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.
Hey! I'm actually in the SAME boat. My mother, however, is pretty Jewish & I've always been resistant to being a big part of that culture. She does, however, attend Shabbat in Austin at Agudas Achim. I've gone a few Saturdays & they are really nice people. THEY LOVE YOUNG PEOPLE so you will be a hit if you decide to check them out one day. Also, after service lunch is always wonderful. Here's the website juuust in case you're interested: http://www.caa-austin.org/ 🙂
OMG, I'm in almost the exact same situation! I was born Jewish, but none of my family practices and so none of them know anything about being Jewish. I decided to study with a Rabbi last year so I am going through the conversion process even though I'm technically Jewish…it's very confusing lol. But once you start delving into it, Judaism is really a beautiful religion, you just have to have the patience and the desire to really learn about it.
Love this post! I am in the process of conversion. It seems many people are looking to get back in to practice or convert due to the lack of "roots" twenty-somethings put down. At least that's what the good rabbi says. 🙂
It's gypped, not jipped, you JAP.
Okay, you're not a JAP. But you prolly would have made a good 'un.
Speaking of which, how did JAP become a pejorative? I wasn't born Jewish but was raised in an observant Jewish household (don't ask, long story involving being kidnapped by gypsies). Where I grew up near NYC, my Jewish neighbors used it as a rough term of endearment. Now, sheesh… wikipedia has no sense of humor.
@Laurel- Thank you for the link! That sounds wonderful. I will try to check out!
@Courtney- I would like the patience to delve into it. Sounds wonderful!
@Jill- Yeah. Well, if it's a part of your culture it would be nice to know more about it, you know? I feel like I'm missing out…
@Guise- HA! Thank you for pointing that out! I had no idea how to spell it! And don't JAP's have to be rich?
i'm not a jew, but i sure look like one!
Sounds like you hanker for your Jewish roots like I pine for my 'hood cred' from being raised in Detroit!
I read your post and i am very inspired. I myself am orthodox and grew up that way as well.
your open and honest desire to learn about your Jewish roots is an incredible inspiration to me,
especially this week (tuesday) where us Jews mourn the destruction of our temple in jerusalem over 2000 years ago. its always good to see my fellow jews desire to learn about our incredibly deep and rich culture
Great post! You can totally make being Jewish your own- my Seder only lasted 20 minutes and we upped the obligatory 4 glasses of wine to 12. Ain't nothing wrong with that!
I'm Jewish and live in Austin and there are lots of ways to get involved and dip your toe into the Jewish holy water — even at Barton Springs! You might want to think about joining YAD and also joining Selah, which is a Friday night service/dinner once a month at Casa de Luz: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Selah/217908001571943.
Not to be the annoying word-police, but I totally didn't put two-and-two together on my own so I thought I'd pass along the knowledge. The word is spelled "gypped" because it's derived from "gypsies" – making it a pretty offensive term.
@mark- i wanna go to detroit sometime! yo miss it?
@naftali- thanks for stopping by and thank you for the sweet message!
@amy- love it! maybe i'll try that next year!
@jodi- thank you so much for the info!
@anonymous- i had no idea. thanks for the the info.
I was raised semi-religious and the identity is still confusing. Partially because my parents sort of latched on to it do to a lack of meaning in their lives, and made me learn Jewish stuff so they wouldn't have to. But, as far as I can see, the identity is still a sort of loose conglomeration of ideas, and a lot of its based on the fact that we have a history of being seen as different by OTHER people.
I'm trying to think if I have any suggestions on how to "get into it." Right now all I can think of is to warn you that the most welcoming and inclusive synagogues are usually the most religious ones, and to say that it'll look like all Jews are rich (which sometimes make me feel a bit left out), but that that's not actually the case.
whyyyy did no one tell you that schlong means, in yiddish, snake? so good, right?
-another jew in austin feelin’ the same, commenting on posts from 2 years ago