I grew up in a thriving Jewish community in Western Massachusetts. Even though my hometown wasn’t majority Jewish, everyone went to bar and bat mitzvahs seemingly every weekend throughout 7th grade. And while some people thought the days we had off from school in September and October were for going to the big county fair, no one blinked an eye when I told them I spent those days in synagogue. Essentially: I had a lot of Jewish friends, but a lot of my friends weren’t Jewish. I loved introducing those friends to Jewish culture, like teaching them how to make latkes for Hanukkah and explaining why I eat matzah for a week right around Easter.
When I went off to college, the center for Jewish life became my second home. Since the center is open to all students with all backgrounds, many non-Jewish people come to their events (especially the ones with free food and wine…). These people are what I’ve come to call “Jewish Adjacent,” and I mean that in the best way possible: They support the community, take part in Jewish events, and are allies to the greater Jewish community. Especially in the face of recent anti-Semitic attacks, it is important to not only have Jews to support each other but to have “Jewish Adjacent” people to support the Jewish community.
Case in point: My boyfriend is not Jewish, but I would not call us an “interfaith couple.” He supports my beliefs and culture. He likes to take part in certain Jewish rituals. He is “Jewish Adjacent.”
But what does it really mean to be Jewish Adjacent? Who is Jewish Adjacent? Is your partner Jewish Adjacent? Are you Jewish Adjacent?
If you or someone you know can relate to some or all of the following qualities, you/they just might be Jewish Adjacent.
1. Asks to come to Shabbat dinner for the challah and chicken soup. But don’t we all?
2. Wonders if there is a holiday this week and asks your schedule to make sure you won’t be in services. (Tell them it’s easier to ask when there isn’t a holiday.)
3. Tries to adopt Yiddish words like “oy vey”, “tuches,” and “schmutz.” And tells you they’re schvitzing every time it’s hot out.
4. Actually likes matzah. They’re always down for matzah pizzas.
5. Asks a lot of questions about Israel, Birthright, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Again, don’t we all.
6. The only Hebrew they know is your Hebrew name, but they’re proud of it. And very thankful for the transliteration.
7. Smiles at the older men singing the wrong words during services. And happily sings along with them.
8. Comes to the JCC with you to work out in the nicer gym. And knows to allot extra time to schmooze with everyone, including your grandma’s neighbor’s cousin.
9. Also gets excited when celebrities are Jewish. Shout out Julian Edelman!
10. Has extensive knowledge of the bar/bat mitzvah scene. And all of the sweatshirts to go along with it.
11. Accepts that you go to Boca Raton every winter. They understand that’s where the grandparents are at.
12. Loves seders. It’s an excuse to get drunk and celebrate freedom.
13. Questions gefilte fish and what it really is. (TBH, don’t we all.)
14. Doesn’t have any dietary restrictions, shockingly. But they’ll deal with yours.
16. Lets your bubbe explain Jewish traditions. Because Bubbe is always right.
17. Loves Israeli foods like falafel and shawarma. And don’t forget the bamba!
18. Embraces your traditions, religion, and beliefs with open arms!