Why I don’t have a Christmas tree

Being one of the few Jewish students at Stratford presents its challenges.

Why+I+dont+have+a+Christmas+tree

When you think of minorities, religion is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. However being Jewish in Macon Georgia makes me a minority. In fact, I am currently the only Jewish student in the high school at Stratford. There are nine Jewish students at Stratford — me, one in middle school and the rest in preschool and lower school).  

When my sister, Sophie, was in high school there were four Jewish students in her grade (she graduated in 2020). When she was in middle school there were 17 Jewish students in the school. When my mom was a student in the 1990s, here there were about two dozen Jewish students at Stratford. 

So why am I the only Jewish student at a non secular high school?

Between Sha’arey Israel Synagogue and Temple Beth Israel there are only 25 children under the age of 18. There is such a small community of Jewish students that they combined to have one Sunday school. Out of the 25 students in the Sunday school a large majority of them live outside of Macon- in Milledgeville, Centerville, and Warner Robins. It is estimated that there are about 15- 20 Jewish children in Macon and Warner Robins that are Jewish but not affiliated with the synagogue or temple.

The Jewish high schoolers in Macon are divided between Stratford, ACE and Howard.. There are 10 Jewish students at ACE total (two of them do not attend the Sunday school)

While the numbers are interesting, this still doesn’t tell us where they’ve all gone. 

  I just wish that sometimes people would remember that not everyone here celebrates Christmas.”

— Addie Denisar

The Jewish population in Macon is dwindling because people are moving away and not coming back. Cities like Atlanta with a large Jewish population have more to offer Jewish families. The Jewish peers that my mom went to school with are all in places like Texas, Atlanta and New York now. There is a larger number of Jewish children in places like Warner Robins because of Robins Air Force Base. A lot of these families are just here for a short time before they move somewhere else. Most of these children are homeschooled so they can have consistency in their school lives. 

There have been times that being the only Jewish student is difficult. There are lots of questions that sometimes I dont have the answers to. I also have questions for my friends that they wonder why I don’t know.

 When we learn about the Holocaust, there are always strange looks and comments made. When I hear people talking about the fun they’re having at youth group or Young Life – I feel jealous. There are not enough of us to have a youth group. 

The only time being Jewish is cool, is in seventh grade, when it’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah time. Then everyone wants to be your friend so they can be invited. Peers don’t truly understand what you are celebrating, which was very obvious when I was gifted a cross necklace as a Bat Mitzvah gift. Other students just don’t really understand what my religion means but I don’t always understand what thiers means either. 

The other time that being a minority at school is difficult  is when teachers bring up the New Testament in relation to what we are learning, and I have no idea what they are talking about. I have to ask and often feel awkward and uncomfortable that I don’t know. This can also happen when the Old Testament is brought up and I don’t have the answer, that is also very uncomfortable. 

I may be the only Jewish high schooler at Stratford but I am also the seventh generation of my family to live in Macon. Families like mine have strong roots and ties to Macon and are less likely to leave. I am thankful for my school and it being so accepting of all religions and offering a place where everyone is welcome. I just wish that sometimes people would remember that not everyone here celebrates Christmas.