LOSING MY RELIGION
Spoiler alert: never really had it. List inspired by me finally adding my last name to my profile (I wasn't hiding it, I just hadn't put it in and now everyone has last names and I wanna fit in...).
- •I'm the product of a Christian mom and a Jewish dad.Both had semi-religious upbringings, but neither felt passionate enough about their religion that they wanted to raise their kids in it.
- •My dad likes to say we're "Nothatarians," meaning we follow nothing, not that we worship Peter Florrick/Mr Big.That's a little glib, of course, as what my parents really raised my sisters and me to follow is the universal religion of kindness. Treat people the way you'd want to be treated, be honest, work hard, be charitable - basically most of the tenets of every major religion.
- •And we did learn about our history and observe (well, give gifts on) the major holidays.On Passover, my father told us the story of Moses and the Pharoah (and of course I know all the songs - "frogs in his head and frogs in his bed" and etc), on Hanukkah we learned about the oil that lasted eight days. My mom explained about Jesus but I think I was always so distracted by the stories of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny that it didn't sink in as much.
- •I spent my junior high years attending a bazillion bar and bat mitzvahs.I had a moment of jealousy about the amount of loot my fully-Jewish friends received on their big day, then remembered how much time they'd logged in Hebrew School and figured they'd earned it.
- •And, generally, saying "I'm half Jewish and half Christian" in suburban New York wasn't a big deal - I had friends who were the same, and friends who were varying degrees of observant of Judaism and Christianity and it was never a big deal.Then I went to college.
- •A typical freshman year conversation "Hey, Mandi, we're going to the Shabbat dinner at the Slifka Center, want to join?" Me: "Oh, thanks, but just so you know, I'm not really Jewish." Them (scoffing): "Schweitzer?!" Me: "Well, my mom's 'Kelly' so I was raised half and half..."Them: "Oh, so you're not a Jew." Me: "Well, half of me is." Them: "You're only a Jew if you came out of a Jewish vagina." They walk away, and I'm left standing there wondering how this conversation turned from an invitation into a statement on who or what I was or wasn't.
- •That happened multiple times. With different people. I've never had so many know-it-alls pivot from telling me of course I'm Jewish to no way I'm Jewish in a matter of minutes.
- •This experience made me pretty gun-shy about saying what my religion is ever. I was always so happy to embrace my half-and-half status - included, not excluded, from both - but in college I was told over and over that I did not fit into either, like my answer was a big red Family Feud-esque X.Which, it seems to me, is kind of odd considering my view of religion as an inclusive community.
- •As an adult, I have many friends of all kinds of religions and religious beliefs (or lack thereof), and I recognize that the judgement I received in college was as much due to the snippy self-entitlement of folks in their late teens as anything else, but it had a profound effect nonetheless.Not on my feelings toward folks who follow any religion, just on my feelings toward myself vis-a-vis religion. I respect people who are devoted to an organized religion, and I hope those people will also respect that I'm not.
- •I don't need anyone telling me what I am and what I'm not to live a happy life full of whatever level of spirituality I desire.Which, I believe, is what my parents wanted me to feel all along.
- •And I hope to impart the same wisdom to my children.But also we're totally having a Christmas tree.