I’ve been meaning ever since last Thursday to blog about this, but only now have I had pressing concerns that have spurred me to once again procrastinate away by blogging.
The degree to which I despise Judaism can be traced back to such items as the Rabbi’s yearly speeches against intermarriage, Hasidic employers (hey, a check’s a check) who would tell me that “a Jewish soul is richer than a goyishe soul,” and hearing my grandmother say about a non-Jew I was dating, “Well, you can fuck her all you like, but just don’t marry her.”
Thanksgiving with my family is always quite the experience. My grandparents have somehow morphed into single-issue voters (”Israel! Israel! Israel!”), which took these former lefties so far to the right that one would today be shocked to discover that my grandmother was once a victim of the McCarthy blacklists way back in the day. My single-issue right-wing (but otherwise lefty) grandparents make a perfect match for my sister, who is a scholar of foreign policy and currently is working with the Barack Obama campaign. Plus we have my pro-Palestinian, knee-jerk anti-Imperialist uncle, my appease-arguing-parties-at-any-cost mother, and me and my brother playing the role of Lenny Bruce at the country club.
Oh, yeah. And then there’s my mom’s boyfriend’s family of lapsed Catholics and born-again Christians. He would be a husband instead of boyfriend, but my maternal grandparents object to “Jewish assimilation” and are in a position to give out much-needed financial assistance, so my mother is in a non-marriage that’s been going on nearly a decade. Yay religion and finance!
In any case, my mom’s boyfriend’s brother just recently got off of a longstanding drug addiction, and has become a born-again Christian. We have a yearly tradition of each person at the table enumerating a few of the things for which they are thankful, and so it was only natural that he thank “Jesus, for saving me, for his infinite love, for making my life better.” (I did my best to keep a straight face because, much as I hate religion and the way they recruit vulnerable people (prisoners, addicts, people from Tacoma) I’d rather see him off of meth than on it.)
All went fine and it was a very nice Thanksgiving by all accounts. Stuffing was delicious, Karaoke was enjoyable, and the kosher turkey was a rip-off (it came half-frozen, double-priced, and still with a few feathers in it – my grandfather, who teaches Bar Mitzvah and is Ritual Director for a local synagogue, announced that we had been “Jewed out of our money”).
Things all seemed well – that is until the day after, when over lunch my Grandmother took the time to rail against D.’s having thanked Jesus Christ “in a Jewish home.” After all, couldn’t he have just thanked God and not risked offending us?
Well, no, because according to his (wacky-tacky) beliefs, it was specifically Jesus who saved him by self-sacrificing on the cross, not God. But that’s not the issue here.
The important question is – what the hell does she care? She kept asserting that the home was a “Jewish home,” and I had to repeatedly point out that the two homeowners – my mother and her boyfriend – are, respectively, a (culturally Jewish) new-age atheist, and a lapsed Catholic. But, again – who the hell cares who a guest thanks at the table? As I said to my grandmother, “How dare he thank his imaginary friend instead of your imaginary friend!”
I get a bit tired of hearing about intolerant atheists who won’t let other people be, because the truth is, in all these little moments, we tend not to give a crap. In all of the serious religious disputes our family has gone through, the atheists have never been the cause. My mom’s boyfriend hasn’t made a stink about his daughter having to go to Bible study classes, but his daughter has been raised to think that he’s living in sin and that he’s going to Hell. My mom never made a stink about Judaism, but my grandparents have been content to use financial pressures to make sure she never marries outside of the faith, and to ensure that her children get a thorough education in Jewish history (e.g., thirty hours or so of films about the holocaust, countless productions of Fiddler on the Roof, and one torturous screening of Yentl).
The attack on religion in the public sphere is most certainly handled quite well by atheists. But attacks on religion in the private sphere — between individuals — seem to come, more often than not, from the religious.
While we’re at it, the Jewish opposition to assimilation disgusts me. It is probably one of the most crucial reasons why – no matter how culturally Jewish I may be, and no matter how much Judaism has figured into my life – I refuse to identify myself as a Jew. And I was raised in a liberal Jewish community. Makes you wonder how disgusting and bigoted Orthodox and Hasidic Jews might be.
But more on that – including the time I caught a Hasidic Rabbi looking at porn, and the time my Dad was accused of being an anti-semite for taking the correct side in a zoning dispute – later.