Religiously Void

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The Tools of the Trade

“You’re too tall to be Jewish,” said a generically Jewish man to me once. I laughed, until I realized he was serious.

At 6’2”, I’m not even really that tall. Certainly, there are tall Jews out there; though, come to think of it, I’ve never really seen one. Bigfoot is tall, though I doubt he is Jewish, if he even exists.

Aside from exceeding the arbitrary Jewish height limits, I have an Italian last name and an olive complexion to match. That throws people off the Jewish trail. Further complicating matters, Columbia House tried sending me Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias CDs in the 1990s, thinking I was Latino.

If I ever do the Ancestry DNA testing kit, the results will come back, “WTF?”

An enigma, that’s what I am. My mother was Jewish, based on her maiden name. My father is something else, besides Jewish, that allows him to celebrate Christmas without feeling any guilt over not attending church.  Based on this, I have surmised that he is not Catholic. My father loves coffee, so he isn’t a Mormon either.

There are Mormon’s in my family and they may or may not drink coffee.  In fact, I don’t think it’s religiously illegal to do so anyway.  Coffee is so important to my life.

As a kid, I had the immense satisfaction of being able to celebrate the Jewish holidays with my mother’s side of the family, and the Jesus-ey stuff with my father’s side. I won’t lie: it was all about the gifts and bagels with lox. It didn’t matter to me if Santa or the Star of David graced the wrapping paper. Presents were presents, man.

When I was ten years old, I attended Sunday Mass with my friend. It felt like it lasted four days, and I decided that God would rather me spend my time playing football in the field out back on a beautiful Autumn day. I haven’t attended a Mass since.

I had heard a rumor that another friend of mine was a Jehovah’s Witness. I was intrigued, until I heard another rumor that they didn’t celebrate birthdays. This was at a time in my life when birthdays still mattered.

When I was 18 years old, I attended a Christmas Eve church service with my girlfriend because she wanted me to. Boyfriends, at that time, had no leverage over much of anything when it came to their girlfriends. It wasn’t a Catholic service, but I’m not sure what it was exactly. There was a lot of singing and some horrific-looking Christmas sweaters. We broke up shortly afterwards, and not based on my refusal to wear one of those sweaters.  I don’t think so, anyway.

Funerals of any religion are terrible things to have to attend. Anything that reminds a living person how it all ends sort of puts a damper on the thing. However, I suppose it’s better to attend one than to be the focus of one.

I was a religious chameleon when I met my wife. This allowed me to easily conform to whatever religion, if any, she happened to practice. It also avoided one of the three potentially deal-breaking questions that come up early in a relationship. Fortunately, I was also a Democrat with a preference for cats. Whew. Fifteen years later, we are still married.

Culturally Jewish, with a side of Atheism, or something like that. That’s what we are.

My wife and I are raising our kids to be Jewish, culturally speaking, though what we really expect of them is that they be kind to one another and that they not put their faith in anything that doesn’t make sense to them. We light the menorah and the ones that can sing the blessing do so. There is no pressure on the ones that cannot (me).

None of it really matters, in the grand scheme of things. We all put our pants on the same way, though if there was a religion that required its believers to not wear pants, I might consider converting.

I’ve asked the people who may end up being responsible for this to please have me cremated when I die (preferably not before) and to spread my ashes somewhere awesome, like Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, or Comic Con. Whichever happens to be geographically closer is fine with me. I won’t have much say in the matter anyway.

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