13 Things You Deal With When You're Not Religious – But In A Jewish Family

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23: Bill Maher attends a DuJour Magazine celebration of 12 seasons of REAL TIME with Bill Maher at UP&DOWN presented by GILT and TW STEEL on June 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images)
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The cool thing about being Jewish is that you can identify as being Jewish and still not believe in god. While Orthodox Jews might disagree with me on that, it’s absolutely irrefutable; since Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity, I can eat as much bacon and tattoo myself in as many crucifixes as I want and I’ll still have bona-fide Jewish blood running through my veins. However, getting along with your Jewish family is a whole other story. 

I’m lucky in that my family isn’t super religious. I mean, my mom will pretend she feels bad about making pork chops for dinner.  Someone will Google a prayer to recite before a major holiday meal. We keep Judaism pretty casual. But yet, everyone is expected to loosely hold on to some kind of faith in god. Belief was just kind of expected, even though nobody really talked about it. 

I was in high school when I decided I didn’t believe in god. I just couldn’t visualize it. The idea of an Almighty Being in Control of Everything seemed so problematic to me. Like, if you have the capability to create a universe, why subject it to the Holocaust? Or Vietnam? Or Justin Bieber? In evolutionary terms, I figured, religion was a good way to keep tribes from killing each other off, and if that’s what society needs, then so be it. When babies die of SIDS or teenagers suffer from leukemia, I don’t think god “needed another angel”. I think shit just happens and our bodies are frail and imperfect. Anyway. That’s just me. And maybe the rest of us Jews who don’t believe in god but have to live with people who do. Here are some common issues we face: 

1. You get dirty looks when you order a bacon cheeseburger 

Even though pigs have been fairly clean for awhile now, they are still suspect to diseases and I totally get that. Eating dirty animals never did anyone any good. But this still doesn’t stop me from ordering a plate of bacon at Denny’s and inhaling it in three seconds. Also…meat and cheese together? Total Jew faux pas. A delicious, delicious faux pas.

2. Your mom has threatened to have a heart attack if you get a tattoo 

Tattoos are considered a dirty abomination. When I got my first tattoo, my mom wouldn’t leave her room for several weeks; she was mourning my loss of purity. I’m damaged goods, y’all. 

3. If you went and got a tattoo, your dad reminds you that now you can’t get buried in Jewish cemetery, so way to go 

Nor can you get a good job, find a nice Jewish husband, or really be taken seriously as a serious human being again. You piece of tattooed trash, you. 

4. Even though there is no god, Jewish Guilt is just as efficient 

Do I fear god? No. Do I fear my mother’s wrath? Absolutely. If I don’t call her or see her at least once a week, she will claim I don’t love her, and what am I trying to do? Break her heart? Kill her? It’s best that I just call her. 

5. Conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are torture 

I avoid these like Ebola. Nothing good comes from a discussion about Israel and Palestinians. You come out either a traitor, a self-hating Jew, or a bigot. No, thank you. 

6. You hid your Christian boyfriend from your parents for two years 

Nobody had to know you were dating a goy. 

7. Your parents were really sad you had no Jewish friends 

Who is going to steer you in the right direction? Who is going to go with you on your Birthright trip? Certainly not these Christian heathens. 

8. And when you finally made some Jewish friends, you instantly regretted it. 

Your mom hovered over you, asking important questions like, “What’s her last name? Are her parents doctors? Is she going to med school?” And then these questions quickly turned into accusations, like, “Why aren’t you going to med school? Look at Rebecca, she’s going to med school, her parents must be so proud of her.” 

9. Sometimes you prefer Christian holidays because they’re all about being jolly 

No offense, Jewish holidays! I love you. You know I do. But sometimes it’s nice to just celebrate shit instead of feeling guilty and sad about it. 

10. Your parents constantly remind you that everyone who is important is Jewish 

1. Everyone in Hollywood. 2. Albert Einstein. 3. Natalie Portman. But to you, people are just people. 

11. Your family wants a Jewish wedding very, very badly 

So right now we’re in the process of looking into a reformed Rabbi who will marry me and my Polish-Catholic-Turned-Agnostic fiancé and it’s been really, really fun. NOT. 

12. You had a half-hearted bat/bar mitzvah 

Since you would much rather be at the mall gossiping with your friends and stuffing your face with Cinnabon than memorizing Hebrew, you didn’t put too much heart and soul into Becoming A Woman. 

13. You mix up Yom Kippur, Passover, and Rosh Hashanah 

Which one is the one about the hidden matzo again? 


Images: Getty, Giphy(6)

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