Choosing to Be Chosen

My maternal grandmother was Irish.  Her husband was a Lithuanian Jew.  My mom has a funny story about slamming the door in the rabbi’s face so he wouldn’t see their Christmas tree.

So it goes in Judiasm, due to the unfortunate violent nature of the history of the diaspora of my chosen peeps, the religion is passed down via the mother.  Because one knows for sure who one’s mother is.   So my mother was not technically Jewish, because of her Irish mother.

When I was in high school, my family went through a pretty rough divorce from my step-father.  My mom lost over 80 pounds, I feel, just from being sad.  She looked fabulous, but I really wished to have the happy, chubby mother back.  She started going to conversion classes at a temple that didn’t actually have a temple.  It met in a hotel conference room.  The rabbi was a young, funny man named Rabbi Breskin.  He was so funny.  Wait, I’m jumping ahead.  So my mom kept asking me if I would go to a class with her.  I didn’t really want anything to do with all that religion phooey.  But she was sad.  She was asking.  So I went.  Really, I would have done anything to make her happier.  I do love that mom of mine.

Rabbi Breskin was hilarious.  Once, a woman who had been taping the class asked him to wait a second, while she flipped over the tape.  After she pushed record, he said, “… and that (dramatic pause) was the meaning of life.”  Anyway, Rabbi Breskin said that for Jews, religion was like a conversation with god.  A conversation?  With god?  I do that all the time.  He said that Jews are encouraged to question things.  Questioning religion was what Judiasm was all about.  Questioning things?  My teen-aged self was all over that.  So I kept going.  And, though I’d grown up attending seders here and there and calling myself “half Jewish,” I converted.  I will say, that I did not swear in front of god on the windy summer night when we had our little ceremony on a stage in a park, that I would raise my children to be Jewish.  I lip-synched that part.  Perhaps some small part of me knew I’d hook up with an African American ex-pentacostal woman one day.  Maybe I sensed that the bi-racial part and the gay part of our relationship would eclipse altogether any attempt at figuring out how we’d deal with religion with our kids.  Which it has.  Which leads me to raising my kids as I was raised.  No formal religious schooling.  Lots of Christmas and the occasional seder and visit to a temple.

Seedlings turn overnight to suuuun floooowers….. die die die dee dee daah daah daaaaaah.  Tradition!

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3 Comments

Filed under family

3 responses to “Choosing to Be Chosen

  1. Thanks for this story. I’d be interested in hearing more about how you handle religion in your household, because I worry about it in ours, should we manage to have a child. I was raised as a fairly observant Episcopalian, but my honey was raised as a nearly-militant atheist…not sure how that’ll shake out.

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