On Being a Jew But Not

Note: This was originally written around 2017


A new friend on Twitter inspired me to write (or, in this case, type) down my feelings on my heritage, blood, and faith. It’s complicated.

When I was born, Mom was Jewish (blood & high-holy-days practice) & Dad was agnostic. Growing up, I chose the Jewish faith. By tradition, it is passed on by your mother. From what we can follow of our family tree, it was also passed along by DNA. I made it up until I was about 12 before the whole thing just seemed silly and overdone to me, and I didn’t want to play anymore. Mom asked me to stick with it through my Bat Mitzvah, which I did, probably extremely begrudgingly. Then I was allowed to bow out. Because it was then up to me, I did still go to temple. It wasn’t that often, and I was much more interested in spending time with the family that I had gathered there than I was in participating in the rituals. I’d spent most weekends with the same kids who were my age from when we were about six until we were all teenagers. It’s no different than how you feel about classmates you spend all of your childhood with. I’m still dear friends with one of them. His birthday is the day before mine, and I consider him my twin brother. I love him and his family like they were blood.

So where does that leave me as an “adult?” Here’s how I feel and what I believe.

I don’t know if there’s a God. I don’t know if there isn’t a God. I have no way of knowing either way. I am a logic, hands-on, experience type of person. I think that there is some sort of power keeping all of life itself going. Could that be God? Sure. Like I said, I have no way of knowing, nor do I pretend to. That being said, I’m not going to continue on with the rituals if I don’t believe in what they stand for.

Except…that’s not completely true. There are certain things that, for one reason or another, have just stuck with me despite my lack of “faith” in the Old Testament. I will not live in a house without a Hand of Miriam. I have two now, actually. I will light the candles and sing the prayer at Hanukkah. On Yum Kippur I will typically eat apples and honey, and on Passover I will typically make myself a batch of Charoset (then eat the whole thing by myself and then regret that so very, very, VERY much). But to me, these things are not faith ritual. To me, they are tradition. They are things that I have done my whole life. They are good, happy, positive memories for me, and I like continuing them.

There’s still that other part of it, though. Like I mentioned, Mom is Jewish by blood. Regardless of either of us practicing, we are both Jews. That’s something that I can never get rid of, and I consider it an extremely important part of my life. It’s weird to a lot of people, but it is what it is.

How do I feel about the Jewish Religion now? I respect it. I understand it like an outsider can’t. I do NOT respect a lot of the misogyny of most of the conservative Jews. The religion, by the book, is just as horrible as any other religion that’s taken word for word by a text, written thousands of years ago, by old men, who were probably on drugs. The congregations I am more drawn to are the ones who are able to see the intended morality lesson from the myths and just do the right things. They don’t treat it as gospel (Sorry for the pun. No, I’m really not sorry at all.).

So there you have it. Nix is a Jew but not a Jew. Like every other part of my life, it’s like a just slightly inappropriate riddle.

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