My and other peoples’ experiences with our various Jew connections in Santiago lead me to that question. Am I using my common culture with one sector of the Chilean community as a crutch? Will I end up not learning as much about the rest of Chileans? Can I, in good conscience, use Friday night services and Rosh Hashanah as a jumping off point to meet people my age? Is doing all that cheating the system?
After all, I’m studying abroad. It’s supposed to be hard right? It’s supposed to be uncomfortable, and culturally shocking, and I’m not supposed to know the norms. So by putting myself out into the Jewish community am I not really putting myself out there?
I doing have an answer. I do have a few rationalizations. First, I hate calling strangers on the phone much less inviting myself into their lives. Just because I called a Jewish one, doesn’t mean I wasn’t stepping out of my comfort zone. Second, my attempts to jump into the young Jewish Santiago social scene haven’t been much more successful or particularly less uncomfortable than forays into the general Chilean one (see Salud Salud L’Chaim below). Third, my friend Christina and I just today made a Chilean (seemingly non-Jewish, but to be fair I didn’t ask) friend named Sylvia who helped us with a homework assignment and gave us her phone number. So maybe it’s just a matter of trying harder on both fronts.
Serena (the friend with whom I have most discussed this question) also put it well. It might be cheating, but it also might be that we are learning what it means to function in a foreign culture (that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, right) and one tool we have found for ourselves is connecting over whatever we can. For some people, that might be Catholicism, for others soccer. We happen to be using Judaism as one type of connection. Christina and I used our Spanish homework as another.
For now, since I still have no real Chilean friends of any religion, I think I’ll just try to put myself out there in many types of situations, Jewish and gentile alike. After all, I don’t think people tend to get in much trouble for cheating when they’re losing.