My Experience Growing up as an Honorary Jew
Growing up as a shiksa on Long Island, I've been constantly surrounded and immersed into the Jewish culture. Since I was young, my friends were always going on and on about Hebrew school and sleepaway camp, while I was attending religion and begging my mom to let me go away during the summer for a short two weeks. It was definitely confusing for me to grasp the idea that being Jewish wasn't the majority in the world. And also understanding that not all kids moms were obligated to drop off their turkey on a bagel every day for lunch, or drop them off and pick them up from school. My mom liked to make it clear to me that I could take the bus and make my own lunch.
Once middle school came around, this is when I really had to dig up the hidden Jew in me. I started using the line,”my grandma is Jewish,” so I didn't look like the odd man out. My closest family friends were Jewish and my brothers and I would always run over to their house on Passover and Rosh Hashanah. I became used to playing dreidel, dreidel, dreidel I made it out of clay, and then being rewarded with chocolate gelt. Sometimes, we were even given money for winning games. I would come home with thirty-six dollars and containers of matzah ball soup with a huge smile on my face. “Mom, look what I got from the Schafs for Chanukah!” The Jewish customs seemed like something I could definitely be into.
Around the end of sixth grade, my mailbox started getting flooded with Bar and Bat Mitzvah invitations. Looking back at it now, I've never had such a productive social life, than when I was twelve. Some weekends I would have a party Friday night, brunch Saturday afternoon, run home to change into my black tie dress for a party Saturday night, and then wake up on Sunday for another day party to finish the weekend right. One evening, I had a light bulb go off before heading out to a party, “Mom, why don't I get to have a bat mitzvah?” I already knew the answer to the question, but I felt like digging at her. I just wanted to let her know that I was not going to be happy until I got to celebrate turning into a woman like everyone else.
Once eighth grade hit, and I had attended over one hundred Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, I was ready to truly accept my role as an honorary Jew. I had my friends teach me the prayer to open the Torah at a service. Me and some of my other Catholic friends began reciting Baruch Atah Adonoy Eloheighnu Mela Halom. It came to a point where my mom had to limit me and tell me I could only go to one Bar/Bat Mitzvah a weekend. This was a tragic point in my social life and I hated my mom for a few months, as every teenager does.
Now, I am twenty years old and I'm going into my final year studying English at the University of Vermont. I am an intern at the Jewish Communities of Vermont this summer and I feel right at home. I'm looking forward to potentially getting accepted to go to Israel on birthright next summer and re-re-connecting with my Jewish roots. My favorite part about working for the Jewish Communities of Vermont is their mentality of connecting the Jewish community, no matter what association with Judaism you have. Although Judaism isn't the religion I am technically affiliated with, I still acknowledge and appreciate their practices and traditions.
Jewish Communities of Vermont relies on the donations of Jewish Vermonters like you! Together we can build a Thriving Jewish Vermont. Make your secure donation today!