002: Doing Jewish: Away We Goy!
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
Somehow, it popped into my brain. I awoke suddenly again before my alarm, early on a June morning. Judaism. It was crystal clear in my head.
I was familiar with Judaism but also not really. Familiar with it in the way outsiders and Christians are, not in the way I am now having studied a bit. So why the sudden charge to Do Jewish?
The last several years—if we’re being honest, 8-9—have been less than stellar. I was chronically sick, had a divorce, moved a few times, changed careers, and was barreling toward a landmark birthday with a pervasive feeling that things were off, the world is chaos, my life is unrecognizable, and something was missing.
I know! Do Jewish! That’ll fix it.
So if you’re wondering why Judaism of all thing to turn to was the one to pop into my noodle that morning, I was, too. So I googled some pretty basic things that are embarrassing to google, like “What do Jews believe” and “convert to Judaism”. These are slightly less embarrassing things to google than some others you may have googled yourself, but still, I was a little surprised at how little I knew. You’d think I’d be used to that at this age.
What I found was a system, history, culture, and people that jelled with my worldview: There’s something bigger than us, and be good to each other. The nuance beyond that is highly debated and followed to various degrees, but it distills down to do unto others and don’t be a putz. You know, that golden rule we learned in kindergarten.
This is in wild contrast to the Christian prosperity gospel I grew up around (and thankfully not in). God wants Joel Osteen to have private jets but not to help the poor. As you type “Joel Osteen” into google, the first auto-suggestion appended to his moniker is “house”. I can’t tell you how many tens of thousands of souls in Los Angeles don’t have houses now. Pastor Joel has a fucking McMansion, because Jesus.
I will gladly go into more disdain for American Capitalist Christianity at a later date; it’s not the “why” of my revelation nor does rejecting one thing mean the need to embrace another, and my very quick realization that I wanted to be a Jew was certainly a huge embrace.
I think that baking in my head for 20 years somehow. That this was my tribe, but I didn’t belong anywhere and maybe not there either. Certainly 10, 15, 20 years ago I would never have thought Judaism would be for me, and yet I had enough exposure to it and its fun, smart, welcoming people, to have the wake-up call I had that June morning.