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Ahead by a nose

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Jenna Cohen photo

My mom always says that she expected a baby with black hair, a big nose, and a wild temper; she likes to say that she got two of the three. As a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jew, I have tried to find ways to make myself more obviously Jewish on the outside and inside. I tried wearing a Star of David, being a strict observer of Shabbat, and keeping kosher (that one never even made it out of the starting gate; my love for BLTs was simply too powerful). I tried volunteering at my synagogue, attending Jewish summer camp, and Jewish studies programs, and although they were all fun and beneficial, I still felt like I was on the margins of Jewish society. Whenever I saw someone on the street who was obviously a member of the tribe, I hoped to be recognized. I bought Hebrew “Coca-Cola” t-shirts, cut the collars off sweatshirts, and sported a “Chai Maintenance” T-shirt as often as I could, but nothing was working.

But, this past May, as I was taking prom pictures, I caught myself turning my face away from the camera to make my nose less noticeable in the picture. And as I tried to summon my inner beauty queen, I began to wonder how long I had been hiding my face like this. Then, like a hit between the eyes, I realized that all this time I had spent trying to make myself stand out as a Jew, I’d had it in me all along. The nose protruding from my profile was not only there to ruin school pictures and get stuffy in the winter, it was my long sought after connection to my people. It was enormous, beautiful, mine, and most significantly, Jewish. Now I don’t feel the need to prove myself at the grocery store as the woman sporting a large Star of David swipes my bacon strips. I know that racing out ahead of my golden locks and blue eyes is a Jewish nose, big and perfect.

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