Religion & Beliefs

SuperJews and Pagans

I’ve been heavily involved in Jewish communities pretty much since birth. I’ve always kept Shabbat and holidays, I keep kosher (whatever that means), and am committed to Jewish learning, education, charity and social justice. To me, these things are normal, … Read More

By / July 27, 2007

I’ve been heavily involved in Jewish communities pretty much since birth. I’ve always kept Shabbat and holidays, I keep kosher (whatever that means), and am committed to Jewish learning, education, charity and social justice. To me, these things are normal, and also not nearly enough. I spend a good portion of every day thinking about how much more Jewish I could be acting at any given moment. I could be wearing a long skirt, and a higher neckline. I could watch fewer movies and spend more time with the Talmud. I could keep kosher in a stricter manner than I already do, spend all day every day working on social justice projects, move to a city with more Jews, become a Chabanik, or a million others things. But somehow, even though I’m incredibly conscious of how un-Jewish my life is, in so many ways, people—especially Jews—have a tendency to ask what I do, and then respond, “Oh, you’re one of those SuperJews, aren’t you?” I wish SuperJews got super powers. I wish, for instance, that we could stop time, or fly, lift phenomenal weight, or be impervious to injury and pain. At the very least I’d like to have all of Jewish law memorized and fully accessible for any discussion at any time. So far, I haven’t found that to be the case. As far as I know, being a SuperJew means you have an enormous guilt complex/insecurity, and/or get several copies of the local Jewish Federation magazine or newsletter every month. It’s not the most exciting lifestyle ever, nor does it generally feel super in any way. When someone calls me a SuperJew I feel awkward for both of us. Part of me wants to protest that I’m not that Jewish, that I could be so much more hardcore, that I still do normal things like go out for drinks with my friends, obsess about television shows, and go on bad dates. And I feel weird knowing that this other person thinks of me as such a religious fanatic, when I see myself as 75% heretic and 25% hopeful. Even if this new superlative was added in a way that’s obviously complimentary it makes me cringe. I am very conscious of just how unsaintly I am, and being called a SuperJew only makes my flaws stand out in greater relief to me. The other word that consistently makes me cringe is pagan, as in, “I’m not as religious as you. I’m pretty much a pagan.” Are you a committed Wiccan? Do you have big crazy parties on the summer and winter solstices that involve everyone sitting in a circle, holding hands and chanting? If not, then I don’t count you as a pagan. If what you mean is that you don’t keep Shabbat, or you hated Hebrew school, or you love shellfish, or you’re married to a Muslim guy, or you enjoy bondage, or you think the Torah is a blasphemous and racist book, you’re not a pagan. Not liking Judaism, or not practicing Jewish rituals doesn’t make you a pagan, even by the strictest interpretation of the Torah. Plus, I’ve met some pretty intense practicing pagans, and I bet they don’t like you tossing their religion around when you actually don’t give a shit about magick or a Horned God. I get that people who label others as SuperJews, and themselves as pagans are often do so as a defensive mechanism, but I’ve spoken to some other SuperJews and pagans, and we’d like it if people would stop it with this weird labeling. It’s neither humble nor flattering. How about giving the benefit of the doubt to whomever you’re talking to, instead of assuming she’s going to judge your religious practice? Unless of course you have the ability to impart superpowers in whichever Jews you deem fit, in which case, give me a call.