jewing seoul

Tonight I head to Itaewon to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year’s. Being Jewish in Seoul has been kind of like being Jewish in Mexico. To be “Yudain” is an abstract concept for most of my students, something they only heard about in history books. Some of the 9th graders seem to know about the Holocaust, and shouted “Anne Franku, Anne Franku!” when I told them I was Jewish. Close enough!

One of the first things my school asked me to do was take out my nose ring, since it is against the students’ uniform policy. Once I explained that it was culturally symbolic to me (and anyone who’s been involved in the social justice Jewish community will know what I mean), the school let me keep it in. That I’m Jewish is important to my school.

That sounds strangely worded, but I don’t know how else to describe it.

In my second week at Hyewon, I met the school’s director; an elderly gentleman who had studied banking abroad and opened up schools here because he believes in access to education. After looking over my resume and asking me some questions about my experience with youth and the arts, he said “You’re Jewish?”

Of course, he already knew I was.

“That’s very good,” he said. “Jewish people love education. Your parents must have worked very hard with you in school. They must have taught you a lot.”

Which, of course, they had.

That sort of thought has been echoed back to me by multiple co-workers, that because I’m Jewish, I’m better suited to this sort of life. Which is nothing more than a stereotype, of the model-minority mold, but… This is Korea. I will probably be the only Jew my students meet for years and years, and  if they just take away that Jews have nose rings, don’t eat meat and love school, well, that’s not too horrible.

So, today I gave each of my Korean co-teachers small candies, and wished them a happy new year. A sweet new year, like the candy. I have a mezuzah on my apartment door, I showed my students pictures of challa,  I have “Michigan” written in Hebrew letters decorating my cubical and my school gave me Yom Kippur off from work because I asked and they are curious and respectful about this whole package. Tonight as I bring in the New Year with however many other Jews living in Korea, I’ll be thinking of my students and how much I want them to travel, to see more than just Korea in their lives. I hope they see a lot more kinds of Jews than me… hahaha.

In the last week I’ve gone to a Korean wedding and to see the original Broadway cast do RENT. Both where amazing – if you managed to stay away through my Jewishness seeping through, here’s some videos of both events:

Some of my students sang at my co-worker Seol-A’s wedding. The music teacher is the lady sitting right under the projection. They where so nervous!

There must of been 2,000 people there. Seol-A is the art teacher at Hyewon

Turns out that one of my fav studnets is the one who sent me the mini-pear. She told me I was “Cute . Like banana milk.” Which may just be a way of telling me I’m fat. -_- but… yeah. And yay! My office!

I went to see RENT with Jin and Linda, two other SMOE teachers. It was fantastic! Before we saw the play, we had this crazy good bean sprout soup. It was alsmost 80% bean sprouts, haha – and veggie!

I wish I had gotten the nerve to film “One Song Glory” (prob. my fav RENT song). It had the best lighting, and I had chills the whole time it was being sung. So much RENT love.

I think this was my first “real” theater outing. I can’t wiat to see mor eplays in Seoul! The only issue was that the play ended at about 11pm, and the trains stop running at close to midnight. I was so nervous – but I totally got home just fine 🙂 Life is good.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  Have a sweet 5770 everyone!!



  Meaghan wrote @

Agggh! Rent was soooooooo good, wasn’t it? I was so incredibly pumped to see it and I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

  Sarah wrote @

I’m involved in a social justice Jewish community, and I’ve never heard anything about nose rings…

  nzaslow wrote @

Really? Almost all of the Jewish MSW students I knew, and most of the people involved in progressive issues within the jewish community had nose piercings. I would think Kavod house would be full of them!

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