Jews, Jews, Jews: I didn’t want to be one of them

Katerina SidonovaPrague The Czech Jewish Community needed a rabbi. There was nobody else able to do the job, so my dad went to Israel to study to become a rabbi.
His father’s father was Jewish.
My dad’s induction as a rabbi was taking place in the Jerusalem Synagogue in Prague. I arrived half an hour early. I hadn’t been to a synagogue for more than ten years, so I was a bit nervous as I watched people entering the decorated entry. Only a few of the faces were familiar.
Then I saw my dad walking down the street. He was dressed in a white shirt and a dark suit.
I ran up to him.
But he gestured for me to stay away. "You can’t kiss me in public,” he said.
I raised my eyebrows in surprise. “Why can’t I?” I didn’t understand. “You’re my father!”
“Sure,” he smiled. “But you’re a married woman, and I’m not allowed to touch any adult woman.”
I nodded. What could I do?
He disappeared into the synagogue, and I followed.
I took my bag from my shoulder to let the guard search it.
“No need to search her: she’s Rabbi’ s daughter,” someone shouted, and I was let in.
The synagogue was full.
I stayed at the back near the door. The people seemed to me different from people in the street. They were too pale. Their noses were sharp. And there was something strange about the way they talked.
My father seemed to be more their relative than my parent. I had the feeling that he wasn’t my dad any more. I couldn’t even touch him!
Jews. Jews. Jews. They were all around me, and I felt alone among them. I wasn’t one of them. And I didn’t want to be.
The induction started. My father was introduced to the community and made a speech.
Soon the celebration was over. He was a rabbi.
People gathered around him. Everybody wanted to congratulate him. I was the last in a long line. “How am I to wish him all the best without kissing him?” I thought.
It was my turn. I approached him and said, “Congratulations.”
My dad took a few steps forward, hugged me, and kissed my cheek. The tension that had filled me was gone. He was still my daddy.
[Katerina tells more of her story in “I am Katerina” in the menu Being Yourself on this Web-page.]

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