Thursday, August 23, 2012

Finding my religion.

So the holidays will be creeping up on me soon. It's going to be different this year and I started thinking about it. Just tonight I talked with my husband about how I seem to be checking the calendar constantly for one reason or another to make sure that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur do not coincide with events we might be planning to attend, or things I'm looking to add to my calendar and haven't yet scheduled.

There are charity walks aplenty in the fall here in NC. It makes sense, as it's finally cooler, or supposed to be. We've registered for a fun run as a family and I've registered for the Heart Walk in honor of a friend in early October. I'll walk beside her and am thrilled to do so.

I'm also participating in the Color Me Rad race on October 27th, the day before my 40th birthday. A huge milestone deserves something as huge, don't you think?

But I digress. In a big way. No surprise to many of you, I'm sure.

Perhaps it is because I am turning 40 that I'm thinking more about my religious beliefs? I'm not quite sure what triggered this flash of concern, confusion, need for information, education and more.

I posted today in my local mommies' online community asking for feedback. Insight. Information. Recommendations.

I indicated that I have been prompted by several things, the primary one being the holidays' rapid approach. But then I add to that thought process. I'd like to bring my daughter to temple. I'd like for her to experience an observance, an understanding, some education regarding our religion. My beliefs. The way that I was raised.

And then there comes the other thing. You know it. Or you will. She starts school soon. (I know - you KNOW!) And down here in NC there is no holiday break for these holy days. If I should choose to keep her home I would have to do so on my own. Now - she'll only be in Kindergarten so it isn't the worst of all things. But I feel as though if I DO keep her home I need to bring her to services. It's only right. It makes the most sense.

But then, I don't have a temple. Not yet, anyway. So I've asked my friends and *neighbors* to guide me into finding one. Seems I do that every year - same time, same questions.

There are requirements involved.

Side note: By the way, I don't usually blog about religion but I needed to tonight. It's weighing on me. If you're bored, I respect that, feel free to move on. 

The requirements are critical, are they not? One wants to feel comfortable in a place of worship - as it were. And for me, my husband is not religious in any way-shape-or form. None. Nada. That's cool. I'm okay with it. Obviously. Or we wouldn't be here today, right? So I need to feel that I've found a place that is comfortable enough that should he attend for any reason at all, a ceremony, a play, performance, something that my child is participating in and her father should/may/might want to be at ... this place has to be comfortable and welcoming enough for him to be okay with staying and being there for his daughter.

So this sounds a certain way for you, I'm sure. You may have questions. Am I reform? Conservative? Certainly not Orthodox. What else is there? What am I?

Good questions, thanks for asking. I'll let you know when I know.

I also have a random requirement. Which sounds so silly, almost hypocritical, I'm aware. I need for there to be Hebrew as a part of the services. It's just not right if it isn't there.

Ask me if I can read it. No. I cannot. Can I speak it? I shake my head. I know the words of many of the songs, some of the prayers. I will read along happily in English but something deep within me says that there has to be some Hebrew spoken. It's a must. Required. Why? I don't know. Or I do.

Because when I went to temple with my dad all those holidays - all those years of my life - every time - every season - the services were entirely in Hebrew. And while I don't wish for that I do wish for some semblance of it to exist for me. For my daughter. For my family.

And I want to be sure that come the holidays and Judaism as a whole, that my daughter learns and experiences a lot more than lighting eight candles one week out of the year.

I mean, she looks super cute doing it and all, but there's more to life than presents and potato latkes!

So - what do you think? Any words of wisdom? Advice? Experience? Tips on how you found your religion again? Or made sure you never lost it? I'm all ears. And I thank you for yours. Your ears. Your eyes. For listening. Reading. Thinking. Sharing. Maybe you don't have any experience to share, but if you know someone in your circle who does - please encourage them to do so. Y'all know where to find me. I'm the not-so-lonely-Jew-on-Christmas (in the south!).

And if you didn't get that reference, relax. It's South Park. We're all good here.

Much love. Continued nachas. L'chaim. To life. Mine. Yours. Ours.

thank you - תודה


  1. I love this post on a tricky, heartfelt topic.

    I have no answers for you. But just one tiny gem that was passed to me - it's okay not to know, to search and to wonder. Ia actually think it's better than to mindlessly do these things!

    Good luck, girl! I'll look forward to following your learnings!

  2. Hi Andrea,

    I hear you. I did find it a little earlier than you - before my oldest son was born. I'm different from you in that I'm a native Hebrew speaker, grew up mostly in Israel and was completely alienated from Judaism there because there was no role for me, as a woman.

    I left and lived in Europe for years and year without any religious connection at all.

