Daily Archives: December 3, 2009

Just cause I am religious doesn’t mean I am not human!!

I posted this as my status update on facebook this morning. It riles me up when some people who are not religious judge me as being staid and boring because I follow the teachings of my faith. Where does it say that a person who celebrates Shabbat, keeps a kosher kitchen and observes the laws of family purity is a robot?

I think, I feel, I question, heck, I even breathe. I love and nurture. I hurt. I ache. I see. I hear. I listen. I have a full life. Fuller than I ever dreamed possible. I am a warm living breathing woman who has a good head on her shoulders and love and light in her heart. I am not a sheep. I do not blindly follow.

Why do some irreligious folk just put us in a box of “they are all the same”? Are we not all human beings? Because I follow certain rules on how to live my life, that labels me as not as good as you? Everyone follows basic rules. Don’t steal, don’t kill etc. In order to live and participate in a society we have to follow certain social laws.

The society I choose to live in has additional ways of life. No one is forcing me to live this way – I choose to live a religious life because it completes me in a way nothing else ever could.

I am not a robot or an automaton. Scratch the surface of every religious person and you will find we are all different from each other, the way that you, non religious stereotyping people are also different from each other.

Can we not just respect our differences, accept each other as fellow members of the human race, and live our lives???!!

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My Judaism

Guest Post by Lily

I am a Jew-by-choice.  My husband says that that all Jews who take their Judaism seriously are really Jews-by-choice.  My story is a little bit different that the usual conversion story.

I grew up in Kentucky, in a city that is a suburb of Cincinnati.  I didn’t know any Jews growing up or, if I did, I didn’t know that they were Jewish.  But I was always fascinated by anything Jewish that I heard about, movies about Jewish subjects, Jewish holidays and so on.  As a kid, I read Isaac Bashevis Singer books and books about Eastern European Jews and the Holocaust.  When I was a teenager, I thought about going to Israel and working on a kibbutz.  I even spoke to the local JCC about it.  Once, I went to an Israeli festival at the JCC in Cincinnati, where I bought a lovely gold Star of David, made in Israel.  It was beautiful, but afterwards I wondered why I bought something like that since I couldn’t really wear it.   It was a symbol that didn’t belong to me and so I put it in my jewelry box, without a chain, and left it there.

Many converts will tell you that they tried many different paths before finding their way to Judaism.   I guess that’s true for me as well.  I was a seeker.  That I didn’t explore eastern religions or even Judaism as a teenager was due more to the fact that such places of worship were unknown to me where I grew up.  In northern Kentucky, people were Baptists or Catholic with a sprinkling of other denominations.  But nothing “exotic.”

Fast forward 30 years.  I was Episcopalian, married to a non-practicing Catholic and had 2 daughters.  I had changed careers, starting out as a nurse and ending up an attorney.  My family and I decided to move from Cincinnati to Portland, Maine, a place that was beautiful and a great place to raise a family.  Life felt pretty good, but I realized that I had been ignoring my spiritual life for some time and wanted to get back to finding a connection to G-d.

We found a nice Episcopalian church and became members.  I tried to feel involved and joined some committees.  I went to services whenever they were held.  But it felt empty.  Once, around Passover, the church had a seder, and the organizers did their best to explain what all the symbols surrounding Passover meant.  I was struck by the fact that everything on the seder plate had a special meaning and that every year, the story is told and retold.

Christianity doesn’t have that kind of symbolism.  Christianity has Easter egg hunts and the Easter bunny and, of course, there’s Santa and his elves.  But mostly, Christmas was an exhausting whirl of time spent at the mall buying presents for people that got put under trees that are glorified for about two weeks, then tossed to the curb like trash.

That church seder started me on a journey to understand Judaism better.  I started reading book after book about it and my lawyer brain decided the best thing to do would be to start from zero and let each religion make its case to me.  So I read books about Christian theology side by side with Jewish thought.  At the end of the day, Judaism just made more sense—to my heart and to my head.  I finally met with a Rabbi, who invited me to come and study and embrace what Judaism had to say to me and see if I felt it was where I belonged.

After a year of “living Jewishly,” I went before the beit din and into the mikveh.  My husband didn’t join me in converting.  He had no interest in religion, but he tried to be supportive in his own way.  My children were a little too old to “make” them convert just because I did.  That didn’t feel right.  My Rabbi, thankfully, understood this.  I taught my children about Judaism but I knew that they had to want this for themselves.  I asked my then-husband if he would take charge of Christmas and Easter-related stuff and he said yes but wouldn’t do it.  While my girls enjoyed celebrating Jewish holidays with me and lighting Shabbat candles, they still had the Christmas expectations they grew up with and were confronted by at school and on TV.

So I helped the kids make Christmas and Hanukkah and they went to seders with me and learned a lot about being sensitive to people’s differences.  When they got older, their father and I parted ways because there were just too many differences between us, religion being just one.

Today, I am living in Chicago with my wonderful Jewish husband, my bashert.  I really don’t think of myself as a “convert” any more.  My husband says I didn’t convert, I came home.  It has been a long journey  and while I couldn’t have predicted how my life would turn out, I’m not really surprised that I got here.

Oh, and that lovely Star of David was finally put on a chain to be worn around my neck, some 25 years after I bought it.  Now it is my symbol and I belong to all that it stands for.

Lily is a lifelong seeker who found her way home to Judaism and her bashert.  An attorney by training, now in nonprofit work. She loves NYC, being with good friends, writing, reading nonfiction, laughing until she cries, and watching geese flying in formation.

If you would like to submit an essay for the MY JUDAISM column, the guidelines and disclaimers are here.

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Help me out here

Help me settle a petty argument. Can you classify good looking yummy men as beautiful and gorgeous or is that only for women? Are good looking men only to be classified as handsome or winsome?

Discuss!

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