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is half-jewish a religion?

God, I love Jezebel. Last week, they addressed the hub of my own internal religious debates, by asking what being a "half jew" means.

As a technical "half jew" myself -- probably more complicated than half, my Dad was raised Jewish, my Mom was half and half, and raised nothing--I've always struggled a little with how to qualify my religious identity. My parents tried to qualify it for me -- upon the joyous occasion of my birth (I can't speak about their feelings of my bother's birth...I assume they were more than neutral) my parents made the choice. They decided that Judaism was the way to go. 

 

 We joined a temple! They unwillingly sent me to Hebrew School! I swore to them they'd rue the day, and I will keep that promise. Not because of Hebrew School on principle but because mine sucked. An hour every week in a room where they taught me about Joseph's coat for the millionth time - yes its colorful, yes his brothers hated him I get it!!!  It was a reform temple, pretty mild as far as religious dedication goes. But despite my early struggles, if anybody had asked me what religion I was I would have proudly said Jewish. 

Cut to now: I believe the term people use when they don't actually practice a religion they still identify with is "spiritual." We don't belong to a temple. We don't celebrate the high holy days. Mostly because we found as a family there are other ways to feel and be religious. But I still identify as Jewish, because despite the raging anti-semitism out there, the awareness of which was only heightened as I got older, I'm still proud of it.

So maybe my Mom wasn't raised a Jew. That doesn't stop either of us from now identifying as part of the Jew Crew. Beyond that, maybe I don't belong to a temple, keep kosher, whatever. Why can't Judaism just be an influence in my life rather than what shapes my whole set of religious beliefs? 

Our world is big now. Where as some of my maternal great-grandparents in Italy and Denmark probably didn't know much about any religion besides Christianity, didn't know much about religions that existed outside of their own country, I now have a world of knowledge open to me. I have learned about Buddhism, and I have been exposed to atheism, amongst many others. Religion is going global and our generation is one of the first to truly experience this diversity. 

I understand people who have stuck devoutly to one religion. I understand people who have chosen to eschew religion altogether. I even understand the feminist perspective, with so many religions being rooted in patriarchy. 

What works for me religiously may or may not work for other people. Why can't we just accept each other's beliefs, just let people be who they want to be? 

Although, if we could effectively answer and solve that question...well just imagine how this crazy world might change.



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Julie Zeilinger
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