Religion & Beliefs

Save me Jeebus (from a tepid Jewish experience)

Manya Treece has written something pretty wonderful for SoMA Review, about how her evangelical (which, btw, is NOT the same as "fundamentalist") grandmother helped her explore her Jewish faith. And this is of great interest to me, not only because … Read More

By / November 1, 2006

Manya Treece has written something pretty wonderful for SoMA Review, about how her evangelical (which, btw, is NOT the same as "fundamentalist") grandmother helped her explore her Jewish faith.

And this is of great interest to me, not only because I– like Manya– had a Christian grandmother (or even because I also, oddly enough, lived a block from the Reform Congregation in Chattanooga, TN) but because I'm interested in how often it is our non-Jewish experience of "faith" that teaches us to be comfortable with the "faith" elements in Judaism. And the language of that faith.

Why is that?

I think maybe it's because most of the time, when we do use these ooky religious words, we say them in Hebrew, a language many of us don't actually know, to say words like "God" and "Holy." To "pray." And in Hebrew, those words connect us back to something ancient and historical, even though the translations of such words make us itchy. They remind us of a high school trip to Jerusalem, of "the past."

But shouted in, say, a grocery store, in plain English, "The Lord is Our God" sounds freakish and weird. It sounds… Christian.

Because Judaism isn't a religion like that. It's smart, academic, political. Sarcastic and cynical even.

Am I wrong?

So, given a Reform/Secular Jewish education, I knew, by middle school, that "Jews don't have to believe in God" and it was actually the Catholics is my own life (I grew up in Maryland, which is heavily Catholic) who helped ease me into an awkward ease with words like "prayer" and "faith" and "God." Or "G-d."

But enough about me. What about you? What do you say if someone asks (as I am doing now I guess) DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?

And then please tell me whether you've had outside (non-Jewish) experiences that affected the way you practice as a Jew.

And then (if I may be so bold) I'm also curious about your religious upbringing. What flavor of Judaism did your family practice (or not)?

(Oh, I hope I haven't scared you off)