me different. Being Jewish makes me celebrate different traditions like Chanukah, Shabbat, Passover, [and] Yom Kippur.
T: What is your least favorite part about being Jewish?
E: To me it’s a bit annoying that so many people are talking about Christmas around me and they don’t know much about being Jewish and that when you are Jewish you don’t celebrate these things.
L: When all my friends who are Christian talk constantly about all of the other holidays. They are doing it because it makes me feel upset that I’m not allowed to celebrate a great holiday too.
T: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
E: My favorite Jewish holidays are Chanukah and Purim. I like Purim because it’s similar to Halloween, and I go to this big fair. It’s really fun to dress up! I like Chanukah because I get to see my family and we usually go on trips as a family.
L: Chanukah is my favorite Jewish holiday because I get to eat chocolate gelt. I also get to light candles on the menorah, get presents, and make menorahs. All of those things are really fun.
T: Do you know a lot of Jewish people/ do you have many Jewish class friends?
E: I know a bunch of Jewish people but only a few are in my class. Most of my friends who are Jewish are only half Jewish so it’s more common to me now where people are half Jewish but they celebrate both holidays and both religions.
L: Kinda. I have a lot of friends who are half Jewish and half Christian. A lot of my friends are actually Christian but some are Jewish.
T: How do you think being Jewish affects your day to day life?
E: I don’t know. I think Chanukah is celebrated less than Christmas. I don’t celebrate Easter either. It affects me because I can say I’m Jewish and I don’t feel guilty about lying, because it is a part of me and my ancestors [and] culture revolve around that.
L: It’s good. It’s interesting because I don’t do a lot of other holidays. I don’t do a lot of the things my friends and people around me do.
T: How do you feel when many people celebrate Christmas?
E: It’s a little annoying because people talk about all of the different presents they are going to get.
L: It kind of hurts my feelings because when they say it in my face it hurts. It hurts because I feel jealous I don’t get to also celebrate those holidays.
T: Do you think being Jewish makes you different or more similar to people you know?
E: It makes me different because I’m not like everyone else. There are more Christian people here but if you go to Israel or Iran, there are more Jewish people and people like me, but here in the U.S. there are less.
L: It makes me feel more different because my life is different and I get to do more different things they don’t do. At the same time, I get to do a lot of fun things as they do!
T: Do you believe in G-d? If so, what do you think G-d is?
E: I don’t really believe in a god that much because there’s not much to believe. People say that he’s up there and is the ruler of everything but I don’t know. If he was actually real, we would have some sort of sign. Maybe people believe in G-d so that they can feel more protected because there is a magical person watching and guiding them.
L: Kinda. I kind of believe in G-d because all the Chanukah stories I hear makes me feel convinced that there is a god, but I know there isn’t. I know that G-d is not real. I don’t know what G-d is.
It was really sweet to hear the voices of my little cousins. The intersections of our identities are deeply affecting the way we live and the way we are able to conduct our lives. From a young age I remember always being confused about what heritage, religion, culture, and my own experience with these identities meant in my life. This interview was special for me because I was able to connect with my younger family members on their thoughts and hopefully aid them in being more confident, aware, and communicative about the large and influential aspects of their being.