Thursday, March 27, 2008

Yes, Regis, this IS my final answer ...

When last we spoke, I was busy answering questions posed by my friend Miss Ann Thrope.

I answered questions 2 and 3 in this post.

And I intentionally saved question 1 for its own special one. Here it is:

1. Four part question: Have you ever wanted NOT to tell someone that you are Jewish? How important is religion to you? Are there traditions and/or rituals that you do NOT practice? And finally, what would you do if Roo Girl came to you and said, "Mom, I've become a Christian"?

The answers to these questions are many ... and complicated. I probably will not answer them in any logical way.

Firstly, religion is very important to me. Although I may not spend a lot of time in the synagogue, the teachings and the celebrations are innate for me. They are just there.

I was raised in a Reform Jewish home. I never had a bat mitzvah. Neither did my younger sister, though both my brothers were bar mitvah'd. Why? I don't know, really. It just wasn't offered to me, and yet, as an adult, it's something that I regret deeply.

When I grew up and needed to find a synagogue of my own as an adult, I picked a Conservative one. It was more in line with who I had become over the years. I also began keeping kosher.

Let me step back a hair.

When I was in college (yes, the one I referred to in yesterday's post), my dearest friend's boyfriend took a class on the history of the Middle East. It was taught by -- ahem -- a gentleman of Arabic persuasion, who biased the class (in my opinion) in favor of the Arab nations. When my friend's b/friend said something about the poor little Arabs, the Jew in me rose up in righteous indignation, but I had no facts at my fingertips to contradict his claims.

So, that summer, I took an educational trip to Europe and Israel that changed my life. The two-week European portion was strictly a brainwashing expedition (in a totally positive sense) to Germany, Austria and Romania -- to see concentration camps, immigration holding camps and the Jewish plight in a communist country.

At the end of the two weeks, we flew out of Bucharest directly to Tel Aviv. I can't begin to tell you what that was like. It would require its own post, I suspect. And the following four weeks were an amazing reintroduction to my heritage and my people.

That's the Janet who entered into a marriage with a Catholic, who converted to Judaism. We joined that conservative congregation and kept a kosher home.

Three children later, we divorced. But my three boys all became a bar mitzvah at the age of 13.

My second marriage (how did this become about my marriages now??) was to a Jewish man. He, however, was the Evil One I have mentioned before. The Roo-girl's father.

We continued to maintain our kosher home and our relationship with a conservative synagogue.

Not really sure how to transition to the next part. The Evil One is gone. The Wonderhubby arrives ... and remains. He is not Jewish, yet he respects every part of my religious convictions. We still maintain our kosher home (although in truth, I do not buy kosher meat -- the expense is too much -- but we keep separate dishes for meat and dairy, etc.). Sometimes he's more careful about reading labels than I am.

He and J-bear both attend religious services or family celebrations with me as they come up. They both were participants in Roo-girl's bat mitzvah. Wonderhubby gave a speech, too. I'll reprint it here one day. It was one of the highlights of the morning.

So yeah, to make a short story long, my religion is very important to me.

Next, have I ever not wanted to tell someone I am Jewish? Not that I can recall, although I will admit to being grateful that my married name no longer SOUNDS Jewish when I travel on airplanes. There is some comfort in not being identifiable then.

Are there traditions and rituals that I do not follow?

Yes, many. There are many rules in the Bible -- 613 of them to be exact -- and not all of them are relevent to today's world (ritual sacrifice is pretty much out these days). I also don't completely celebrate Shabbat as a day of rest. Saturdays are a day for a woman with kids and a full-time job to catch up on errands and (sometimes!) fun stuff. I don't go to synagogue as much as I would like to. Life seems to get in the way. Is that a poor excuse? Maybe, but it is what it is.

And finally, Miss Ann, you poke at something that is a sensitive spot.

What would I do if Roo-girl told me she had become a Christian?

I have mixed emotions here. The reality, though, is that my child is always my child.

Would I be happy? No. I don't believe any Jewish parent can answer that any differently.

Would I disown her or throw her out? Decidedly not. I know people who would. Mr. Ex (the convert who never found acceptance for his decision from his own parents) is one who would. I find that bizarre in its contradictions.

But, same as I told the Drama King when he "came out" to me at the age of 16, she would still be my adored child, whether she was green, purple, Jewish or Hari Krishna.

That's just who I am.

Man, are you tired of listening to me drone on about this stuff yet? I am, for sure!

