PDA

View Full Version : Return to the Religious Fold - 1967 and Today



JBG
01-31-2010, 10:42 PM
I am writing this post after having attended the traditional annual observance of a death, "Yart-site" (sp). I have gone most years since my Dad died, on January 5, 1973. I skipped last year since my mother was in the hospital for a broken ankle, and duties to the living always supercede duties to the dead. This post covers my initial alienation and later return to Jewish life. Though I am to this day not observantly religious, I do now partipate, proudly and actively.1

My religious education started, in Scarsdale, New York, during Academic 1967-1968 (Jewish Year 5728) with a lovely Hebrew School teacher on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a very good Sunday school teacher for the religious component of my Jewish education. That year I developed a genuine interest in both the religion and learning Hebrew. This was in preparation for what became my May 2, 1970 Bar Mitzvah.

Thereafter, each year the instruction deteriorated. By my Bar Mitzvah year, Academic 1969-70 (Jewish Year 5730) spitballs were flying around regularly in the religious school class. People were mimicking the thick Israeli accent of the Hebrew School teacher. Myattitude became, essentially, that if the teachers and administration of the Temple didn't care about my Jewish education, neither did I. I cleaned out desk on May 4, 1970, never to return to religious school. To be fair to the Temple, this was the 1960's, the era of "do your own thing."

Two things, neither spiritual, brought me back into the fold. The first, by itself, wouldn't have made a difference. I was 15 at the time. During late October 1972, I met someone at my high school weather club for the first time who I now consider my closest friend, who had a decidedly gentile last name. Let's call him "Jim Smith" (not his real last name). I was telling one of the typical bad "there was a lawyer, a rabbi and a priest" jokes. Mr. Smith interjected immediately "you're Jewish, aren't you? Don't you have pride in that?" Shamefully I conceded he was right. I didn't think we were going to be friends since he was wearing a "Nixon and Agnew in '72" button. I was a member of Students for McGovern. The second thing was more significant. My father, a decided agnostic, was rapidly sickening and dieing that fall. I do note that despite my father's agnosticism, we both walked to Temple on Yom Kippur 1972, about a one-mile walk. I think he knew that it was his last.

On January 4, 1973, knowing that death was imminent, my mother and I had a long session with our Rabbi to go over the eulogy. He explained much about the Jewish approach to death and post-death, an approach that has a lot to recommend it. he died peacefully early the next morning, January 5, 1973. That renewal of instruction in Judaism, on a serious basis and without the spitballs, really piqued my interest.

After his death, I realized that many of my childhood friends had little to offer. Compared to other high school students arriving from elsewhere in the District they were quite immature. Thus, the story returns to Jim Smith, and other similar friends I made through the Weather Club, the student newspaper and the high school band, which I had joined in September 1972. I pretty much reshuffled my deck as to who my friends were after receiving condolensce notes that were barely written in English from my grade-school friends. And this in an affluent Jewish school district in suburban New York. That spring, I attended, on my own and without my mother the Temple's communal Seder. The next fall, for the first time, I fasted on Yom Kippur.

Fast forward first to last winter. Jim Smith's father died, and I was in attendance at the Shiva. Yesterday morning, his mother passed away.

Again, fast forward to today, when I was honoring my father's Yart-site (sp). When I was at the Temple's Torah study group's minion (yes, the same Temple I grew up in) they asked for names of people we were honoring by the Kaddish, whether for Schloshim, or Yart-site (sp). Before reciting my father's name, I mentioned that a close friend's mother had passed on but was yet unburied. I mentioned my understanding that Kaddish not be read for that person. The Rabbi confirmed it, whereupon I uttered my father's name.

After study group, I shared my experiences both with someone I knew from high school band that spring of 1973, and someone I just met this morning. The consensus was that this generation that is in it's middle-age now is a fair bit more religious than the prior generation. I think it's a good sign for the vitality of the religion. Almost weekly adult Torah study has replaced spitballs. Back in the day, there was no adult Torah study. Even better, many of my sons' peers actually care about Judaism.

It is, of course, easy to be alienated from religion, or any activity. All it takes is a bad coach, teacher, or peer experience. The tricky part is getting someone back. In my case, it took a combination of my cracking a bad joke, and then a tragedy. In my view, it's worth it.

Thoughts?

1This thread is similar though not identical to one I started at BloggingTories (http://www.bloggingtories.ca/forums/viewtopic.php?p=83872) (link). Before posting, I ran this by the Greg Farries, the forum Administrator and got his approval.

Jim

Rockntractor
01-31-2010, 11:29 PM
I am writing this post after having attended the traditional annual observance of a death, "Yart-site" (sp). I have gone most years since my Dad died, on January 5, 1973. I skipped last year since my mother was in the hospital for a broken ankle, and duties to the living always supercede duties to the dead. This post covers my initial alienation and later return to Jewish life. Though I am to this day not observantly religious, I do now partipate, proudly and actively.1

My religious education started, in Scarsdale, New York, during Academic 1967-1968 (Jewish Year 5728) with a lovely Hebrew School teacher on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a very good Sunday school teacher for the religious component of my Jewish education. That year I developed a genuine interest in both the religion and learning Hebrew. This was in preparation for what became my May 2, 1970 Bar Mitzvah.

