Author: David E. WeberUniversity of North Carolina at Wilmington
» Weber (2004) assesses his “total individual identity”, or his social and cultural identity, as both an American and also as a member of the Jewish community.» He summarizes his experience building his identity, growing up with coexisting identities, and the realizations he has come to understand from his experience being both Jew & American, while also explaining how his identity surfaces in everyday life.
» Weber examines this topic by way of interpretive approach as he uses past personal experiences to make evident the “pivotal moments in the construction of his Jewish identity.”» Weber (2004) states, “These brief stories involve the negotiation of-and perhaps occasionally, the triumph over-the vulnerability I am describing.” As he was relating the tensions and uneasiness that many Jews feel in sustaining their presence in mainstream American society.
» Weber (2004) speaks of conversational marking, such as the phrase the “Jewish climber.” This validates the existence of two separate identities, both a Jew, and a climber. Also insinuating that the relation between the two are “atypical,” or unusual.» He then concludes, “To have a Jewish identity and a U.S. American one, then, is to be the object of marked discourse.” Assuming that the co-occurrence of both Jewish and American identities is seen as “atypical” (Weber 2004).
» He states that identity surfaces in many ways. However, most commonly for him they surface when he makes “certain utterances” for example, saying “Put some schmaltz [personal warmth] into your oral reports” (Weber 2004), to a group of his protestant students.» Also, it emerges in silence through cultural specific objects like a mezuzah (tubular prayer container) that he has hung on his front door at home.
» Identity also surfaces through dialogue with others.» Weber (2004) states, “As does any „aspect of [total] identity‟ my Jewish identity also occurs…in dialogue with others when I must respond by formulating appropriate utterances in reply to their utterances…by and through a multitude of communication practices, then, I „do being‟ Jewish.”
» Weber then presents various moments in his life when he experienced adversity as well as triumph, proving his dual identity as being both validated, as well as uncommon.» For example, when he was “eight years old and watching Rawhide on the living room TV on Friday night. In the episode, Shelley Berman guest stars as Mendel, a Jewish peddler in the Old West. In one scene, Mendel blesses the Sabbath wine sinuously chanting guttural words familiar to me. Proud tears trickle down my cheeks-I had chanted the same words myself 90 minutes earlier at my family‟s Sabbath dinner. It‟s unbelievable-never before have I seen the life experience of a Jew appear on screen!” (Weber 2004).
» Then, when he was “fourteen years old, in French II, we bait the teacher at least a couple of times a week, to move her out of subject matter and into more enjoyable conversation. Today, a classmate baits me: we learn that le bijoux means “jewel,” and Craig hisses, “That‟s „be Jew‟ Dave,” and sadness heats up my face” (Weber 2004).» Weber ends the article telling of his father‟s passing in 2002. When he was nine years old he received his first siddur [book of prayers], which he located on the shelf after forty years. He opens it and writes inside the front cover, “My beloved father, Daniel Aaron Weber, passed away on 27 August 2002…He was a great man.” Then he proceeds to skim the book and comes across this influential note he wrote when he was young, “My name is David Weber, I am proud to be Jewish. I am a happy little boy” (Weber 2004).
» Weber comes to the realization that his identity is indeed exceptional. It may not be typical, and without struggle, but what was important was that he embrace it. And that is what he was able to do.» Weber was able to relate his experience in learning to embrace his cultural identity through recalling his experiences throughout life and how each single event enabled his ability to accept his “total individual identity.”
» “By and through a multitude of various communication practices, then, I „do being‟ Jewish” (Weber 2004). ˃ Mr. Weber actively lives his identity through communication practices. I love this quote because it poses a great discussion in understanding how our own cultural identity surfaces, and in what ways we live that.» Question 1 ˃ How are communication and cultural identity applicable in your own life? ˃ In what ways do your identity surface?
» “Such expectations influence a person‟s spoken language choices, and a listener can infer from these the speaker‟s beliefs about whether the pairing of two specific identities is or isn‟t typical, usual, or routine” (Weber 2004). ˃ People often gage whether or not others‟ identity(s) are normal, or not. Again, it is a great discussion starter in making us think about how we see our own identity, and even how our identity is seen by others.» Question 2 ˃ Would you say your own cultural identity is either typical, or atypical? Why?
» Weber, D. (2004). Constructing U.S. American Jewish male Identity. In A. Gonzalez, V. Vhen, & M. Huston (Eds.), Our voices: Essays in culture, ethnicity, and communication (4th Ed.) (pp. 50- 55). Roxbury.