Monday, March 10, 2008

Losing My Religion

I was raised in an interfaith home. My mother did convert before she married my father, which makes me officially Jewish. But she did not ever really practice. I was raised culturally Jewish, but never completed my Bat Mitzvah and still celebrated all the Christian holidays.

When it came time for me to get married, I never really considered religion. I always knew I wanted to raise Jewish children. I wanted to have Shabbat. I wanted to enroll them in Hebrew school and Sunday school. I kind of assumed we would not celebrate the Christian holidays, but now it that I am faced with the reality, I do not like the idea of my child not dyeing eggs or having a Christmas tree. Does this make me a hypocrite? A meat eating vegetarian? Maybe. But it was how I was raised.

As for R, he took all the conversion classes and opted not to convert to Judaism, which was disappointing, but ultimately fine with me. His reason? He hates organized religion. His experience in the church was less than positive and he does not want to expose our child to any kind of fire or brimstone or anything that would make her feel guilty about her body or herself. Some of Judaism does appeal to him, which is why he is comfortable with our child being raised that way, but he is also leaving all the major religious education up to me. This is kind of funny, mostly because I honestly do not care that much. I care in a way, mostly because I think the dwindling population of Jewish people is a huge problem. I would blame interfaith marriage, but then I would be a hypocrite, wouldn't I?

This article in today's Globe talks a bit about the issues surrounding interfaith marriage. I see the reasons why a Jewish parent might cringe at the idea. And there is certainly something to be said for coming from the same socioeconomic class/religion as one's spouse. But I married for love, not for religion. And truth be told, while I do believe in a higher power (wow, it's getting all deep in here), I am not sure what that is or how it works. This is why Reform Judaism, with it's encouragement of asking questions and never taking anything at face value works for me. I want a synagogue that invites gay families and interfaith families and every kind of family as congregants. We have found one.

Still, being responsible for the religious education portion of my children's lives is kind if a tall order. R is Agnostic, the same as my father and stepmom and most everyone I know, in fact. To say religion is not a huge part of any of our lives is an understatement. In fact, I am not even sure of the value in raising a child with religion. From what I have seen, those who are raised with religion have even more skewed values than those of us who were asked to define our own morality.

I don't know what I want for Sam. I know that I want her to have reverence for the generations that passed, for her relatives in the Holocaust and for her relatives that attended church in the rural south. But how can the two come together when they are so far apart? How can we raise her with good values and an undercurrent of faith when neither of us are swimming in faith ourselves? Maybe we just have to accept the fact that she will likely find religion as tedious and tiring as both her parents do. All the rules and rituals are exhausting. I think she will be a rule breaker like her mommy. But if Sam's grandmother ran from the Catholic church screaming and her father felt the same way about his own religious upbringing, then how will we ever give her rules to break?

When I was little, I used to wish I was more Catholic, just so I could have something to fight. My mother loathed the church in which she was raised, a fact she made clear every single day of her life. I have never had anything to loathe or to love. Where is the rebellion when there are no rules to break? Does it seem silly to construct artificial walls for my child, just so she can tear them down?

As yet, I am undecided as to how the religious portion of her upbringing will proceed. In all likelihood, it won't. Maybe she will have a Bat Mitzvah. Yeah, she probably will. And we will probably have a bris for B-Dub the sequel. But honestly? In the end, I think it does not matter. They will do what they will do and so long as they do not become bible beaters or Satan worshipers, I will be pretty cool.

1 comment:

halloweenlover said...

We face so many of the same questions, except the opposite since Josh is Jewish and I am not. I am actually taking a class specifically for non-Jewish women married to Jewish men and raising Jewish children. Super interesting, actually.

I'd love to know the synagogue you found that you like. We'll have to email off the blog.