Every Sunday of my life, save maybe...four, were spent outside of a church. Forteen out of sixteen years I spent each night telling my self stories to rest my mind before going to sleep rather than praying. I never believed in God, much like my Atheist parents, trapped within a Christian and Southern Baptist family. I spent my short life listening to my parents talk about their experiences in church, and about how vile religion seems to be.
Not until my own observences did I come to realize many things.
I play viola, really I do, and I play with groupes, mostly around Christmas in churches. I've played in a Presbyterian church, Baptist, German Church of Christ or something or other, and many others. I've sat through mass and such with an open mind, because I believe in my heart that is the only way to live. I'll get to that in a moment. In each of these places, I was shocked by one thing or another. I, in all honesty, find religion, all religions, beautiful and peaceful. However, I was still shocked. The ritualistic ways of a Catholic wedding, beautiful, but it's odd being the only one who doesn't take comunion. Not to mention, I thought I'd be gray before I got out. The Presbyterian, was interesting because the sermon was given my a woman, but it was about how miserable 'this life' is and about how we won't be truely happy until we die and go to heaven. She said that we should slave away this life to God so that we may thrive in Paradise. The Baptist church's sermon was about the many down falls of the Jews, which was typical I came to find out. However, I began to realize half way through the first service how odd it was, since in the arrangement of Christmas music we were playing, was Hark! The Harold Angels Sing. This may be completely insignificant to many, but I'm sure that the director of music and the pastor didn't know that Felix Mendelssohn was a Jew. The Church of Christ was about non-believers, blacks, and Jews.
I had just about lost all faith in religion at this point, except for one friend I have. A non-denominational Christian, Renaissaince faire go-er, and equestrian. Never have I met such a strong person. My dear friend, I won't mention her name, is devout as anything, prays, attends church, honestly believes that Jesus was the Messiah, and yet, is the most loving, open-minded, liberal person I've ever met. She alone reconstructed my faith in religion. She holds on to her own fatih, but does not use it to hold anything against anyone, and she is just strong. If it wasn't for her, I would share my parents' views about Christianity.
My mother was raised Southern Baptist, while my father, some denomination of Christianity. My mom, a wonderful person, is conciderably open minded, and really only has qualms with her old religion. She says often she 'just doesn't have a need for it', but doesn't bash other religions. My father, however, is vocal about his dislike for religion. All of it. He makes fun of Christians, says bad things about Catholics, and laughs at the Jews. Other than this, I normally find my father to be a very intelligent person, just very closed minded.
In my experience, religion is wonderful. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Christianity, it's all wonderful. I often times say that I love God but fear his followers. Not all of them, just some of them. I may be politically incorrect, but I target no one. I view all people as brothers and sisters, and I believe that everyone is worth something and nice deep down inside, even if their souls seem to be black and empty. I believe that forgiveness is the most beautiful thing, even when it's very hard to find. John Lennon was right, love is all you need.
Now, where am I going with all of this? Well, even from my end, it's hard to say.
A few years ago, I put aside my athiest upbringing and began to research Judaism. This sparked my interest in world religions. I was very interested at once in this particular religion. The beliefs are absolutely fitting to what I believe as a person, and I try to live my life by them. Tzedeka, man's duty to take care for his fellow humans, right down to how God is not one being, but is everyone and everything, and how when you are alive, 'this life', on this earth, is when you are with God. No one knows what lies afterwords, and it's not really important as long as you live 'this life' to the best of your abilities. There really is something behind L'Chaim as I have found.
Now, as I believe, religion is a very personal thing, and no one should be able to tell one how to study, how to believe, or what to believe. I was told the latter of the three. I was taunted for years about it, and received, pardon my French, but tons of shit for it, mostly from my dad. He told me I was stupid for it, that the only reason I turned to it was because plain old white kids don't have a culture, so I went to Judaism. I was told that even by conversion I would never be accepted.
Haha, well, silly me. Believe in something. At any rate, I studied, I read, I prayed. My parents and my self all have clinical depression, which comes and goes, and for those of you who have read my poems and short stories, probably understand now. Haha, well, Judaism and my fruitless studies helped me get through it. My mom understood, my dad didn't though. Didn't and never did, even though most of my anxiety and depression was caused by him. My mom now realizes this.
I'm not writing this to search for 'oh poor you's and wallow in self pitty, I'm writing this to clarify my own thoughts and to bring forth some statements I want people to know.
At any rate, along with this, I have quite a pechant for history. My sister does as well, and made a genology for our family. I always loved it, and have read it several times. But it never really meant that much.
I have another friend, a wonderful girl, who has been convinced since I met her, (note that she knew nothing about my studies, I tried to confine my thoughts to only a few people), that I was Jewish. I never said a word about it, she just came to me one day and was like, "You look like Anne Frank."
I responded with my normal response, as I'm used to getting random things like that from random people, "I'm not Jewish I'm Eastern European. My family's Polish and Lithuanian."
She looked at me and smiled, "shut up, Jew."
So, silly me went and looked up my last name and the last name of my great-grandmother, who's mother and father were Lithuanian. My great-grandfather was German. Well here's what I got.
(I feel like Arlo Guthrie in Alice's Resturant-- have you reabilitated yourself yet?)
POLISH JEWISH LAST NAMES.
More over, RARE POLISH JEWISH LAST NAMES.
Well then. Not only that, but I have a few more pieces of the puzzle.
My great-grandma and great-grandpa would not allow any German spoken in their home. They, along with that, successfully erased all of their former culture from their home. My great-great grandmother changed her name to a more American sounding name when she arrived here with her family from Europe.
So she spoke Lithuanian, but bore a Polish last name. Germany, Poland and Lithuania are all next door neighbours though. My great-grandfather was in Germany, but also bore a Polish last name.
So, Polish and Lithuanian is, as it seems, synonomous with 'Jewish'. Lihuania did lose the largest number of people in the Holocaust, not to mention the Jewish population of Warsaw alone pre-WWII was over several million, and post-WWII was only about ten thousand. My family left Europe before WWII.
It does not seem impossible to me that Jewish families who's faith was not particularly strong would abandon it completely, especially if coming to America, where white-Protestant is the norm, or is viewed as the norm.
And so, the entire point of this thing is...
I have drawn from conclusion, records, research, and family accounts that my father's side of the family is indeed of Jewish origins. So, though only a quarter, I grant myself the god-given right to study and convert. And damnit I will if I so choose, if I so feel like it. Haha, take that antagonistic forces! Geneaology has triumphed over the forces of good and prejudice.
I thank you greatly for reading, enduring if you will. But this has been bothering me. For a very long time.
L'Shalom, my lovelies.
I promise this won't interfere with my exceedingly morbid, neo-Victorian poetry.
I am proud for my origins, and, even though it's only a quarter, it's the majority of my herritige. Everything else is not more than a sixteenth or such.