I am a Jew.
A non-practicing Jew.
One of those people that is- according to Judaic Law- Jewish, but yet has only participated in one mind-numbing Seder her entire life. The sort of person who really loves telling people she’s Jewish because she feels that it will help explain certain characteristics and because being part of the Jew Club is cool. Woody Allen? Gene Wilder? The Marx Brothers? They’re my peeps.
My grandmother grew up with her Orthodox Jewish grandmother and after a few years she was like, “f that”. So when she gave birth to my mom, she raised her Barely Christian. Then I came along and that Barely Christian turned into Notta Christian and I’ve been wandering around spiritually aimless for the past 28 years. When you’re young, this doesn’t really matter to you. You think you and everyone you love is immortal. As you start to get older and more jaded, you’re like, “Fuuuuuck, I am going to die. I better figure out where I’m going, otherwise this could get really depressing.”
I’ve wanted to reclaim my Jewishness, but it hasn’t been easy. Most Jews don’t practice, they just like telling people that they are Jews like me. When I go home and try to nudge my grandmother into telling me more about actually growing up in a religious household she doesn’t say much other than that she knows how to say, “GO TAKE A SHIT IN THE WATER!” in Yiddish.
Her grandmother used to live near the Studebaker family, the people who made those sweet ass rides, in South Bend, Indiana. Like most elderly people, my grandmother doesn’t either a.) remember much of that time or b.) thinks it’s not worth talking about. I don’t understand why old folks think that talking about the past is boring! Anyways, the only item she has shared with me is that her grandmother would not use wooden spoons because of her religion. I don’t even know if this is accurate. When I Googled “Jews and Not Using Wooden Spoons”, a Jewish learning site states, “Wooden Spoons can be kashered by hag’alah” (???) and an article titled “10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child” also comes up.
My Mom and I both feel gypped of our Jewishness. We didn’t have a choice not to be raised Jewish. In my hometown where my Mom still lives, there are like eight Jews that live there. In Texas, it’s hard to find a Jew too. I’m sure there are a bunch in Austin, but you can’t really tell until you start talking to them and you realize they’re as equally acting neurotic as you are. That is the moment where I scream, “I’m one of you too!” and we proceed in talking excitedly with our hands.
Back in LA there were a lot of Jews, but even there, none of them did anything about except list it as their first qualification in a job interview. I did have one friend who was a practicing Jew in LA and when he invited me to have Seder dinner with he and his family, I was stoked! Until I sat at the table for five hours eating teeny bits of bitter herbs and matzo and developing heartburn. As we all sat there and read from the Haggadah hour after hour, my stomach knotting into a black void of hunger, all I kept thinking was, “WHY??? Why is that brisket sitting over in the oven all by it’s lonesome and I’m stuck with a roasted egg in my hand?!” I called my grandmother afterward and said, “Oy vey, Grandma. That was rough!” She laughed at me and said, “Now you understand what I went through.”
I would like to be a bona fide Jew. I’d like to not walk around saying that I’m a Jew but not really knowing what “hag’alah” means and only knowing what the Yiddish word “schlong” means. Maybe one day I’ll get off my duff and go find myself the closest synagogue here in Austin. Maybe one day my grandmother, mother, and I can all have our own interpretive Seder dinner, but instead of celebrating hunger pains, we can celebrate finally being a good Jew. ‘Cause Jews rock.