This past week, I received a message via the Uncover Ostomy contact form, in response to the lastest blog post about my Valentine’s Day festivities.
Well, more about who I chose to spend my Valentine’s Day with…
(I’ve bolded the aspects that stuck out, to me, so feel free to skip the rest.)
I hope this correspondence finds you well. I wanted to take a minute and share a couple of thoughts about your recent blog post, dated Feb 15th.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother to comment or quip about some stranger’s comings and goings, their life and their “business”…… Because it’s not any of my business, so ordinarily, i wouldn’t care enough to bother, like, what 4?
But reading that Feb 15th blog entry, I felt compelled otherwise….. and how did I stumble on the blog, one right mouse button click too many I suppose…….
Anyways, I just wanted to comment that I found your entry totally heart wrenching and disappointing. As a Jewish guy here in Toronto committed to courtship with Jewish women, I find it painful and frustrating to observe Jewish women who have totally excused themselves from embracing that same commitment, to endogamy. As a Jewish guy, I can’t court whomever. If I do, my offspring will cut off and my lineage severed. My Bubby can’t take solace in the fact that despite her grandchild’s interfaith relationship, the lineage will continue. Jewish Maternal lineage is not a loophole for Jewish women to say, ‘I’ll date whoever and it’s okay, i’ll still be Jewish and so will my kids’ etc. Apart from the sheer falsity of that thought (lol since when does a non-Jewish spouse teach their kids to sing ‘Ma’Nishtana’ on Passover?), the male half of your coreligionist (or co-traditionalist if you prefer) have no such loophole to abuse.
As a Jewish guy, it’s date whoever and sacrifice my lineage, period. And while some guys might be totally assimilated to the point where they don’t know about their Jewish identity, nor care, and thus ready to court whoever they suites their fancy…… for us Jewish guys who want to preserve our identity, we need to court inside the “community” (lol, funny notion), otherwise we face ostracism. No bris, no bat/bar mitzvah for my kids if I marry a ‘Miss French’s’. So we Jewish guys who are committed to endogamy for the sake of preserving our lineage, and note there is nothing racist in the principle of endogamy, sadly watch or female co-religionists (or, co-traditionalist) get involved with whichever guy tickles their fancy, leaving us men behind, either to remain perpetual bachelors or betray our lineage, by default forced forsake the perpetuation of a Jewish identity to the next generation. That’s why I found your post, heart wrenching.
Best of luck in all your career and philanthropic pursuits,
Ok, before I get into what I really want to say, let me give you a bit of context.
I was raised Jewish by a Jewish family.
I went to a private Jewish elementary/middle school, I had a bat-mitzvah, kept Kosher, went to synagogue on the important holidays, and I have been fully educated in all Jewish traditions, cultural norms, and history. I have been Jewish for the majority of my life. My dad’s side of the family is “reform,” where they celebrate the important holidays, attend synagogue on the most important days, and keep Kosher. My dad’s sister is actually an Orthodox Jew, and follows all Jewish traditions and rules to the letter. My mom’s side is much more “reform,” and mostly just use the Jewish holidays as a reason to get together for dinner. Besides my mother and her parents, everyone else on this side of my family has married outside of the Jewish faith, but that hasn’t stopped them from recognizing and observing some of the traditions.
My Jewish upbringing is why I was featured in this article, on ShalomLife’s “Top 20 Under 40″ list. It was a wonderful article that said some great things about this campaign. I want to, first and foremost, thank the publication for recognizing me and Uncover Ostomy.
It is this article, that I assume, is how the particular individual sent that email, came across this campaign. (I haven’t, however, determine exactly how he found out that my boyfriend isn’t Jewish.)
In case you were unsure, the point that this individual is trying to make is that, in the Jewish religion, children are determine to be Jewish based on their mother’s religion, so Jewish guys are forced to marry Jewish girls if they want to have Jewish kids. What has expressed here is his disappointment in my decision to date “whomever tickles my fancy,” (aka someone not Jewish) because I am then taking myself out of the group of potential wives for him, and his fellow Jewish brethren.
To that I say: I am offended.
He’s pretty much implying that I have taken myself out of his potential dating pool, as if I was just waiting there to be chosen.
I can pick whomever I damn choose. Sorry that you don’t have the opportunity to date me? Sorry I’ve picked someone who’s not Jewish, over you? Besides, not a single one of my past boyfriends have been Jewish.
Ok, so, at first, the “not dating Jewish guys” thing wasn’t something I did intentionally. In fact, there have been a number of Jewish guys I’ve wanted to date. Unfortunately, the Jewish boys whom I had grown-up with, and the other boys that I have since met, have never seen me as dating material. Hence, I’ve never really tried to date a Jewish guy.
I was deemed “unfit” for dating, it seems, back when I was battling my Crohn’s disease as a pre-teen. Not only was I isolated from growing up with the Jewish community because I was stuck in a hospital bed for 2 years, but I had become shy and awkward and didn’t fit in. It didn’t help that the side-effects of my medications made me look like a monster. Even after I had surgery, I didn’t know how to act in social situations and I was still overweight. I never meshed with that group, so I didn’t really bother.
It was around this time that I remember seriously thinking about the premise of Judaism, as a whole. It was during those long, lonely days that I sat, in pain, in the hospital thinking “why me?” and “what did I do to deserve this?” In school, I had learned to trust and believe in God, but during this ordeal, I couldn’t really understand why. These thoughts made me question what religion really was all about.
After surgery, however, I went back to my Jewish school and pushed those thoughts aside.
