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View from a (non)Jew

View  from  a (non)Jew

I’ve been called an honorary Jew, having been married to a Jewish man for over 25 years. I’m not sure that counts, seeing that in all those years my ex-husband never attended Temple or practiced his faith. No high holidays were ever observed, no Hanukah candles lit. So, why, does most everyone I meet assume I’m a Jew, and why do I sometimes feel like one?

It could be because I schlep, I kibitz, I have done many a mitzvah, and I am in love with a mensch. I’ve been going to Temple now for almost 2 years, an experience I’ve chosen to share with the wonderful man I now share my life with. In that time I’ve witnessed a faith that is open, accepting, loving and giving. I would like to think of myself as all those things.

Each Shabbat I’ve listened to prayers that are offered up asking for God’s blessings for all men/women, for peace, strength, favor, and healing. But mostly I hear prayers of thanks. There is a lot of gratitude in the Jewish faith. I think we could all stand to be a little more grateful.

My father raised, baptized, and confirmed me as a Catholic. My mother raised, taught and baptized me a Baptist. She took me to her church every opportunity she had. I know my catechism, the Stations of the Cross and I know my Praise the Lord renditions of the old Baptist way. I am not uneducated in the world of organized faiths, but there is no church that has me as a member. I consider myself to be a faithful person but shun the term “religious”.

I am open and appreciate all faiths that are open and patient with me. Faith is a good thing, and God, whatever name you choose to call him, is gracious and loving. I have to say, in attending synagogue, there’s something to be said for attending a worship service and not be aggressively recruited or reminded how much of a sinner I am. I appreciate both of the omissions.

There is so much about the Jewish faith I won’t even pretend to understand. I may study it one day. I’m sure I’d be the better for it. But I do understand the foundation, the music, the feeling of gratitude that fills the synagogue. It uplifts me and it encourages me.

When I attend Shabbat services, I do so without any reservations. I am there with an open mind to support the man who has my heart. With so much of the evening being in Hebrew, I greatly appreciate the Rabbi’s woven explanations of the evening’s prayers and service. They are beautiful; positive, hopeful and gracious. All things I aspire to be.

I am motivated to come back greatly by the music, and the man who sings it. They are called Cantors, and I learned very quickly that we don’t applaud them. Too bad, because he sings with such love, such emotion and such intent, that I want to leap to my feet and put my hands together loudly. (I imagine that the old Baptist way of raising your hands up in the air and swaying to the music would be deemed inappropriate.)

I listen, not understanding a word, but knowing everything that is being conveyed. I read along in the book (definitely not called the Bible), and am able to get a real translation. I appreciate the words almost as much as I do the voice. I don’t understand why Jews don’t pass a basket in the service for contributions from the congregation for the synagogue. After listening to our Cantor, if a basket were passed in front of me, I’d be putting in some big money. It’s what thankful people do; contribute; at least in a perfect world.

It occurs to me that if we really want to make it a better world, we should support those people and those things that do right by us. Synagogues and Churches are among those ‘things’, along with family, friends, and country. Jews live this, and they vehemently support their Synagogues and their homeland, Israel. I can only imagine what they are feeling in watching the events unfold in Egypt. In some strange way, I feel it too; the fear, the uncertainty, the need to prepare and to pray.

The feelings Jews have for Israel is not like anything I’ve seen. It’s committed, it’s quiet, it’s precise, and it’s serious. It feels very American to me. The dedication and quiet resolve is a little off putting, in a good way. While I don’t pretend to understand it, I can feel the passion, the purpose of it all, and I share in some of that. I guess you could call me an American Catholic Baptist almost Jew.

I’m happy just to be invited. The people, the message, the peace, the food; don’t even get me started on the food. Oye Vey! (What do they do to those cabbage rolls that make them so heavenly?)

I have lots of questions. They range from matzo balls, black hats and long curls, the book of life, to the sounding of the ram’s horn, the bris ceremony, and bar mitzvahs; all for another time, another discussion. Until then, I will learn, enjoy, eat and try to be a good American Catholic Baptist almost Jew. Oh, and yes, I will pray.

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Vicki Diamond - I loved what you had to say! Very inspirational!!

Vicki Diamond - Tammy,
Your mensch is very lucky that you are in his life! Your write beautifully and I so enjoy reading your blog!!

Debbie - Thank you for these words. These are the characteristics that I saw in you oh so many years ago. You are such a positive and inspirational woman. One whom I am happy to say would be welcomed into our Jewish community.

Maryjo Morgan - Well Said!

Jennifer - I love how you made me feel as if I was attending synagogue right along side of you. I too, am religious in the way that I believe strongly in doing right, loving each other…I don’t claim to be this or that religion, I fear that would make me feel like I’d have to stay in some little stereotypical box. I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t welcome the peace you feel. Oh, and as you mentioned the food. Mmmm.

Dede - I love your acceptance of all religions. That is what “religion” should be about and sadly digresses from.

Your blog is fantastic!!!

Janine Aguero - I found you over at Diva Cafe. Love, Love, Love your blog, especially being over 50 myself, I can relate! I was brought up as a “Catholic School Girl” but no longer practice that religion. I just started studying Kabbalah and am very motivated by the “thankfulness” that is taught so much like you mention in your blog post….so much better than the doom and gloom!

kriti - Hi Tammy,

enjoyed reading your post a lot! I got to know of you from Divas Club and will be following you too. Loved your style of writing. I am at http://kriti-howaboutthis.blogspot.com/

Tracy Majeski - Very well said! You are such a talented writer and so down to earth – I am excited to follow along and read your words of much wisdom!! Thanks for sharing

kourtnie - yeah nice

tammy - Debbie, what a very sweet thing to say. Thank you so much.

tammy - Tracy, not sure how wise my words are but am so very happy that you are following! Thanks for the post!

tammy - Janine, Us Catholic school girls need to stick together. And yes, thankfulness is so much better than doom and gloom. Thanks for the post!

tammy - Jennifer, We are of like minds. Faith is an affair of the heart. Religion seldom plays a big part in it. So happy you are following!

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