In Part Seven of “Not Jewish?!” Jill puts Jung to shame with her insights on the collective unconscious. 😉 No, kidding – it’s much more interesting than that. Read on…
The ‘C’ Word
by Jill Cartwright
And way before I had to send them to the army I would have to send them to kindergarten, where they would have a childhood experience that I couldnâ€™t even begin to relate to.
I imagined them running out of their morning sessions clutching their finger paintings and babbling away about Purim or Hannukah in a language I could still only half speak. They would sing songs, watch programs and read books that were part of a tradition that I couldnâ€™t help them love.
And what about Christmas? What about those magical years when you really believe that some cheery fat man in a red suit is going to squeeze down the chimney and spoil you rotten. Thereâ€™s none of that in Israel. No high school Christmas parties, no carol singing, no exciting buildup, no countdown. Call it the cruel backlash of a capitalist consumer culture if you want, but hey itâ€™s fun.
I spent Christmas Day in Tel Aviv once; I had to ask for the day off work and it was just like any other random Tuesday in December â€“ grey, rainy and not a fairy light in sight. I spent the day yearning for the smell of turkey and the cosy presence of aunts and uncles gently dozing after eating far too much of it, their bright paper hats slipping down their foreheads and glints of sparkling wrapping paper at their feet.
â€œWell at least youâ€™d never argue about which set of inlaws youâ€™ll be spending Christmas with,â€ my sister once told me. But that wasnâ€™t the point. I wanted my children to feel that same tingle about Christmas that I still did, even at the age of 31; I wanted to pass down the silly traditions and games and myths that my parents and grandparents had instilled in me. But I would never get to see my kids with a tea towel on their heads dressed up a shepherd for the nativity play, because my children would be Jewish.
Because if Boaz and I were to get married, then we had to deal with the big C word: conversion. It was very important to Boaz that I convert and that his children be Jewish.
Now, I would not consider myself a religious person â€“ in fact as you can see, my approach to one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar â€“ the birth of Jesus Christ â€“ is all about food, family and overindulgence in every way and very little to do with the advent of the spiritual founder of my supposed beliefs.
Easter is hot cross buns and chocolate eggs, lent is giving it all up, Palm Sunday is somewhere in between and church in general is about gossipy old women and the weak strain of wobbling falsettos trying to find the right key for the dayâ€™s hymn.
But the minute someone asks you to give it all up, something strange happens on a molecular level. Itâ€™s like someone has asked me to rewrite my DNA coding, to unlearn everything that has been imprinted on my psyche from age 0. My religion meant nothing to me, I thought, but give it up? Now everythingâ€™s gone a little shaky.
And wasnâ€™t it all a little hypocritical? Did a word really make all the difference? Wasnâ€™t I just playing into the hands of institutionalized religion? I mean there are things I like about the Jewish religion and there are things I like about the Christian religion; Buddhism has a lot of appeal as do parts of Hinduism, but I, and all of us, have read enough about perverted priests, rampant rabbis and suspect spiritual leaders to want to shun the whole idea of an organized belief system. And I felt that by converting, by consciously choosing to be part of a religion, I was giving my backing to such managers in the huge business of God; that I was saying â€œyesâ€ I agree to be a part of what you represent. And that kind of clashed with my principles.
It was a big decision. But it was one I was prepared to take had I felt the motivation were strong enough. If I were to convert, I wanted to convert because I truly felt it, that I truly wanted it with all my being, for me, for Boaz and for our life together. And it was then that I faced what I had really known somewhere deep down all along – that I didnâ€™t want to convert for Boaz.
And so I turned back to him and in a small voice filled with heaviness said, â€œNo, I donâ€™t think weâ€™ll ever get married.â€
â€œBassa,â€* he said in a half-hearted attempt to lighten the moment, but as we started to gather up our things and brush the sand off our feet, a heaviness hung over us and it was clear to us both that things would never be the same again.