I’m not sure if this kind of post is annoying. If it is, I’m sorry in advance, and I hope you all have a happy rest of Passover.
My dad’s mother is Jewish (I think his dad is too by blood but his side of the family had already suppressed that entirely), but due to the stigma, she and my grandfather raised their kids as Christians. My dad, as a college student, wanted to reconnect to that part of his heritage, and though he never formally converted, he went to Reform services and lived in an Orthodox house for a while. He no longer goes to services though and is also still Christian. He says he doesn’t think there needs to be a conflict between them. That’s probably a hot take but I’m just saying what he thinks.
He raised my brothers and I Christian as well, while also celebrating the most popular/pleasant Jewish holidays like Passover, Hanukkah, and Rosh Hashanah. I’m entirely atheist now.
So I’m like…barely Jewish. Not really. I do still celebrate those holidays with him (he just came and visited me in my college town to go to a seder with me, it was really nice). They feel like home. In a way that going to church never did, participating in those rituals makes me feel a connection to something truly ancient. Like there’s a long long ancestral line connecting me to a place and people thousands of years old and thousands of miles away. Especially as an American, where history is only a few hundred years old and immigrants’ past cultures disappear in a generation or two. I feel lost and alone, like I’m drifting, except for those brief moments of clarity. It’s a very powerful feeling. I’ve been thinking of starting to go to events by the local Hillel. Not claiming to be Jewish or anything else, but just wanting to feel that again.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what I would do if/when I ever had kids. None of my aunts and uncles have really kept the tradition alive. My dad kind of has, but neither of my brothers care. None of my cousins are Jewish. So this little branch of that long long line would die with us. And that makes me…really *sad*. I think I’d at least want my kids to have the same shallow exposure that I had. To get to feel that connection.
But I don’t know. I don’t believe in any kind of God at all. What right would I have to celebrate a holiday I can’t fully grasp the meaning behind? Of a religion I’m not really a part of or believe in? I’d be wearing a culture like a costume. *Performing* rituals, like an actor, rather than a believer. Pretending to be part of something that I’m not. I’ve never faced antisemitism. It seems like an insult to all the actual Jewish people out there to call myself one. But then, if I don’t do anything, if I just let it die, that’s it for this family. It just becomes a blood percentage rather than a cultural identity. “I’m X% Jewish,” my kid could say, as if that meant anything at all. And I think that’s sad.
I’m very conflicted. Can I participate if I don’t believe? Is it right to want to? Should I try to keep the tradition alive? Thanks to anyone who read all that. Any thoughts are appreciated. And happy Pesach!