Slice of Life — Jew-ish

So, I’ve been thinking about religion a lot lately. We are trying to decide where to send Sam to school, I am trying to find like-minded company in the area, and in general I am trying to figure out what to tell Sam once he is old enough to ask these kinds of questions.

Last Friday we went to synagoge for Purim. We were invited by one of Drew’s friends and I thought this is a good occasion to get acquainted with the local Jewish community. It was a great evening — lots of kids, great food, and singing. And yet I wasn’t really having a good time. I was feeling to self-conscious and too out of place to really enjoy myself.

This is not the first time I’ve felt like that in temple. That’s why I call myself Jew-ish — I am Jewish, but since I didn’t grow up with the traditions and celebrations of being Jewish, I always feel like I am not REALLY Jewish. My grandmother survived Dachau, so by history and heritage I feel Jewish. But in Eastern Europe after World War II, Jews who survived did not openly keep their religion and did not pass it on to their children and grandchildren. That’s what happened in my family. And while I completely understand the reason why this happened, I can’t help but feel sad about what was lost and forgotten in an effort to assimilate into society and to try to forget about the past. My Mom doesn’t know any of the traditions, so she didn’t know what to pass on to us either.

Growing up, my parents allowed us to discover what we believe ourselves — we studied history of religion in school and explored various churches and services. We celebrated Christmas — but that’s what everyone celebrated. I don’t think I ever had a classmate who celebrated Hanukkah. I think letting us decide what we believed in was a good approach, but I wonder if I need to give a clearer direction to Sam. Of course, this would mean clearing things up for myself — what do I believe? And if I am Jewish — which I guess is not something that you choose — shouldn’t I catch up on learning what being Jewish is about?

Sam is very good about the “why” questions and even this Friday after a couple of why’s I was out of answers. “We are going to synagogue tonight.” “Why?” “Because it’s Purim and we are going to celebrate it with our new friends.” “Why?” Why, indeed…

Anyway, I am not sure this is something that will become clear to me in one blog post. But it’s been on my mind a lot, so I thought I’d share.

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4 thoughts on “Slice of Life — Jew-ish

  1. Thank you for sharing your reflections. I read the article link – powerful. I’m intrigued by family stories, and you have some powerful ones. Best wishes as you begin your journey.

  2. I think it’s great that you’re writing about religion and examining where you come from so thoughtfully. I’ve heard many stories, similar to your fsmily’s, from a good friend who worked in Poland — for 2 years — for the JDC.
    Btw: Now I know why you recommended Blessing of a Skinned Knee to me.

  3. Great post, Zsofi! I didn’t know the history about your grandmother–definitely a major part of family history, but as you say, it’s hard to translate that to present beliefs! 🙂

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