Monday, April 23, 2007

Half Jewish

Somehow I missed this book when it was first published. I stumbled across is recently and would definetly recommend it as an enjoyable read for anyone who, like me, is half Jewish. The authors are an intermarried couple raising a half Jewish daughter. They concede right up front that according to Jewish law there is no such thing as being half Jewish. You either are--because your mother is Jewish or you converted--or you aren't. However, they argue passionately that culturally, psychologically, genetically, even spiritually there is absolutely such a thing as being half Jewish. I have to agree.

My Dad was born Jewish, survived the Holocaust, then after a brief stint in what was still Palestine at that point, he and his Mom came to the U.S. My grandmother packed him off to Catholic boarding school and changed their fairly recognizably Jewish last name to an Italiantized variation. (She was Russian, but had lived in Italy for a long time before my Dad was born.) About ten years later my Dad met my Presbyterian Mom and the rest, as they say, is history.

When I was growing up my Dad was active in the Presbyterian churches we attended. At home we celebrated Christian holidays, not Jewish ones. However, for a good chunk of my childhood, we lived in small southern towns where Jews were few and far between. Even though my Dad had converted, the Jewish families we knew often included us in their holiday celebrations. We weren't exactly kosher, but at least we knew what Homentashn were and why a joke about the president of the college where they all worked that involved the words "schlemiel" and "tuches" was hilarious. When my high school class read The Diary of Anne Frank one of my classmates pointed out, "Hey, she looks just like you!" She didn't. Not really. She just looked Jewish. And I did too.

Sometimes when church life gets really unpleasant, either locally or nationally, I hear a little voice in my ear that sometimes sounds like my grandmother and sometimes like Moses himself. It whispers, "Hey. You don't HAVE to hang out with these crazy-ass Christians. You've got another option." In fact, several people in my life have asked if I couldn't just as readily be Rabbi Rebel rather than Pastor Rebel. And I always say, "Jesus and shrimp curry. That's all that keeps me on this side of the line."


Quotidian Grace said...

Okay so now I'm jealous. I think my only other option is not as attractive as yours--those blue-faced Druids hopping around campfires in chilly chilly Britain!


Presbyterian Gal said...

Yeah, I got gypsies. They don't cook as well and they smell bad, but they can dance!

ellbee said...

What a great heritage! Are you sharing some of that with your family now?

I'm such a mutt that I could claim everything from Scots to Prussian to Comanche.

Spiritually, I've got a Methodist circuit rider, a Gideon, a couple of Jews and some Disciple of Christ elders among my crowd of witnesses.

So of course, I married a french-Canadian-Irish "recovering Catholic" and landed in the PCUSA.

Sophia said...

My maiden name is Irish and my family is Anglican or Catholic going back many generations, but I almost left Christianity for Judaism in my early 20s...

Even though my life took a different path, it was Judaism that brought me back from the abyss of atheism, and I will always be grateful.

Mrs. M said...

Fantastic conclusion.

(BTW, have you read Girl Meets God? Another 1/2 Jewish woman, though I'm on the fence about whether I'd really recommend it.