I hope I didn't leave you all in the dust or drive you to reading someone else's blog instead today ...

Although the question-answering thing is kinda fun (and revealing) in a weird sort of way.

Does anyone have any other questions that require answering? I'll try not to be quite so longwinded next time!


Joy T. said...

First to comment. Well it's about time. I waited and it was WELL worth the wait because I found this very interesting! And it's 2:00am where I am right now so I can't think of a thing to ask you right now. But if I think of one, I'll be back.

Miss Ann Thrope said...

Oh my little Janet....

What a terrifically wonderful person you are. This is why I love you. And so many more reasons.

I just wish you weren't so gay for me.... Dude, I tol' you I like PEEPEE'S!!!

Blue Momma said...

Can I just say I'm glad I "met" you! You are a very interesting person and I always enjoy your posts. You should really write a book. Really.

If you adopt me I'll convert.....

nikki said...

I respect you so much. Thank you for sharing this.

Janet said...

We don't mind reading! If we minded reading we wouldn't be blogging, would we? I find it fascinating to get to know the bloggers. You have certainly been faithful to your beliefs. I was raised in a nominally Christian environment (I have a post brewing on that so I won't beat it to death here), and I so admire people who are secure and KNOW what they believe.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

Belated congrats on your 200th post. Way to go!

I really loved this post. One of my very best friends in the world had the most amazing Bat Mitzvah for her daughter last July. A couple of us went to St. Louis for it and promptly spent a good portion of the weekend in tears. I would be very hard pressed to think of a lovelier religious ritual - ever.

I'd love to hear the Tel Aviv story. I'm sure it would be fascinating.

Phoenix said...

I love this post. See my Dad's family is Jewish and they stopped announcing it (and changed our last name) when they escaped from Poland in 39. And while I get it, I do, I wish some of it had been passed on to me. Some of the traditions remain, but that's about it.

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

The more I learn about you, the more I like you. :-)

Burfica said...

I love people who love their religion, who have faith in it. And who can not judge others or persecute anyone who believes differently. I think that's what it's all about.

I despise the one's that push it on other, or preach to others, they need to perfect themselves before doing that.

You go Janet!!!!!

Great post, and great answers to the questions.

anglophilefootballfanatic said...

You know, I think that's the most telling post of yours I've ever read. It says more about you and your faith than I think you know. And, although I totally love you and have for ages, I think I love you more after having read that. Sad about the ex who, although a convert, would cast off...but, being me, I must ask: when he coverted, what kind of circumcision did they have to do?!!

Jenni said...

This post and the last were both very interesting. And, oh my goodness, I wouldn't have thought to ask about the circumcision thing, but now I've got to know!

Does anyone still do that ritual sacrifice of animals stuff? That's something else that hadn't occurred to me.

the planet of janet said...

about the circumcision question:

he was already snipped. altho in a TRUE orthodox conversion (which he didn't have), they need to ... uh ... draw blood.

that's why he didn't have an orthodox conversion. lololol

jennifer said...

So interesting, Janet! I really enjoyed reading about this. I hate to admit this, as it makes me look very uncultured, but I have never known (in person) someone who is Jewish. I know nothing about the religion, other than what I've seen on TV or read in books. This was a fascinating read.

Janet said...

I have a question: Have you read The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs?

moosh in indy. said...

I'm learning all sorts about Jewish people this week. I've always had respect for the religion and I respect and admire that it's so important to you.
However, as the baking meat loving Christian that I am I bow in humble adoration at keeping your home Kosher.

Jenn said...

Excellent post Janet, I thoroughly appreciated the honesty of your answer. And I'd like to hear the Tel Aviv story too.


Mr Lady said...

Can one really Become Christian? It's being Jewish genetic? You could convert, but you couldn't BECOME, right? It's a race, and a religion, right? Maybe I'm wrong.

I always wished I was born into a religion that had history. Genealogical links. Like Judaism or Muslim or Hindu or something. It seems to mean more then.

I think, personally, that the Jewish faith is gorgeous. I have always loved it. I learned a little Hebrew as a kid and I was raised, as I am sure you know, in a Judeao-Christian *ahem* cult. I got stepped in Jew Light.

The awesome thing? There is a very very small chance that my ancestors on one side are Jews. I will never be able to confirm it, but secretly I think it is true.

Sleeping Mommy said...

I can totally see why you saved this one for its own post. Fascinating stuff here. I love learning about other people's religions and beliefs and their personal feelings related to all that.

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