|What’s wrong with me?|
|By Hannah Goodman|
|Friday, 25 June 2010 00:00|
Jewish mother struggles with her faith
Both of my parents are Jewish. After 27 years of marriage, they divorced; but during their marriage, they fought often about religion and its place in our family. My father didn’t want to practice any religion – believing mainly in the laws of thermodynamics. He avoided temple and religious holiday dinners, often times conveniently traveling for business during holidays. Many times he teased my mother, my sister and me for attending synagogue services.
I married a non-Jew. My husband is an Italian “recovering Catholic” or, as he calls himself, “a Jew by proxy.” We never fight about religion and its place in our lives. He not only goes to temple with us when we do, he makes a really scrumptious matzah ball soup and brisket better than any bubbie I know.
When we had our first child, I made sure that our daughter, from the moment she arrived in this world, would know she was Jewish. I joined a temple, had a baby naming, and ordered every book and toy from OyToys. com. This was not due to some fear that marrying outside the faith would mean that my children would be less Jewish. Rather, it was the legacy of self-loathing that my father had about being Jewish that caused me worry. I committed to the promise I made when my husband and I decided to have children – that legacy dies with me.
Not long ago, I sat in temple next to other mothers and watched our children perform their zimriyah: “Hinneh mah tov u-mah na’im shevet ahim gam yahad.” A song that I remember from Hebrew school, a song that always makes me tear up. I am in awe of my own daughter, taller, darker, more exotic than the other children, and who looks a little like the Disney princess Jasmine, sings louder and with a pride I never felt. This is the same child who was obsessed with Jewish holiday board books as an 18-month-old and proclaimed, at the tender age of 22 months, “I Jewish.”
In between songs, one of the mothers and I got to chatting. After establishing that our children talk about one another, and we should set up a play date, we moved on to make plans. Somehow we confessed that our husbands are not Jewish.
We are members of a temple that has something like 50 percent of new families who are interfaith. So why did I (and dare I say she) need to confess that not only did I marry someone who isn’t Jewish, but that he has no intention of converting. Quite frankly, I don’t want him to convert.
There are things about my husband’s non- Jewish status and my Jewish identity that, just when I think I have no issues – something, anything, a simple moment brings out the internal conflict I have. And it’s not a conflict about who I married, but about being a Jew.
I thought I was at peace with the fact that I don’t love going to temple, loathe dealing with the holidays and do all of it only for my children, but then I attend this zimriyah and see how much my daughter genuinely loves coming to temple, and I think – what’s wrong with me?
I think I am fine with my husband’s non- Jewish status and then I find myself feeling that I have to confess it when at temple and, again, I think what’s wrong with me?
I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I do know that:
• It thrills me that my husband makes better matzo ball soup than my Bubbie did.
And, for every moment when I call my Jewish self into question, I realize I may not understand my own relationship to Judaism but I do not project my conflicted feelings onto my daughter.
And I know I have done what’s needed to establish my daughter’s Jewish identity when she looks at me with a confused expression on her lovely face when I reach for the egg dye kit at CVS and says, “But Mom, we’re Jewish.”