Young Jewish leader reaches out

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KA­RINA ABA­DIA

Be­ing the sub­ject of a tele­vi­sion episode is a novel ex­pe­ri­ence for Saatchi Gold­wa­ter.

She hopes that by ap­pear­ing in the TV3 doc­u­men­tary se­ries Both Worlds, she will help in­crease peo­ple’s un­der­stand­ing of the Ortho­dox Jewish com­mu­nity.

The 24-year-old has been the head of the Jewish Young Adults or­gan­i­sa­tion for the past two years.

‘‘Peo­ple don’t re­ally know what Ju­daism is. I want to teach the com­mu­nity about it be­cause it’s not some­thing you hear about very of­ten.’’

The num­ber of New Zealan­ders who be­long to the Is­raeli/Jewish eth­nic group is only 1353, ac­cord­ing to the 2013 Cen­sus. The pop­u­la­tion de­creased by 15.4 per cent be­tween 2006 and 2013.

The big­gest mis­con­cep­tion peo­ple have about Jewish peo­ple is that they’re stingy, she says.

‘‘At work the other day I over­heard some­one say­ing ‘Oh that per­son is so Jew’. I can’t be­lieve peo­ple still talk like that.’’

There are lots of dif­fer­ent lev­els of Ju­daism, she says.

‘‘Some peo­ple keep kosher, oth­ers keep Shab­bat so they don’t use elec­tric­ity on a Sabbath which is Fri­days and Satur­days.’’

Like most peo­ple in her com­mu­nity Gold­wa­ter has a fam­ily din­ner and goes to the synagogue on Fri­day nights.

‘‘When I was grow­ing up my friends didn’t un­der­stand why I couldn’t come out on Fri­days. It was like ‘Why do you want to hang out with your fam­ily?’’’

Not par­tic­i­pat­ing in Christ­mas made her feel dif­fer­ent grow­ing up but she doesn’t mind any­more and en­joys be­ing part of a tightknit re­li­gious group.

‘‘One of the nice things is that you’ve got this ex­tra com­mu­nity. We’ve all grown up to­gether and our par­ents have all grown up to­gether.

‘‘With all my Jewish friends I can pick up the phone and call them be­cause I know they’ll al­ways be there.’’

The down­side is the limited dat­ing scene in Auck­land.

‘‘It’s such a small com­mu­nity and most peo­ple want to marry some­one Jewish but we’re all like brothers and sis­ters here,’’ she says.

Peo­ple of­ten go over­seas to find some­one and bring them back or marry out­side the re­li­gion, she says.

That’s one of the rea­sons why it’s be­com­ing less common for young Ortho­dox Jews to main­tain their tra­di­tions.

‘‘The thing I find hard is a lot of peo­ple my age don’t go to the synagogue.

‘‘When we have events it’s usu­ally a very small turnout be­cause peo­ple are fo­cus­ing on their ca­reers.’’

See­ing her­self in a rough­cut of the up­com­ing episode was ‘‘very weird’’, she says.

It fo­cuses mostly on the Jewish dat­ing scene in Auck­land and in­cludes chats with her fam­ily and friends as well as a party at the Ray Free­man Li­brary in Meadowbank.

Pro­mot­ing un­der­stand­ing: Saatchi Gold­wa­ter says cul­tural stereo­types about Jewish peo­ple of­ten mis­rep­re­sent her com­mu­nity.

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