Average Jane

Struggling to Connect: My Date with Jews, God, Nazis and Israel

“You can’t rally American Jews around God, but they do rally around two things: Israel and Nazis.”

I hadn’t thought much about it, but those two issues are the two that will stir the Jew pot more than God, that’s for sure. Telling a Jew they’re going to hell won’t get their hackles up nearly as much as calling them a big-nosed cheapskate. Worse even yet if the Jewish joke they tell when they don’t know you’re listening just isn’t funny.

As a tattooed Jew who doesn’t eat pork or shellfish, my own religious identity is certainly nuanced, flip flopping from faithless and struggling to unaffiliated and desperate to connect. But what am I yearning to connect with? If American Jews rally around Israel and Nazis (by which he meant all anti-semitic/anti-separation-of-church-and-state  parties past, present and, unfortunately, future), I’m fucked. And not by my Jewish knight in shining kippah.

Let’s start with Israel. Fun Fact: I was on Birthright Israel’s first busload of idiot college kids ever. Bus #1. And as grateful I was for the experience, it was more of a head-fuck and faith-fuck than a meaningful religious experience. Nothing made sense to me – the customs, the language, the history. I was a reform Jew in a country that didn’t seem to know what to do with people like me (see: Godless Americans, above). I spent my 10 days watching the least awkward amongst us perform their mating rituals, making their Jewish mothers at home unknowingly proud while the rest of us tried to enjoy and find meaning in the experience. It didn’t work. Not for me. I felt nothing. I left not yearning for my homeland, but yearning for a hamburger. I’ve never desired to go back. I have no opinion on the Palestinian/Israeli “Situation.” I spend exactly no time thinking about it except hoping (praying?) that the ones I love there are safe and sound, happy and healthy. And that’s about it.

So, what about the Nazis? I grew up in an upper middle class predominantly Jewish suburb of DC. To say I never experienced anti-semitism would be an understatement. Well, at least until I got out of college, and realized some people are just idiots. I had no family in Europe during the Holocaust. Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII. They never shared stories of their own experience as a Jew. My parents? Nope – not them either. No anti-semitism to speak of on either side. Thank goodness, right? Sure. But how do I connect empathetically with people who lost so much? Who struggle so desperately against oppression and bigotry? Who had it so much harder than me and draw their identity from that struggle? I don’t. So, do I define my Jewishness by hating Nazi and Nazi-like people? Well, I’m not a fan of them, but no, not really.

That leaves God. I struggle – Oy do I struggle. In high school and college I was so desperate to discuss and try to understand a God that felt so strange. And now, I have no one to have those debates with. Not without being labeled “weird” by my atheist/agnostic friends. Being a single, childless “young professional,” we certainly aren’t asked to do much in the God department. Instead, we’re told to attend happy hours and game nights. We’re told to sign up for JDate to find the mensch of our dreams! Or of our fantasies because getting them to stick around for more than a date or two is a miracle in and of itself. The minyans are more of a dinner pre-party than religious event. God doesn’t seem to be much of an option if you’re not getting married or having babies. God? Not my connection to be sure.

So where does that leave me? Disconnected. But I see sparks of faith at the end of a cord that would connect me to my heritage… waiting to plug in somewhere.


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  1. Faith is a tricky thing. I’m not Jewish and I didn’t really grow up in any faith, but I find myself still wanting some sort of spiritual connection to something, whether it’s a community or a deity or a set of beliefs, or something.

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 11 months ago
  2. * Mad Cabbie says:

    “…I’m fucked. And not by my Jewish knight in shining kippah…”

    That’s some funny shit!

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 10 months ago

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