Corey Robin in Jacobin:
Tablet has a moving piece by Samantha Shokin, a Brooklyn-based writer, on how a semester in Israel helped change the way she felt about herself, particularly her bodily self-image as a Jewish woman.
I spent a lifetime hating my Jewish hair — straightening it, covering it, or otherwise finding ways to diminish its presence. A trip to Israel is what it took for me to realize my hair was wonderful all its own, and much more than just an accessory.
Shokin does a wonderful job describing how her hair was caught up with her feelings of awkwardness, shame, and exclusion, how difficult it was as an adolescent to contend with images of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera from the vantage of “frizzy brown hair and glasses.” This was no simple matter of teenage angst, Shokin makes clear; it cut to the heart of her Jewish identity, not to mention a long history of anti-Semitism. For centuries, Jewish looks, including hair, have been a dividing line between the drowned and the saved. As that simple line from Paul Celan reminds us: “your golden hair Margarete/ your ashen hair Shulamit.”