Young Jewish leader reaches out
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.