For the past couple of years, I’ve been reaching more toward re-embracing my Jewish heritage. The problem is, I’m a Patrilineal Jew. I grew up attending a reform Jewish temple, where I always felt like an outsider. Most of the kids in my Hebrew school classes came from families where both parents were Jewish and heavily involved in the local community. However, I came from a family where religion wasn’t as big a role, but I still found comfort and pride in being a Jew. On a side note, most of these families were very wealthy and very academically inclined. My family was struggling financially and I attended a school for students with learning disabilities (where there weren’t a lot of Jews and I experienced antisemitism for the first time).
My father’s spiritual connection to Judaism faded away as the years went on and my family essentially gave up going to Temple after my Bar Mitzvah. After the death of my Grandfather four years later, even Hannukah became a rarity in my house.
All my life, I always felt like half of me belonged to Judaism and half of me didn’t, especially in a household where Judaism didn’t play a big role. I felt like an outsider in temple and Hebrew school because my family wasn’t totally devoted like the other families. Outside of the temple, I felt like an outsider because I was always one of the rare Jews. Growing up I was (and continue to be) very lonely and I cited my Judaism as one of the main factors why I felt so separate from my peers, often turning to popular Jewish figures and reading about Jewish history for comfort and inspiration. Reading about Jewish perseverance gave me a sense of hope and pride that even though I struggled to fit in, I was still a part of this amazing group that has faced so much strife.
As someone who has been bullied for being a Jew, it hurts not to be fully accepted as a Jew. When I read about a Jewish person or group being attacked, I feel I am also being attacked because I know how that feels. But there’s always that presence of being a Patrilineal Jew that looms in my head. Because those bullies didn’t seem to care which parent of mine was a Jew.
I fear I’ll be experiencing an amazing moment amongst Jews, then “Actually sorry this isn’t for you”. I haven’t stepped foot in a synagogue in eight years, where the Rabbi didn’t fully accept me because of being a Patrilineal Jew. I want to travel is Isreal and feel a deep connection to the land, but also don’t want being a Patrilineal Jew to lessen my experience. It’s almost like I’m invited to a party, then asked to leave right before everyone eats, and I’m looking through the window, watching everyone smile and enjoy the food, while I’m in the cold and dark.
Just felt the need to gather and share some thoughts I’ve been struggling with. As well has if anyone else is in a similar boat?