Yesterday afternoon, I formally converted to Judaism.
When I first met Marc, and immediately got pregnant :-), I was completely freaked out about the fact that he was Jewish. I didn’t know ANYONE who was Jewish and the thought of trying to balance out his traditions with mine was really scary. I knew that I wanted to raise her to have an awareness and understanding of her whole heritage, not just mine, and started reading all that I could about Judaism. We talked, incessently at times, about what being Jewish meant to Marc, what he hoped it would mean for his children, how I felt about raising her in a faith that wasn’t mine, what was best for her, for him, for me, and for us. And agonized and stressed out and worried and read. Read, and read, and read. I think at this point, I’ve read more books on Judaism than Marc’s entire extended family.
And the more I read, the more I started to realize that this was what I wanted. Not just for the kids, but also for me. This was an organized Church of Melissa – this summed up what I felt about the Divine, about my responsibility as a human being, about what I wanted for me, for my marriage, and for my kids. And once Jess got a little older, and started asking about God, it was easy to find the answers to give her in Judaism. It was easy to explain spirituality and make her a part of a community of people who all felt the same way. It was easy to show her a code of conduct, a way of living her life by showing her Judaism.
But… it’s still so hard for my family to understand. I have a complicated mix of pagans, witches, C & E Catholics (Christmas and Easter Catholics) and “I believe in God but not in organized religion” people in my family, but I don’t have anyone who actually belongs to a church, let alone a synagogue, and actually attends on a regular basis. Nobody who thinks that sending Jess to Hebrew School twice a week and attending services on Saturday is a good idea. Nobody who sits down with the their kids every single Friday night, has a big family dinner, blesses the children and makes a big production of it. And certainly nobody who voluntarily observes Shabbat, with no television, no computer, no driving if we can avoid it, and family time. They love me, they love my kids, but think I’m out of my mind.
I try to balance it out, make everyone know that I’m still me, I just light candles on Friday night, and really want to live my life this way. I really want to raise my children to feel a sense of obligation and gratitude for all that they’ve been blessed with. I want to hold them to a high standard of academic achievement, to encourage them to take nothing on faith, but to make up their own minds about everything. I love Judaism. I feel at peace with the decision. It’s like I found a whole group of people who want what I want, who believe what I believe, and I love that and value what it means for me and for my children. But I really struggle with wanting my family to understand that I couldn’t do any of this if I hadn’t been taught to make my own decisions, if I hadn’t learned these values from them. That going thru the mikvah doesn’t change anything about who I was, who I am, it just adds a layer onto to it.
On a side note – Sam’s watching Spongebob Squarepants. I never let my kids watch it, but it was on after Diego and I was doing dishes… and when I realized it was on and went to change it, he started crying. Feel like a bad mother because of it, but like the fact that I was able to type this whole thing in one fell swoop 🙂