In late December 1960 standing there alone, terrified, being forced to speak a language I did not understand, (although I thought the characters beautiful and interesting) I think I finally understood that at a profound level, I was totally lost.
I already had a glimpse of this over the past months, as I was forced on a weekly basis to attend Hebrew classes in preparation for my Bar Mitzvah into manhood.
I had week after week recited passages that I did not understand or believe. I had learned to speak the language, but any Holy Spirit had eluded me. The walls around me seemed so baron and empty.
I had vigorously protested this whole exercise with my father, but he in deference to his parents, and with the opportunity to have a large lavish party, dismissed my protest.
Although we were only nominally reform Jewish, life in the late fifties and early sixties was segregated not only for blacks, but for the most part for Jews as well.
There were non-Jewish sports clubs, country clubs, neighborhoods, etc. and the Patrician WASP culture of America, although much kinder and accepting of Jews than Blacks, in their hearts felt a Jew to be ugly, crass, and second rate. Jews were very smart and cunning, but for the most part to be avoided as good close friends. They were a different breed with far less style and breeding than their Christian counterparts in the elite East Coast corridor of America.
My mother in her never-ending attempt to expunge Judaism from our home, mimicked the WASP culture to a tee. She could have put Ralph (Lipschitz) Lauren to shame.
We became a family that socialized with likeminded Jews but we all looked like we didn’t quite belong. My sister and I went off to boarding schools and we too appropriated the style and demeanor of our Christian associates. I learned how to out-prep the preppies in my dress and learned how to emulate the WASP culture and continually put myself up for comparison. I didn’t have the blond hair or the blue eyes. I didn’t excel at sports. I was second rate, but I still wanted to be seen past my Jewishness, past my curly hair, my nose, past this exterior, I was never apart of, and be accepted by those of style, and provenance for being acceptable. Although I wasn’t born into it, it was the only culture that felt right, and I wanted to be a part of it.
In later years I went to Chapel at boarding school daily, recited The Lords Prayer, sung the carols, gave penitence, but still found myself both culturally and spiritually on the outside looking in. I yearned for assimilation, something to be apart of, something I could believe in, and in the end although I came very close to membership I never felt I truly belonged.
So on this Easter Holiday, this Moveable Feast that intwines the Jewish holiday of Passover with the Christian holiday of Easter which celebrates the resurrection of the Son of God I find myself as always wondering what if ?
What if Jesus was the actual Son of God. How different our lives would be. This Good News would allow us to know our purpose, our reason for existence, and how to live our lives. We would be allowed to forgive our trespasses, and find peace and grace on this earth. His Kingdom Would Be Done.
But on that late December day on the eve of Jesus’s birthday, as I looked out over the congregation in search of my Father, although I think I may have seen him in the distance, I never was able to reach out my arms, my soul, nor lift my gaze, and find peace. I remained, as always, on the outside feeling very much alone.