Struggling with a Jewish Heritage
Article ID: 10726
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: June 4th. 2006
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I sit in a synagogue for High Holidays in an uncomfortable dress, wanting to scream. My silver pentagram which never leaves my neck has been taken off for this special occasion, and in a strange way, I feel naked. The gold Hebrew letters that now rest at my throat hold no real feeling for me the way they are meant to. My family has been constantly questioning my beautiful black-and-grey ink tattoo on my upper arm; a glorious pentacle as a private symbol of my faith. The rabbi requests that the congregation say one of the prayers together, and I mumble it through lips that refuse to cooperate. I feel no enlightenment, only boredom and a sense of duty. Heck, I could be working right now instead of boring myself to death. My family listens to the rabbi speak, captivated by words that have no real effect on me. My mom nudges me with her elbow and glares; I had begun to fall asleep. I groan inwardly and sit up straighter. So, why is it that she had a harder time with dealing with my personal faith, than with the fact that her first-born child is a lesbian? I have never hid either fact from her, and yet her shock at the words coming out of my mouth seemed more than she could bear; even going as far as speaking to the rabbi on what she should do. He told her that it was most likely a phase that I was going through. That was six years ago.
No one ever questions your faith when you are a Jew, it seems. A Christian usually will simply nod and soon be on their way to attempt to convert the next agnostic or atheist that they encounter. Yet as a Pagan, I am constantly defending my beliefs and challenging the stereotypes that I come across every day. They judge you with their eyes, and sometimes with words, the silent hatred searing through their skin like a snake that sheds its skin, only this reptile is constantly shedding with no end in sight. They call me baby killer, Satanist, devil spawn, hell raiser, etc. I usually just shake my head at the blatant ignorance. Then comes the shocker; I’m also a Jew. Hey, I’m not even five feet tall, why don’t you harass someone more your size? They ask me, why? Why are you forsaking your heritage, your ancestry? For certainly a Jew is better off than a Pagan when it comes to heaven; the chosen people, right? Oy vey…
My mother accuses me with her eyes of forgetting my heritage, the reason I sit here in this uncomfortable pew that digs painfully into my back. How does one convince their family that, although they believe in a different god, they still love their ancestry? I love the food, that wonderful smell that not only fills the air with its goodness, but warms my heart with a fondness that I can’t find anywhere else in the world? I love to watch my mother, her face covered in a thin layer of perspiration, cursing a hand-written cookbook in a mixed Yiddish/Hebrew tongue as she drops yet another matzo ball into chicken broth that simmers on the stove. I love the harsh sound of Hebrew, or the older variant, Yiddish, and the elderly scholars who argue over ancient texts as to what actually happened to Moses, Abraham, and other forefathers of Judaism. I love the songs; the people who join hands --strangers-- and laugh and dance to a band made up of an orthodox fiddler and an equally conservative flutist. I love the people; the interesting stories that they tell of growing up in a slum of New York, having come through via Ellis Island. They smile a smile filled with the wisdom of a lifetime of knowledge, eager to share it with anyone willing to listen.
Yet I feel torn between two different worlds. I love the Goddess with all my heart, and I feel my heart soar when in a community circle, surrounded by people who feel the same as me. I wouldn’t trade my Tarot cards in for all the money in the world; in fact, my mother was the one who bought them for me only after she discovered that there is such a thing as Jewish Mysticism. The ink on my skin is as permanent as my beliefs in the Gods and Goddess of the earth, and my devotion to each and every one of them. I feel most at peace when clad only in the skin that the Goddess blessed me with, sitting quietly in my bedroom with soft music in the background. Every time I see an occult store, my heart actually does a little flip. I know that when I walk inside, the scent of burning incense will greet my nostrils, and a friendly face will help me with any questions that I may have. I feel as if…I am home. I have attempted to share how I feel with my family, often only to receive a firm rebuff and some harsh words. I have to say, that hurts a lot, so, I try to avoid the topic of my religion with family. Unfortunately, out of ignorance, or simply to anger me, they bring it up inevitably and ask why I have decided to no longer be Jewish. It’s so frustrating because I know that in my heart I am still a Jew, but I am also a Pagan as well. I usually say nothing, and quietly pray for the strength to stand up to the bullying. So far, it has worked fairly well.
So, for now I will drift between the two worlds that I reside in, attempting to find some sort of happy medium. At least in this lifetime, I may never find the reconciliation that I so crave. Yet, strangely enough, I love my two religions. I love the different kinds of peace that they both offer. I will continue to attend Pagan Pride as well as High Holiday services (as uncomfortable as those dresses may be). But until then, Shalom and Blessed Be.
Location: Martins Ferry, Ohio
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