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Former Winnipegger: Emily Rose: So…Do You Have a Boyfriend Over There?

by Emily Rose, posted here Sept 20, 2016



This article was first published on June 6, 2016 in


My name is Emily Rose. I am 28 years old and I live in Jerusalem, Israel. I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and I made aliyah when I was eighteen so I could enlist in the IDF. I served as a combat fitness officer, physically training infantry soldiers in basic training and shortly after that, I was admitted to Officers’ Training School and I became an officer. I finished my service at the rank of First Lieutenant and I still serve in the active reserves in the Home Front Command, preparing to help the civilian population in the event of a chemical attack. I graduated with a BA in the Middle Eastern Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where I learned to read and write in Arabic.


Throughout my degree, I helped fundraise for a local NGO in the city that offers aid to volunteers in the IDF and new immigrants, like me, in order to encourage them to stay in the country and help make it a better place with their innovative spirit. Three summers ago, my brother and I produced a musical that we wrote together. It is a children’s musical about bullying and it was accepted to a festival in Montreal. At the end of the summer we signed a contract with the artistic director of the Centaur Theatre, the largest English-speaking theatre in Montreal, to produce our show in his children’s series.


These are the things I mention when I am asked to stand in front of a crowd and tell my story. I don’t mention all these things about myself in order to bolster my own accomplishments. It was an honor to serve my country and I have always considered my higher education to be an extreme privilege (even while suffering through exams and seminar papers). I mention these things because, well , they seem to be of no relevance.


I’m exaggerating. They are of extreme relevance but, the truth is, that I have been away from Winnipeg for about seven years now. I left immediately after high school. I left all of my family and my friends to embark on a journey I deemed important for my own growth and for my people. Every year I come back to Winnipeg, a place I still very much consider my home, in order to visit my friends and the “village” that it took to raise me. I enjoy going to synagogue with my family and, of course, eating all the traditional family foods that we take so much pride in serving on the holidays. What I don’t enjoy is having these people ask me the very same question every year: “So, do you have a boyfriend over there?”


I have two older brothers who also come home every year for the holidays and they never get asked this question. This fall, in fact, I overheard congregants of our synagogue stopping my brother to ask him about the play we wrote together. They would ask him questions about the music, the production, the actors and then they would see me. They would politely say hello or pinch me on the cheek and say, “So … do you have a boyfriend over there?”


The first time this happened to me I was nineteen years old and I had come home for the first time since enlisting. I volunteered to serve in a foreign military (a very busy foreign military) and that is the first thing you want to know? I thought to myself. I concluded that because military life is so far from the frame of reference of th

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