(This portion of my post was written over a month ago)
Yesterday, I went to services and celebrated the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), which is a time of reflection and repenting for Jews so that we can be inscribed in the book of life and start with a clean slate in the new year and as I was sitting in services with a friend of mine, I gazed at the Shabbat candles, which I had just lit, and so many thoughts were running through my mind.
When I went to synagogue for Rosh Hashana, and honestly, every time I go to synagogue, I feel the connection. Sure, I don’t always know what is being said if Hebrew is being spoken, but just the Hebrew alone is enough to make me feel connected. There is something about being with people who are like you, and I sometimes miss that feeling of not feeling like the odd one out.
Earlier that day, a friend posted a video on Facebook of the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem, where thousands of Jews were praying there for the new year. All I could think in that moment was that I wanted to be there, just to sit there, pray in my own way, and take it all in. Later in the day, I spoke to the guy who pretty much introduced me to Israel, and he said the exact same thing that I was thinking. We wanted to be there…
On a side note, lately the Jewish thing has been a struggle for me. I find myself in Dallas downplaying my religion to guys that I date. It usually goes something like this, “Israel is my connection to Judaism, oh yeah, and the fact that I don’t eat shellfish or pork… I never had a Bat Mitzvah, and I grew up in a pretty non-religious household, although we did celebrate the holidays with family, but that was more for tradition than anything else.”
Throughout my 5 years in Dallas, I have gone out with maybe 4 Jewish men. I think because sometimes I think I am too much for them, which maybe I am. So I have primarily been with non-Jews and in a lot of ways, left Judaism out of my life so that I don’t scare them away. When I was talking to this guy about Rosh Hashana, I also talked to him about how I’m afraid that if I do get married, it’s going to be with sometime who A: isn’t Jewish and/or B: someone who basically makes me forget about my religion in our relationship and/or C: someone who doesn’t care to learn anything about Israel. At this point, being 34, and single in Dallas, Texas, I have almost felt like I have no choice but to date non-Jews because otherwise, I’ll be alone and never dating!
(This part was written a month later)
A week later, and the night before Yom Kippur (the day of repentance, where you typically fast for a day, go to services, and give tzedakah (money to a good cause)), I spoke with the same guy again. Now, this guy, isn’t just any guy, I have known him since I was 11 years old, I have loved him, I have hated him, I cut him out of my life at one point because my ex made me, we have seen each other around the world at numerous points in our lives, traveled together, but we were never officially together. I wrote about our history in this blog post.
I can say he is the one person who I have wondered, “what if,” with in terms of if it were to ever work out would we be married? Would we have kids? Would we live in Israel? He is the person who got away since he is now married and living in Atlanta. But for the past two years are so, we have talked quite frequently and he has even come to Dallas twice in the past year. We even talked about what it would be like if one day we had worked out, or if it would even work out since we are so completely different. I will say, since we are so different, I always had the fear that he would judge me, even just as a friend. I lead a life where I like to enjoy it, go out with friends, drink, just have fun. He is much more reserved, likes to stay home all of the time, doesn’t like to eat out at restaurants, and is just much less adventurous in general than myself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I had always worried that someone who is SO very different than me would judge me at some point for my life choices.
The night of Yom Kippur, which is probably the most important and solemn Jewish holiday of the year, he had called to wish me a happy new year, and he said, “What are you doing for Yom Kippur?” I replied, “Oh, I’m fasting, but I’m not planning on going to services. I have a doctors appointment, and I really feel embarrassed going to services by myself since I am single and everyone there will be coupled up.” He sarcastically replied with, “Well I mean, at least you are doing one of the three things that you SHOULD be doing on Yom Kippur. Why aren’t you going to services?! Those are excuses! You should be going!” I said, “Maybe you didn’t know this, but services were never really a tradition for me or my family. My family never belonged to a synagogue growing up, and while I did go over my family’s house for breaking the fast and the Jewish New Year’s, I typically did not end up going to services.”
Don’t get me wrong, as I have gotten older, I have attended services more frequently, but to be completely frank, it was never a priority and I never felt like I was any less of a Jew than anyone else for choosing not to go. It also didn’t mean that I didn’t reflect upon those who I had wronged or things that I had done wrong the previous year (which is something you are supposed to do on Yom Kippur). It just meant that I didn’t go to services to pray with everyone. I did it in my own way.
To me, Judaism is not all about praying in a synagogue. I reflect, I observe, and I celebrate holidays, in my own way, and I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that.
