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When I Found a Place Where I Belonged, I Finally Came to Love My Jewish Hair

I grew up hating my curly, unruly frizz. But on a trip to Israel, I found people who celebrated kinky locks—theirs and mine.

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The author on the beach in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy of the author)
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I would also regularly catch glimpses of what was unmistakably my hair adorning the head of a stranger—and how stunning it looked on somebody else. Not speaking a lick of Hebrew, I admired passers-by in secret and kept mostly to myself (I tried my best to not seem like a tourist, knowing full well that plenty of Israelis speak English). But two months later at the rave, the galvanizing combination of loud music, desert, dance, and strobe lights finally convinced me to toss those reservations aside. When I found myself at the heart of the trance fest in the Negev, it didn’t matter that I grew up in the suburbs or didn’t speak Hebrew or couldn’t pitch a tent to save my life. I was one of the tribe; I danced badly and laughed wildly with the rest of them. And I marveled at the brazen display of hair—the manes upon manes of spectacular curls.

At that moment it felt like our hirsute tribal marking—a collection of people, once scattered among the far reaches of the globe, unified by a mutual love of Jewfros and electronica.

***

Today, at 24, I rarely reach for the straightening iron or struggle with matters of selfhood. But I walk the streets of my adopted city, New York, as detached and wary of the masses as I was a decade prior. The anonymity of existing in a metropolis is liberating only when one thrives off individualism, whereas I take solace in community and have tried desperately to find one of my own. The sense of place I felt in Israel has yet to be matched, and my physical features (chief among them, my hair) were only a fraction of the reason I felt at home there and alienated everywhere else. But there’s something to be said about stepping into a hair salon and not feeling like a piece of work, just as there is about stepping into crowd of people and not feeling like a stranger.

My friends, my family, and my significant other are all in the States, making aliyah an unlikely possibility. I would be lying if I said I have not entertained the idea, but instead of uprooting to the other side of the world, I’ve focused on building a community here. So far, I’m the only one with curly hair in my diverse group of friends and loved ones. But that doesn’t make me love them any less.

***

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When I Found a Place Where I Belonged, I Finally Came to Love My Jewish Hair

I grew up hating my curly, unruly frizz. But on a trip to Israel, I found people who celebrated kinky locks—theirs and mine.

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