Good Jew

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  1. Tom Matlack says:

    “A physical exercise that would bypass my judgmental brain and enter directly into my soul.”

    Thank you for this funny and heartfelt piece Jon. I share your sense of mystery at how to truly find the Devine and identity at the same time. I was raised Quaker, an odd religion born out of the Reformation in which the “innner light” causes seekers to quite literally quake in their boots. It never quite worked for me, though I certainly respect particularly my dad’s social activism based on Quaker principals of non-violence. So I would probably call myself from a cultural standpoint some kind of adopted Jew and from a spiritual standpoint closer to Buddhism than anything else. I’ve spent a lot of time praying to a Higher Power that I could stay sober, that my kids would be taken care of, that some hot woman would enter my life (she did and has been my wife for 8 years now), that I might feel some serenity.

    God comes and goes for me, but He is always waiting for me after my road trips. And the Jews in my life have taught me how to laugh, love and believe deeply.

  2. Ina Chadwick says:

    Wow! I read every word of this well-reasoned and deeply affecting essay. Raised as a WASP jew—Christmas stockings, Easter bonnets, revulsion of “old world” habits—messages that were deeply ingrained in me, this piece caught the conundrum beautifully.

    When i was 18 married a blue blood WASP and when we were divorcing, (he was a raging alcoholic) in the lawyer’s office when i said we had no furniture to divide because we didn’t even own a couch fired off with rage, “You and your Kike ideas of happiness.” Over the years I’ve had a back and forth longing to find god and feel connected to Judaism. Not feel like a Kike.

    For several years I managed a prominent Jewish newspaper, and that sent me further away from my heritage. Now, in my early 60s, I’ve joined a synagogue, reform of course. Why? When I buried a beloved aunt who was in my care, there was no one to do her funeral service. A rabbi came and offered consolation. When I occasionally go to services on a Friday night, my mind wanders but I feel at home and peaceful there.

  3. Good stuff, great stuff, and wonderful stuff. You are finding yourself, and you are finding community. You have a baby boy, and a woman who loves you. I know when I see someone who is blessed in life, and you are a blessed man!

  4. S.R. Jacobs says:

    This is the joy of growing up in a communitarian religion — Even if you don’t fit all the way in, you fit, because you’re a part of the community, a part of their hopes and future:

    “Thou shalt not separate thyself from the congregation.”


    “If you will it, it is no [mere] dream.”

    ~~ Theodor Herzl

  5. Justin Cascio says:

    I’m a bad Jew, too. Your essay made me miss going to shul with an intensity. I don’t cry easily or often, but you brought tears to my eyes. There’s a shul so close to my house that I watch the observant from my dining room window, as they go by on their way to services. I’m going to be doing another quintessentially Jewish thing this week, and talking to my therapist about why I don’t go.

  6. I was raised Jewish in an environment where I was never allowed to forget that. People felt sorry for me on Christmas. Asked me if I was allowed to eat that sandwich. My teachers looked at me strangely when I had to miss certain days of school. Classmates made Holocaust jokes. Neo-Nazis used to bully me at the beach. My synagogue was vandalized once, even.

    But despite that, as I grew up my connection to Judaism, to Jewish culture grew more tenuous. I stopped interjecting my sentences with Yiddish. I stopped praying, stopped buying kosher foods, and I even stopped thinking of myself as Jewish. Well, almost. Someone was always there to remind me that I was “a good Jew” because I “let” them say the K-word with impunity.

    Nowadays though I’ve begun reconnecting with my heritage, going to synagogue, praying, reading in Hebrew, studying up on Jewish life. I even have reconnected with my personal Jewish identity after so long trying to keep it hidden from more anti-Semitism. I went to see my great-great Grandfather’s shoes at the D.C. Holocaust museum. I took a class on Jewish mysticism. I write articles on being Jewish, and what that means. (What does it mean?)

    Your article reminds me so much of the path my kosher butt has taken. I guess we’re all, in some way, just Jew-ish.

    But I still can’t tell if I’m a shlemiel or a shlemazel.

  7. Your style is unique compared to other people I have read stuff from.
    Thank you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark this web site.

  8. Sounds like you and I should go bowling together…on Shabbos. I commend you, brother, for being able to turn the corner, that I have not been able to, on a lazy Jewish life to the active engagement. Great read!

  9. I haven’t cried like this in a long time. This was such a heartfelt article! Thank you. It made me remember my grandparents and their suffering through the Holocaust while reciting the prayers, it made think of my own children and why I keep our Jewish-ness alive in our home. It made me feel like I’m not alone in my very bad Jew-ishness being from Russia and not knowing anything about my own religion. It made me want to go to the Synagogue right away :)
    So thank you again, what a wonderful amazing uplifting article this is!!!!!

  10. It’s always interesting to read articles like these. I’ve often wondered why my own odd religious upbringing (christian cult, judaism, evangelical christian, zen-ish ;) led me completely away everything.

    My conclusion (not that you asked :)) is to realize there are plenty of people in this world who pretend to know what they are doing and what we should be doing. They don’t. The reality is that no one knows anything. So with that I say, be whatever kind of Jew you want to be. Learn, live, laugh, make mistakes, grow, cry and do whatever feels right to you because that is the only way to achieve real happiness.

    I wish you all the best and appreciate you for sharing this story. l leave you with something you may have already heard but it started me down a path of change I hadn’t considered at the time.

    “Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities, the political, the religious, the educational authorities who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations; informing, forming in our minds their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable, open-mindedness; chaotic, confused, vulnerability to inform yourself.”
    ― Timothy Leary

  11. You need to read the book: The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. Great book about similar things in which you’re talking about in your article.

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