Eventually, I went on to a public highschool, where I was one of very few Jews, so I identified as such. It seemed to make sense to me, and I continued on through to university.
It wasn’t until my second year of university that my Jewish identity started to morph. I suppose it could have had to do with living outside of my Kosher household or even because I didn’t hang out with the Jewish community at my school.. which, after all, was comprised of all those kids that I had never meshed with in elementary school. Whatever it was, the previous thoughts of questioning religion that I had, had, back in my days of being sick, slowly started to creep in.
It was in second year that I had met a boy whom I liked, and we started dating. He wasn’t Jewish, but he was nice and treated me well. He was also the second boy I had been in a relationship with who wasn’t Jewish. It didn’t matter, though, because I knew I was still young and marriage would not be in the cards for a while.
Anyway, this boy and I dated for a few months into school and throughout the Christmas break. It was then that my boyfriend of the time invited me over to his family’s Christmas dinner. In response, I invited him to join me at my family’s equivalent Channukah celebration.
That is, until, my father said otherwise.
I’ll be clear and say that I adored my father, and always will…. but in this moment, everything I thought I believed, changed.
My father said I was not allowed to bring my non-Jewish boyfriend to Channukah dinner.
He explained that he expected me to marry a Jewish boy so that I could have Jewish kids. He said that bringing this non-Jewish boy into the family for celebrations was not appropriate. He said that he knew this boy wasn’t long-term, but that I needed to start thinking about my future and how I was going to raise a family.
I remember looking at him, stunned, with my jaw brushing against the rough carpeted floor.
This was a man who had always, always, always taught my brother and I to be accepting of everyone. Sure, we went to a private Jewish school, but we also went to a public summer camp, public highschool, and we had non-Jewish family friends, whom we had shared both Christian and Jewish celebrations with. I had been raised to learn about all cultures and religions and to accept everyone for who they are.
And now, suddenly, inviting a non-Jewish person to a Jewish celebration was not allowed?
I reminded him of this. I reminded him of the values he taught me.
And then I didn’t speak to him for 3 days.
To me, religion was the least relevant factor in the person I would choose to spend my life with. Why would I ever want to turn down a guy simply because he wasn’t Jewish? What if I had found the most amazing person in the world, who treated me like gold, and who would do anything for me, but he wasn’t Jewish? I’d have to say “sorry, better luck next time”? Even if he totally respected the Jewish faith? Even he let me celebrate the holidays and share them with my kids? Would it be better for me to end up with someone who didn’t respect me, simply because they followed the same rules of faith?
It didn’t make sense.
If someone loved me and I loved them and we had a happy, healthy, respectful relationship, that was the only thing that mattered.
The views my father expressed made me seriously reconsider why I needed religion in my life at all.
Eventually, he apologized and explained that he knew I was right about the idea of acceptance. He did, however, make sure to mention that he still really, really wanted me to marry someone Jewish, to keep it in the family.. I said I would see where my life ended up. And that was that.
Sadly, less than a year later, my dad died from a rare blood disease at the young age of 46.
And with him, died my need for religion.
It was during his “Shiva” (the Jewish form of a Wake, and lasts a week), that I knew religion was no longer for me. Everywhere I looked, there was something religious. A symbol. A prayer. And my Ultra-Orthodox aunt telling me that his death was “God’s way.”
No it wasn’t.
He was dead, and no part of religion was going to bring him back.
Just like I had been sick and almost died, and the surgeons saved my life.
Just like how religion was not going to play a part in how much love would exist in the marriage I would eventually choose.
And this is where I stand. This is where my journey has taken me.
Journeys are unique. Everyone experiences a different life that contributes to an individual sets of beliefs. I’ve found this especially true while doing work for this campaign, as those who have had especially rough journeys either end up with a lack of faith, like me, or with one renewed.
And you know what? To each their own.
My personal journey has led me to a place where I identify as just being me, and where I identify with an overarching set of beliefs that I do not categorize with any religion. I believe in the tenants of being kind, being respectful, being generous, and being loving. I also believe that others have the right to believe in whatever they so choose.
I, as you all know, very much believe in acceptance for all.
So, as I wrap up this long winded post, I want to say that my own personal journey has led me away from religion, and I believe that it’s ok. I want to say that I also believe that while this may be where I ended up, others end up completely different, with newfound strong belief in a higher power. While those people believe in something different than what I believe in, to me, it doesn’t matter. What matters to me is that we are all happy in the beliefs that we have chosen.
My dad passed away over 4 years ago now, and it’ been that long since I’ve stopped identifying as Jewish. I still go to Jewish family events, I still enjoy the food, I still understand the traditions and cultures, and I even still catch myself saying things like “oy vey.” I was raised Jewish, and it will always be a part of me.
My current boyfriend isn’t Jewish. He also isn’t any other religion. He was raised in a family that believed in another faith, but, like me, identifies with being himself. He believes in the same tenants that I do, of being kind and respectful and loving and accepting, and acts that way towards me. It doesn’t matter if we celebrate Channukah or Christmas, or we do both because we get to spend time with our families. What matters is that we love each other and have a wonderful relationship based on important values.
To the guy who wrote me that email: I am not Jewish, nor do I plan on raising a Jewish family. I do, however, recognize my family history and tradition, and will ensure my future children recognize it. I will also ensure that my future kids understand the religions, cultures, and traditions of all other faiths in the world. I don’t believe in Judaism, nor do I believe in any other religion.
What I do believe in, is accepting others for who they are and that they are happy with what they choose to believe in.
Maybe you should too.