|Many years ago, a neighbor chided me. "You're not having your son Bar Mitzvah'd?"
I replied "No"
"But how will he know what he is?" She continued with what she thought was a convincing argument.
The question confused me since it seemed to make no sense whatsoever.
"Hopefully, he will know that he is a human being," I responded weakly.
The discussion ended.
Though I was born of Jewish parents I have not related to the religion in more years than I care to tally. And yet, in the eyes of some, I will always be Jewish. While certain people look at this as a "badge of specialness" others see it as a "blood born disease" The latter group holds me responsible for all the evils that the Jews have, in the past, and are, in the present, perpetrating. The former group smiles at me knowingly, crediting me with a high I.Q and a good business sense. I won't argue my I.Q., but anyone who knows me ...knows that I am business "senseless."
Some people use the words Judaism and Zionism interchangibly. At those times, I am credited with Israel's behavior, its crimes and it's sense of entitlement. I also become the recipient of the "right of return." a right that sounds more clearly like a "wrong." And so, as I drown in a sea of labels, comments, and criticisms, I find myself lost in a private world of fear and sorrow.
Last year, I was having a conversation with an Orthodox Jewish Coworker. I confessed my ignorance about the holidays and said that I did not identify with the Jewish religion. She responded "The man with the mustache would consider you Jewish"
"Who? Groucho Marx?" I replied flippantly.
I have studied many religions along the way, and though I can squeak out some value, I find more cons than pros. (and I mean "cons") Religions are manipulative....religions are divisive.....religions are exclusive. Religions become excuses for entitlement. Religions, in the minds of their followers, earn them favored status with God.
Raising my children presented a challenge. Remember the neighbor at the beginning of my piece? Our culture is separated into various "clubs" which not only become places of worship and identity but places of socialization as well.
I have raised three beautiful children. You'll pardon the cliche. I realize that nobody ever says, "I have raised three ugly children."
Children present challenges best reserved for another essay, but, suffice it to say, with all the struggles and obstacles, I am deeply grateful for the experience.. One of the great lessons I have learned is that children are not extensions of their parents. They are not on earth to accomplish the things that their parents failed to do. That was not an easy lesson. And so, I never imposed religion on any of them, though my youngest followed me along my windy path of belief systems. Today, at 22, he proclaims that he is a proud " nothing"
My middle boy, married a lapsed Catholic and also joined the club of "nothing."
My daughter, for quite some time, related to Wicca. However, after viewing the movie "Schindler's List," she stated that she had "discovered her Jewish Identity. (I will refrain from a review of the movie since, I believe, some Pandora's Boxes should be opened at a future date. In addition, brevity has always been my trademark. )
I must confess, I saw "Schindler's List"......... in fact I watched it two times. But, then again, I also watched "The Passion of the Christ" twice. I remember sobbing my heart out as I watched "Schindler's List." But, then again, I sobbed equally as forcefully during "The Passion of the Christ," Whether a film is an authentic portrayal of man's inhumanity, or merely a manipulative celluloid experience, is not a question that goes through the mind of this emotional viewer as I sit glued to the "big screen." While I am in the theater, I remain the proverbial "captive audience." Critical thinking is gently ushered out the back door and awaits me patiently at my home, long after my emotional response has retreated.
And so, whether or not this is the place the dispute the veracity of the facts of "Schindler's List," one thing is clear. There has been a plethora of Holocaust films, each one designed to curry favor for the Jewish people. And, as a result, I cannot but question why they've achieved what appears akin to the "suffering medal, " History is replete with the suffering of so many groups of people. There is an incredibly vast amount of material awaiting an erstwhile filmmaker.
Haven't the Black people earned more than a mini series called "Roots?" And when was the last time you saw a three hour film on the slaughter of the Native Americans? Perhaps a few television hours should be devoted to a mini series on the Palestinians. A good place to begin would be John Pilger's film "Palestine is Still the Issue." Suffering is not the domain of one race, one religion, or one ethnicity.
Recently an Internet friend told me about one of his good friends who was born of Jewish parents. After a delving deeply into the religion and, perhaps, all religions, he no longer identified with the religion of his birth. When asked what he is, he replies "I'm a critical thinker." I deeply resonated with the man's description and I hope that if I ever have any correspondence with this "critical thinker," he will regard my imitation as a sincere form of flattery.
My last essay compared Zionism to Judaism. It talked about my past as well as the difference between the religion Judaism, and the dangerous geo political movement, Zionism. It talked about how the Jewish people are being duped by the Zionists. (who are a mixture of many religions, by the way)
The response was, for the most part, quite favorable. Interestingly, however, there were a couple of Jewish people who called me a white supremacist (my Black friends got a kick out of this) In contrast, there was a man who stated that I was just a "non religious Jew" who, at the end of the day, still played favorites. "A Jew is still a Jew." I was told by him.
Although I tried, how could I convince these critics that they had totally missed the mark? How could I convey my essence on a computer screen and an Arial font? I could only feel the pain of being misunderstood.
And so....I live in a dilemma. I read the Internet news and where it leaves off, my mind picks up. I fear the worst. I watch how easily people are manipulated. I watch how easily people hate. I watch how easily people accept murder and torture. I watch how easily people grasp onto a "common enemy" ....a "scapegoat."
Does it sound as if I have lost faith in humanity? Maybe hope springs eternal, but not in this heavy heart on this drizzly June morning in the year of 2005.
Copyright Judy Andreas 2005