Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Rebuttal from Shiksa Girlfriend

After reading my last post, SG was so fired up to present her position to our vast readership that it prompted her to write her very first blog post. In honor of that I'll do what I do worst and shut up from here on in. - FY

From the other side –

As The Friar previously told the internet-at-large, recently he and I had a slightly heated discussion about the direction of our practice as part of the discussion of “Where are we going for High Holidays this year.”

I want to add some more background to the points that the Friar made in his last post.

Within a month of our first date, the Friar stated that he had always pictured himself raising a Jewish family, and was feeling some conflict between about dating me, and the long-standing vision of his future. …Fortunately for him, I also wanted to raise a family in a religious community, but certainly not the one that I was raised in, and thus was amenable to a shared compromise on these far-in-the-future issues. (Note: Despite what he stated in his post, I am NOT considering returning to any form of Christianity, “cultural” or otherwise.)

At first we had relatively little conflict about beginning religious practice as adults. Even though the Friar is the born Jew, he had almost no experience actually participating as a child due to his parent’s lack of interest/bad experiences. Instead, he was self-educated on Jewish practice through research on books, Internet, and media. I had plenty of experience navigating the sometimes-complicated social world of religious groups. I had also been a part of a variety of communities, and had seen how poorly they can operate and how far apart my own beliefs and preferences my childhood community was.

When we started attending shul in college, I felt pretty much at home from the beginning. I had long since ceased to practice Christianity or consider myself an Episcopalian. The communities we were participating in, well, they had things that valued in a religious community, (caring community, ritual, and some rigorous textural analysis) and none of the things I objected to (endless emphasis on sin, careless and manipulative use of biblical text, dirge-like songs). We were coming into the community with about the same level of experience (none) and were seeing what other people were doing. This attitude lasted through the first 1½ years of living in SF as we were shul-shopping and trying to find a spiritual home.

The interfaith issue is, I think, coming up again, now, because there are serious identity issues for me. I don’t consider myself a Christian, though I have been baptized as an infant and confirmed as a teen, because I have ceased to practice. Religion, for me, is rooted in practice, individual and group, and that is where I locate the heart of identity. The Friar, always has, and (I think) always will consider himself a Jew, even if he follows his father’s path and doesn’t step into a synagogue for 30+ years. I don’t have that rock-sold identity for obvious reasons. I won’t (may never) consider an official conversion until I have practiced the religion for many more years, and feel like I can truthfully claim that it has become part of my identity.

Therefore, we have conflict, because it isn’t necessary for the Friar to join with a community at this point. None of the ones we have visited match his ideal and it is hard to feel the conflict with every visit. However, I have years of experience suffering a very pronounced conflict between attending Church with my family every week and my own beliefs….and just being very angry and upset about the advice that came down from the pulpit and the deliberate way that text, historical context, and translation were twisted and omitted to make the biblical verses support various things. In contrast to my historical experience, I am so much more comfortable in the synagogue, even when the ritual or social scene isn’t quite my ideal.

If I am going to be able to partner with the Friar to raise a unified family, I need to start now, to practice in a community and at home, so that I can feel confident in my knowledge and identity as a Jew-ish mother. So even if the communities aren’t ideal, I’d like to pick one or two, and make an investment of time to join the social aspect instead of limiting ourselves to the ritual aspect. It’s awkward, it’s not what either of us is good at, it’s hard to fit in with other stuff, but….I think it’s worth doing. I hope we can find a way.

- SG

No comments: