Hello everyone! Obligatory long-time lurker, first time poster and apologies that this is a long post for a redundant topic.
The backstory: I was raised in an extremely secular household. We never went to church but did the Easter (until I knew the Easter bunny wasn’t real) and Christmas all my life (I’m 24 now). Christmas was never a religious holiday, it was a family holiday where we do the very Americanized open the presents and watch movies and either made a small dinner or ordered take-out. My mom is spiritual but generally believes in the Catholic stream of things and my Dad is an enigma with his own set of rules–he sort of walks to the beat of his own drum.
I went to youth group at a methodist church for a short amount of time as a social thing in middle school. I could never wrap my head around the idea of the trinity or the eternal hellfire or the idea that people SHOULD be converted in order to “save” them. I could never stand by something that I saw as built on fear. I cherry-picked the aspects I liked, never went back to church, and told myself I was content being spiritual.
For years I have said I wanted faith to play a bigger role in my life and I have had the same beliefs on what is true and values that I find important my entire life. Christmas is great in that I love the lights around the city and the general feeling of giving in the air, but every year I end up feeling empty because it doesn’t have much meaning beyond that. The “true meaning” is not something I believe in as much as I have willed myself to.
Fast forward to about a year ago: I come to find out there is an entire line of my family Jewish, but a divide happened years and years ago when my great grandmother married a catholic. My grandfather is Jewish by birth but was never given a traditional Jewish upbringing since my great grandmother ended up in the hospital (my great grandfather walked out) and they were separated for years. Since the day I learned about her, I’ve needed to know more.
Jump forward again and I started dating someone who is a conservative Jew. He is extremely proud of his faith–as he should be–and always took the time to teach me more or explain how certain things work. We celebrated Hanukkah together and it just felt. Right I guess?
I fell fast and extremely hard, he fell fast but not as hard and panicked since his last relationship ended due to an issue of inter-faith so he called things off (not to mention the timing was terrible). Of course it hurt like crazy, we had an amazing relationship and connection that even he couldn’t explain and it always hurts when something ends. I’m not mad at him, I totally understand where he came from, but am understandably sad that someone I could see myself with in the long term broke things off.
However, months later I still felt unsatisfied with my knowledge of Jewish history and theology and figured the breakup did not mean I had to stop learning. To be clear, I went into learning more with a very conscious effort to keep the man I had dated out of my mind. I did not talk to him about anything because I did not want my feelings there to influence how I feel about Judaism. It would be insincere to explore a religion FOR someone or in hopes of being with someone. He has had girls proclaim that they would convert for him in the past and that always made him feel gross. I am not about to be another one of those desperate girls in his life.
I went to the library and sat on the floor for hours reading the books they had there. I’ve since checked out and finished many others. The one that really stood out was Judaism’s 10 Best Ideas by Arthur Green. Theologically, everything he wrote about is what I already believe (The stories of the Old Testament with a focus on Moses, God as one, no need to save anyone as anyone can be a good person without faith) . I know Judaism is more than belief and can not be experienced in a vacuum–it is being a part of a people that demands action. My favorite idea was “repairing the world.” Since I can remember that is what I thought people were put on Earth to do. I reached out to a synagogue near me and have met up with the cantor twice just to talk about various things but most of all so I could ask questions. Last time we met, and he has not pressured for me to do anything, he suggested I speak to a rabbi and he would reach out to one he thinks I would like if I was interested. I said I would since there is nothing to lose by going.
I feel like I have an itch I can’t scratch now. Or like I’ve opened a door I can’t close. I feel as though if I turn around and abandon what I have found I will regret it years down the line but I’m scared and confused as to what I should do next. I know for certain that I have this feeling of yearning or love towards Judaism that is more than basic respect and I also know that I do not want my children raised under Catholicism, but I also don’t want them raised with nothing. Then they would just be going through the crisis that I am now. If someone were to ask me how I feel about everything I read, its that I feel as though it is the right way to live. In service, with reverence of the small things, with respect to God and strong familial ties and values.
Any advice? I’m terrified to continue forward alone.
TL;DR— Through multiple encounters with the Jewish faith, I feel a pull towards the religion I can no longer ignore and am feeling confused as to what I should do next and would like some advice.
(I should disclaimer that I fully understand any decision, moving forward or no, is life-altering and more complicated than it is on paper. Spirituality is a hard journey regardless and I am well aware of hate groups. My family would support me regardless of what I chose as they intended for me to choose one day).