I’m a Jewish kid from New York. Or at least, I used to be a kid, and I grew up in New York. And I’m still (proudly) Jewish, even though I am what some people would call non-observant. Or at least I thought I was non-observant until a wonderful Rabbi–a gentleman I’ve gotten to know through the magic of social media–informed me that the only thing required to be considered an observant Jew is to love my neighbor as I love myself. So I guess I am an observant Jew after all!
Through a series of unusual and sometimes unfortunate events, I no longer live in New York, and I now live in the great (though very frustrating) state of North Carolina. Hey y’all! I’m a Yankee Jew. Or really a Damn Yankee Jew, since a Yankee is a northerner who comes to visit and a Damn Yankee is one who stays. I ain’t from around here, am I? No. No I’m not..
I live in a fairly small and fortunately progressive College town, and I absolutely love it. Today is Easter, and the numerous churches are ringing their bells and filling up for this special day. It’s the kind of friendly town where people say hi to me even if they don’t know me,and on a day like today they will say “Happy Easter”, never taking into account that it may not be ‘my’ holiday. And while there was a time in my life when I would say “Well thanks, but I’m Jewish”, which was always a bit awkward for me to say (and probably for them to hear as well), I now simply smile and thank them and wish them the same. It’s not that I want to cop out, but the same Rabbi who taught me that I really am an observant Jew also taught me that they are coming from a place of goodness, wanting me to share in the joy of the day. And I like that. So I don’t feel a need to correct them now.
But the other thing is that I’m also single, and my parents have passed away, and I’m not very comfortable joining a temple which boasts how many member families it has when I don’t have a family of my own. Passover was recently celebrated, and while I’m sure I would have been welcomed with open arms at the local Temple, I could not bring myself to go. I just didn’t want to walk in without someone joining me. I don’t mean to be melodramatic about it. But with my parents gone, my sister living her own life, and not a lot of Jewish friends to begin with, I chose to let the holiday come and go without much fanfare. And without any matzoh ball soup or brisket or kreplach, Jewish specialties that my mother (and also my dad when he was alive) would cook with love, I just don’t feel it anymore.
I do want to wish everyone who celebrates it a very happy and wonderful Easter. Maybe I can join in the celebrations in my own way, in the spirit of the Rabbi who taught me to accept the “Happy Easter’ greetings I get. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe I’ll stop at the temple tomorrow. Maybe I’ll visit a church today. Maybe I’ll cook up some roasted chicken the way my mother used to make it (although it will not taste as good). Or maybe I’ll do what I really love to do and spend some time listening to music. I consider that to be close to a religious experience anyway.
I also want to say to my atheist friends: Be nice to our friends of faith. I am passionately opposed to religious fanaticism, but I also know some wonderful human beings who are deeply religious–my rabbi friend for example. As liberals, I think we need to keep our minds and maybe even our hearts open to things we disagree with. The results may surprise us.
Happy belated Passover, Happy Easter, of if you opt out of the whole thing, Happy Sunday. Happy life. Be good to each other, today and always. Peace…