/BY EDEN FARBER/
There is absolutely nothing glamorous about donning tefillin in an airport.
Truth be told, there’s usually not much glamor in airports. I would know—I’m sitting in one. It’s eight in the morning and I’m sitting in Chicago O’Hare airport, computer on my lap and backpack at hand.
Airports are full of overtired people, bustling around somewhat drearily, but generally all wearing the same anxious and excited expression. It’s a firm, strong look—no one likes to walk around an airport looking lost—but emotion is, understandably, in everyone’s eyes.
Unless of course they’re staring at you as you don tefillin in the corner; in that case, it’s mostly a look of bewilderment.
It was quite early, back in Atlanta, and I knew I had a big weekend ahead of me. It was too early to recite the morning prayers when I left the house, so I knew I was going to have to do it somewhere en route.
I was a little hesitant to do such an obvious and strange practice in such a public place, and I didn’t want my religious practices to be a show for the rest of my plane-mates. Today, though, the universe was on my side, and I was randomly selected for TSA Pre-Check, which sped up my check-in process immensely, giving me plenty of time to find a quiet place to pray.
I found a relatively empty gate and slowly set aside my bags. I took out my siddur, prayer book, rolled up my left sleeve, and began to wrap my tefillin. Never have I been so self-conscious in my life.
Yet, as the airport kept moving and I steadily proceeded with my routine, I began to regain focus in my prayers. I thought about having a safe flight, being able to navigate the city, all my aspirations for the upcoming trip, how it’s amazing that the words I say every day can mean different things at different times, and before I knew it, I was done.
I took off my tefillin, put away my siddur, and looked around.
Other than the few obvious stares, I don’t know if my practice was even noticed—and I was glad. I don’t often represent Judaism in the eyes of strangers. I don’t dress the “religious woman uniform” and I don’t have any visible ritual markers (kippot or tzitzit, for example) on me.
My food doesn’t have a big, shiny label on it reading “Kosher” and I’m almost never in a place on the weekends where I have to explain my Shabbat practices. So today, one of my few experiences with looking the part, I felt a slight rise in my Jewish pride.
Judaism is a religion; it has a system of beliefs and practices that go along. But it is much more than that—it is also a people. We are a culture and a nation.
Being a part of that doesn’t mean being isolated from our other cultural influences. However, it enhances our culture, giving it ideological or ritualistic flavors. Today I learned the power of being an actively, noticeably and proudly Jewish woman.
It doesn’t mean I am only Jewish to make a point; it doesn’t mean I’m going to make that my most prevalent external characteristic. No, it means that I’m not afraid to embrace my religiosity.
There are times in everyone’s life when they have to decide what beyond themselves they represent. Today, I was proud to choose Judaism.
Atlanta’s Eden Farber, 16, was recognized in the Jewish Heritage National Poetry Contest of 2010 and has published op-eds and poetry in Modern Hippie Magazine and the NY Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens section.