My grandfather on my father’s side is the only Jew in my family, and a secular one at that. My parents are atheist and christian, so I grew up mostly around christians, and celebrated christian holidays. I was always made aware that my grandfather was Jewish, and he loved sharing that with me, mostly through cooking and stories. He wanted me to have bat mitzvah but because I was not raised Jewish, it would have been completely out of left field. I attended a Catholic school for one year when I was very young because of odd zoning laws in the small town I lived in, and was made to sit at the back of the church during mass with the only other Jewish boy. I still don’t even know how the sisters knew! Later in life when I attended public school I would tell the other Jewish kids that I was Jewish, and they would say I wasn’t on account of the matrilineal rule, I didn’t go to Hebrew school with them, and I didn’t have a bat mitzvah. So I wasn’t jewish enough to be accepted by the Jewish community, but I wasJewish enough to be persecuted by the Catholics. I’m also apparently Jewish enough to have Crohn’s disease, a genetic hand-me-down I would rather not have (half-joking of course).
As I got older, I felt a strong pull towards that tiny portion of my family. I went through our family history, I read about the culture, and the religion. I started celebrating the holidays on my own. I taught myself the blessings, learning proper pronunciation through YouTube videos. I do feel like it is a part of who I am, yet some days (let’s be honest, most days) I feel like an imposter. I have read a lot of threads in this subreddit and I do worry about cultural appropriation, if I’m cherry-picking only the parts of Judaism I agree with, and whether or not I can even call myself Jewish. My grandfather is growing very old now and it’s clear that his time is growing short. I don’t want this part of my family history to die with him, as just a footnote to my future kids that my grandpa was Jewish, because it feels like so much more than that to me.