As the conversation progressed, he continued to make me feel worse and worse about my choice to not attend services. He then said, “CASIE, NOT GOING TO SERVICES IS A GATEWAY TO NOT BEING JEWISH OR CELEBRATING ANYTHING AT ALL!” At that point, I was pissed. So basically, you are judging me for not going to services and telling me that I am less of a Jew than you because you choose to go to services? I told him, “LOOK, I’m not any less of a Jew because I choose to not go to services and what makes me the most upset is that someone I have known for over 20 years and knows me SO well is worried that I am not going to be Jewish anymore? Of all people in the world, HE should know that if it was going to happen, it probably already would have, but no, instead he wanted to berate me about how I wasn’t being “Jewish enough” whatever that means. He got very upset, as did I, and he abruptly hung up the phone.
About 5 minutes later, he called back, and apologized. As I was crying, he said, “Casie, I’m just worried you are going to lose your Jewish identity, especially after the conversation where you told me how you most likely wouldn’t marry anyone Jewish.” In that moment, I forgave him, but after, I thought about it, and I was still really upset. He didn’t text me as frequently after that conversation, and I barely replied when he did. A few weeks later he called me and said, “Hey stranger,” as I tried not to sound too pissed off. We exchanged some frivolous conversation, and went back and forth in my head whether I should say something. But of course, me being overly honest all of the time, I said something. I told him, “I didn’t want to bring this up, but I’m still upset over our conversation.” I said, “I know, I can tell.” Then, I said something SO harsh. I even prefaced it by saying, “I had ONE worry when it came to you, and that was that you would judge me. And you did exactly that because I chose not to go to services. I don’t want to say this, and really, I’m being a bitch, but I’m going to say it anyways. What does being ‘religious’ really mean? You were worried because I chose not to go to services, so apparently that makes me not religious, but let me tell you, there are other things going on in your life that in my opinion, are also not very ‘religious’ and that G-d would probably not approve of. So does that make you not Jewish?” I KNEW that would infuriate him. And it did. He started screaming at me. “CASIE, YOU AREN’T LISTENING! I FEEL SAD FOR YOU! I FEEL SAD THAT YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO MARRY SOMEONE WHO ISN’T JEWISH! I FEEL SAD!”
Look, I get that he felt bad for me, but there are more productive ways to say that. I told him that it made me sad that a person who I have known most of my life, shared so many memories, good and bad, with, and knew me SO well, thought that ME, of all people, would forget about my Judaism if I dated someone who isn’t Jewish. And THAT made me sad.
I screamed back and said, “LET ME TALK YOU ARE’T LISTENING TO ME AT ALL.” He replied by saying, “I DON”T HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU ANYMORE. YOU CUT ME OUT OF YOUR LIFE LAST TIME AND I AM GOING TO DO IT THIS TIME. GOODBYE, CASIE. I WILL NEVER EVER TALK TO YOU EVER AGAIN.”
And he hung up the phone.
There was no call back, there was no calm goodbye or apology. And just like that, someone who I have known for 20 years, was out of my life once again.
When he hung up the phone, I had a mix of emotions. There weren’t any tears, but there were a flurry of thoughts running through my head.
It’s funny, I wrote the first part of this blog about a month ago and I put it away, thinking I would never publish it. And it’s obvious, especially after re-reading what I wrote a month ago, that I am afraid of losing part of my Jewish identity if I choose to date a non-Jew because it is important to me and has been an important part of my life, however, I also know that while the person that I am with may not be Jewish, he will learn to embrace that part of me and maybe even learn a little bit from me about Judaism and if he doesn’t, well then he probably isn’t the right person for me. I will always be a proud Jew, Israel will always be a huge part of my life, no matter if I go to services on Yom Kippur, or choose to stay home, it’s who I am and I won’t let anyone change that about me.
I feel sad. I feel sad that a conversation that could have gone so differently, went so wrong so fast. Maybe it’s my fault, as he kept telling me I was taking it the wrong way, but the things he said, cut me hard, and could have been said completely differently.
I feel sad that I lost someone who I have mentioned in my previous post, has really changed my life. If it weren’t for him, I can say that Israel most likely wouldn’t be a part of my life, and I wouldn’t have that as one of my connections to Judaism.
In a strange way, I am also grateful. I wouldn’t have learned, might I mention the hard way, what I deserve in a man. I wrote it in my past blog post, and I’ll say it again,
“I deserve someone who doesn’t just say ‘what if,’ but actually does it, that will fly across the world for me, that will be my ride or die, that will help me move forward, and will help me to overcome the difficult times.”
Oh yeah, and add in there that I deserve someone who accepts me, for ME. The Jewish, Israel loving, crazy woman, that is me.
In the end, I’m not sad. I’m happy that I have gained so much from this one individual, and although he may no longer be in my life, I am forever grateful for all that he has given me over the past 20 years.
So really, and truly, THANK YOU, for reminding me to not allow people to judge me, to stand up for what I want and deserve in a man, and to never allow anyone to put me down for being anything other than just me.