Monday, June 27, 2022

In the column “Stigma and the Dirtiest Word,” (April 26, 2018) by Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick, the concept of stigma is expressed with a negative connotation, as it rightfully should be. Instead of commenting specifically about the stigmas mentioned in the article, such as judgement of the disabled, mental health awareness and the stigmas surrounding the process of Shidduchim, I’d like to take a different approach. I want to focus on the stigmas we face as high school students and how they are astonishingly prevalent in not just the world today, but in the Jewish community specifically.

Being in high school, I have been exposed to the stigmas that permeate the lives of my friends and classmates. It is obvious that our reputations follow us wherever we go. Whether it is in school or out of school, the importance of living up to our family names, our grades and even our Jewish identities can sometimes be overwhelming. We as high school students have a tremendous amount of pressure placed on us both externally as well as part of everyday life in our social environments. We worry about people judging our outfits, the things we say in class and the decisions we make. I believe it is important to realize as not only individuals but as a community that perfection will never be achievable. We try to live up to high expectations, and sometimes we struggle to keep ourselves afloat. These pressures can cause a heightened state of anxiety during what is already a stressful time in our lives.

As Jewish people living in the 21st century, aren’t we supposed feel that our communities are our families, and that as Jewish people, we should be there to support each other rather than judge? It is important to realize that stigmas impact the way we look at ourselves, elders and the entire world around us. By becoming aware of this, I believe that we all will feel a weight off of our shoulders and a feeling of satisfaction, knowing that the people around us wish us success rather than downfall.

I once noticed a green sign on the side of the road pronouncing my city as “proudly stigma-free.” As I contemplated the ultimate meaning behind this, I realized that this is not just a sign to briefly glance at while waiting for the light to turn green. It is a sign which is applicable to our everyday lives. While stigmas are ultimately inevitable, I believe the need to stress the importance of overcoming these common stigmas for the betterment of our communities. Sometimes, the way we are perceived by others take control of our psyche, limiting us to the things we feel we can each achieve. Judgements get to our heads and make us feel like we are shrinking as the world around us grows. As a community, it is important to understand the effects of judgement and how they can impact the common individual. If we do this, we are one step towards the creation of a stigma-free society, one in which we can all flourish and feel at ease.

Bailey Hartman

Junior at The Frisch School


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