Monday, December 03, 2007

A Rant in Honor of Hanukkah

The miscarriage derailed a lot of things in our lives last year. And one of those things was our formal conversion to Judaism. We were pretty battered with grief for a long time and were not up to taking a big life step.

Of course, we hadn't counted on temple politics lending itself to no rabbi to help us. And that is how I found myself a few months ago begging around trying to find some one. We have, and our conversion is scheduled for a couple of weeks from now.

I have taken a lot of shit from many people, friends and busy-bodies alike, about "worrying too much about technicalities" when it comes to this conversion. And this pisses me off to no end. It is another case of people from one religious tradition (in these cases Christianity) and applying those norms to all traditions. And judging those traditions rather bitchily at that. Because in Christianity faith is the most important thing and the rest can be sorted out later. No child is born Christian and many sects require an adult baptism anyway--so not being baptised as a child is no big deal. But Judaism is defined by laws and traditions. The law is a very important thing. You can have faith and be part of a community but if you are not legally Jewish than you aren't--no matter what your identity is.

Our community doesn't much care about it's members being Jewish. But other communities do. And there are many rights that are afforded Jews that are not non-Jews. Since we are going to raise our daughter to have a Jewish identity, than I feel like I owe her those opportunities and protections. Liken it to being a citizen vs. having a green card. Citizens have a lot of protections that are just not available to others. Being legally Jewish could mean that for her, she would have her life cycle events within the temple if she chooses and has rights to the Law of Return (the rabbis in this area take care to make converts eligible for this). This is especially important in our current political climate (for those who think I am being paranoid look at what has happened to Muslims in this country since 9/11)--I just don't think that anyone can guarantee that Jews will ALWAYS be safe in this country.

I make a sincere effort to recognize the differences in structures between Judaism and Christianity so that I can understand where my friends, family and colleges are coming from. And I do recognize that this is easier for me since I was brought up in a Christian home. But goddamn people, have the ability to accept differences between people and their beliefs.

It's the same thing with Christmas. I recognize that many people, including Jews, celebrate a secular sort of Christmas with Santa Claus and presents and I am glad that this works for those families. It doesn't work for us. We'll do Christmas with my parents in a we-celebrate-this-with-family kind of way. And we won't be celebrating Hanukkah as a Christmas substitute. Again, the holidays are not related and are not the same tone at all. Pretending otherwise is really disrespectful to both Jews and Christians. And getting up in my face like I am scarring my kid who isn't even fucking born yet is just annoying and sanctimonious. In my experience Santa is all about the parents. Little tinies don't understand Santa and are frightened of him. Then there are a couple of years where kids enjoy it. And then they figure out that he isn't real and there is this weird betrayal time (which is an interesting thing to do to a kid in connection to a religious holiday--Santa isn't real but God is trust me would I lie? OH WAIT).

I don't judge parents for doing Christmas, regardless of their religious beliefs. I don't judge them for doing Santa. I don't judge anyone for raising their kids with the value system that they feel most comfortable with. People do what they think is best.

It's weird how these things don't apply to those of us with beliefs outside of Christianity.

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