    When I found my husband and moved to Canada with him, he found an egalitarian Conservative synagogue for us. I met a rabbi who taught me how to lead services, lay tefillin, read Torah, and feel counted and part of the community. That's what I really needed to have.

    My two sons have had their Bnei Mitzvah, and it is really important for me to know that my daughter will read Torah and lead services just like they did.

    That rabbi's family is no longer in our city, but they made such an impression on us that we became much more religious than I ever thought I could possibly be. We keep Shabbat, I went to the mikvah when it was relevant, we keep a kosher home. It's an important part of our identity.

    All of this long-winded stuff just to say that I'm older than you (turned 50 this year), did a lot of searching, maybe found a home, but these things are never static. Good luck in your search and I love your blog!

  3. It's hard to find the right place. I still haven't found a church I like and we've been here 13+ years.

    One of my (very few) memories from kindergarten is learning about the Jewish holidays - one of my classmates had his Mom come in and she brought latkes to share with the class and a few other things as well. I guess they wouldn't allow something like this today in the schools - I don't know. But even back then I remembered how interesting I found it, and I loved the latkes so much that my mom started making them for me at home :-)

  4. Just finding your blog for the first time via BlogMitzvah, but I wanted to wish you all the best. Finding the right spiritual home is never easy (though you'd be welcome at mine here in Boston, based on your list of wants). Even if you don't make services happen this year, you can still keep your daughter home and do the holiday in other ways: eat apples and honey, watch shofar videos on YouTube, send cards out to friends or relatives, do the ritual of Taslich and cast off your "sins." You can still make it special without a temple. Good luck!

  5. I also struggle with religion. Although I've worked at churches for a better part of my professional life (back when I had one), I've never felt religious. I think there's a difference with being faithful and religious, and it's hard to find a balance that works for you. But now that my son is almost three and is going to start understanding traditions and asking questions, and we have another baby on the way, I'm having a hard time figuring out how to incorporate religion into our family life. There are no easy answers. I hope you find a temple that fits your needs. But you can still share your faith and traditions without sitting in a place of worship. It's more work on your end, but you'll pass down what is important to you and your family. Good luck!

  6. Religion hasn't been a big part of my and life and it continues to remain that way. I find myself rather conflicted when it comes to religion... some things confuse me, some things make no sense, and some things just seem wrong. Could just be me though....

    I hope that you find a Temple that fits your needs and makes you happy. I wish that I had something to say or share that would be more helpful!

  7. I agree with Galit. It's okay not to know--to question and sort it out for yourself and your family. God asked us to seek, yes? So you are seeking.

  8. You know, I have the same problem. Except I'm not Jewish. I grew up in an extremely conservative Presbyterian church. Now I'm a member of an extremely liberal Presbyterian church. I have lots of friends there. But I still hate going to church.

    I have lots of hang ups about it. Such as I'm still not exactly sure what I believe. I often don't feel like I fit in because of that. However, I try to get my kids there because there is a comfort to it. I love the ritual and I honestly like the kids having and additional social outlet. If they grow up and decide not to be Presbyterian or even Christian, that is okay with me, but I do want to give them something to start with.

    I'll give you the advice I give myself: Just go. If you don't like it, don't go back. The anticipation is the worst part. You'll be glad you went.

    As a complete aside, I so wish you were in the Charlotte area, as there is such a large Jewish population here. I actually grew up going to the JCC and swam on the swim team because it was our neighborhood pool. (I wish you were here for other reasons too.) I know that RDU has a pretty big population there too, but I don't know them so they don't count. :)


  9. I think it would be very interesting and also challenging to be born into a religion such as Judaism. I was born into a Christian home but my religion is my own. I love Jesus and believe in grace. That's pretty much the gist of it, at least.

    I think you should definitely celebrate those traditions that are part of your heritage. They're beautiful, they mean something, and it's a way to connect with millions of people throughout the ages.

    Found you on the SITS forum :)

  10. You will find your way and you will find the right place for your family. Do not apologize for your requirements... what's right to you is right to you, and you don't owe anyone an explanation! :-)

    I am about to go down this road...I have gone to church with Lawn Boy...he loves his church and it's so important to him and it's just not a place I will ever feel comfortable... not sure how to even broach that... must get him to mine first and then perhaps I won't need to explain.

  11. It is definitely okay not to know.

    I say try out a few places and see how you like them and how you FEEL when you are there. Talk to the other people who are there.

    You will know the right fit when you try it on.


  12. I loved this. Just so you know, I call myself "reformadox." Wrote a piece on why for a Jewish site. I don't like to postl links on other people's blogs but if you're interested let me know. Saw this on BlogMitzvah on FB by the way. ;)


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