“And then he said, ‘Are you sure you’re not getting a bit too Jew-y?'”
A friend of mine was recounting an awkward phone conversation with family. My friend’s family, much like certain parts of my family, has concerns about being “too” Jewish.
I never thought about this before. In my family it doesn’t usually take the form of verbal communication, but the “too Jewish” thought is definitely still there. My uncle rolls his eyes at my mother’s observance of kashrut at holiday meals. She says, “I can’t eat that yet; I just had meat.” He says, “Why does she torture herself like this?”
Suzie and I are both slightly more observant than we were raised. My mother doesn’t eat pork, but she doesn’t really do shabbat anymore now that the kids are out of the house. Suzie’s mother is fine with bacon for breakfast, but of course she’s still excited to spend Jewish holidays with us. Suz and I, on the other hand, are asking for a ridiculous amount of dishes on our registry, so we can keep a kosher home next year.
I’m afraid that someone will roll their eyes and say we don’t need so many dishes. I’m afraid that people won’t understand when we’re having a traditional Jewish ceremony; I’m afraid someone will say, “why are they so religious? it’s not like their marriage would count anyway.” I’m afraid of the loving-but-completely-confused looks that will come from my favorite relatives when we start throwing around vocabulary words they’ve never heard of.
I know how it feels to be Reform and suddenly in a Conservadox context with strangers; it feels uncomfortable, like you don’t know things you ought to have learned years ago. It feels like you didn’t do your homework. I have no idea how much it might hurt to be in that situation with one’s own family. If my sister is more observant than I am, what does that say about me? That I’m not good enough? What does it say about her? That she’s holier-than-thou? If my sister is less observant than I am, is she a slacker? Am I so morally upright? There are so many opportunities for hurt feelings.
We all would agree naturally that different people’s levels of religious observance are none of our business, but at the same time, it’s painful and scary to observe things differently from your own family. Of course there’s a certain amount of judgment that comes along with recognizing our differences; we want to define ourselves as just right, so more is “too much” and less is “too little.” I don’t know how to fix all of this; I can’t solve all of the issues that come with Pluralistic Judaism in time for our wedding in four weeks.
But, I’m going to have some faith in my family. They’re coming because they love us, and they’re all genuinely supportive of us and our big, crazy, possibly too Jew-y, potluck wedding. I trust that they won’t say mean things, and if they’re confused about anything, they’ll just ask. They love me, and I love them, and I have nothing to be afraid of. I’m going to give my family a little more credit. I’m also going to give them a vocabulary list.
Lag B’ Blog, Day 6!
(Shabbat Shalom, everyone!)