Beginning life in a small town in North Carolina, I was fascinated at an early age by the differences and commonalities in people, and how we all deal with them. I grew up in an Asheville that was a small, fairly remote mountain town inhabited by hillbillies, blue bloods and a variety of eclectic characters all scratching out an existence together. It was then a town with segregated schools, country clubs and neighborhoods. And as one of the “other” I learned early on how it all worked. My brother, sister and I were the only Jews attending Asheville Country Day School then, and while there was no overt antisemitism, we were not allowed to join our friends at the exclusive country club where they all belonged, and our “otherness” was on display every time the teacher would use us to explain our exotic religion. The phrase “Jill will now explain what (choose a Jewish holiday) is about” still rings in my head. She might just as well have said, “Now Jill will explain why she is not one of us.” Thankfully those days are over, but they have left me with the deep feeling of otherness that draws me to people who feel the same.
Who am I?