Thereafter, each year the instruction deteriorated. By my Bar Mitzvah year, Academic 1969-70 (Jewish Year 5730) spitballs were flying around regularly in the religious school class. People were mimicking the thick Israeli accent of the Hebrew School teacher. Myattitude became, essentially, that if the teachers and administration of the Temple didn't care about my Jewish education, neither did I. I cleaned out desk on May 4, 1970, never to return to religious school. To be fair to the Temple, this was the 1960's, the era of "do your own thing."

Two things, neither spiritual, brought me back into the fold. The first, by itself, wouldn't have made a difference. I was 15 at the time. During late October 1972, I met someone at my high school weather club for the first time who I now consider my closest friend, who had a decidedly gentile last name. Let's call him "Jim Smith" (not his real last name). I was telling one of the typical bad "there was a lawyer, a rabbi and a priest" jokes. Mr. Smith interjected immediately "you're Jewish, aren't you? Don't you have pride in that?" Shamefully I conceded he was right. I didn't think we were going to be friends since he was wearing a "Nixon and Agnew in '72" button. I was a member of Students for McGovern. The second thing was more significant. My father, a decided agnostic, was rapidly sickening and dieing that fall. I do note that despite my father's agnosticism, we both walked to Temple on Yom Kippur 1972, about a one-mile walk. I think he knew that it was his last.

On January 4, 1973, knowing that death was imminent, my mother and I had a long session with our Rabbi to go over the eulogy. He explained much about the Jewish approach to death and post-death, an approach that has a lot to recommend it. he died peacefully early the next morning, January 5, 1973. That renewal of instruction in Judaism, on a serious basis and without the spitballs, really piqued my interest.

After his death, I realized that many of my childhood friends had little to offer. Compared to other high school students arriving from elsewhere in the District they were quite immature. Thus, the story returns to Jim Smith, and other similar friends I made through the Weather Club, the student newspaper and the high school band, which I had joined in September 1972. I pretty much reshuffled my deck as to who my friends were after receiving condolensce notes that were barely written in English from my grade-school friends. And this in an affluent Jewish school district in suburban New York. That spring, I attended, on my own and without my mother the Temple's communal Seder. The next fall, for the first time, I fasted on Yom Kippur.

Fast forward first to last winter. Jim Smith's father died, and I was in attendance at the Shiva. Yesterday morning, his mother passed away.

Again, fast forward to today, when I was honoring my father's Yart-site (sp). When I was at the Temple's Torah study group's minion (yes, the same Temple I grew up in) they asked for names of people we were honoring by the Kaddish, whether for Schloshim, or Yart-site (sp). Before reciting my father's name, I mentioned that a close friend's mother had passed on but was yet unburied. I mentioned my understanding that Kaddish not be read for that person. The Rabbi confirmed it, whereupon I uttered my father's name.

After study group, I shared my experiences both with someone I knew from high school band that spring of 1973, and someone I just met this morning. The consensus was that this generation that is in it's middle-age now is a fair bit more religious than the prior generation. I think it's a good sign for the vitality of the religion. Almost weekly adult Torah study has replaced spitballs. Back in the day, there was no adult Torah study. Even better, many of my sons' peers actually care about Judaism.

It is, of course, easy to be alienated from religion, or any activity. All it takes is a bad coach, teacher, or peer experience. The tricky part is getting someone back. In my case, it took a combination of my cracking a bad joke, and then a tragedy. In my view, it's worth it.

Thoughts?

1This thread is similar though not identical to one I started at BloggingTories (http://www.bloggingtories.ca/forums/viewtopic.php?p=83872) (link). Before posting, I ran this by the Greg Farries, the forum Administrator and got his approval.

Jim
A lot of us when we leave home want to live our lives on our own terms. When we are young we have the idea that we are immortal but as we grow older we become aware of our own mortality and many of us return to the religion of our youth.

JBG
01-31-2010, 11:34 PM
A lot of us when we leave home want to live our lives on our own terms. When we are young we have the idea that we are immortal but as we grow older we become aware of our own mortality and many of us return to the religion of our youth.Interesting.

In my case I "returned" long before leaving home. And my parents were never big at all on the Jewish faith. The generation in their 40's and 50's is definitely, as a whole, bigger on the faith than their parents' generation was.

Rockntractor
01-31-2010, 11:44 PM
Interesting.

In my case I "returned" long before leaving home. And my parents were never big at all on the Jewish faith. The generation in their 40's and 50's is definitely, as a whole, bigger on the faith than their parents' generation was.

I had a period of about 17 years that i would have told you I was agnostic or just didn't care. My favorite reading material was science digest, popular mechanics, playboy and mother earth news. At about 32 years I was haunted by death and questions in my own mind concerning God that had to be answered by me and no one else. I quit drinking and drugs, studied theology and most popular religions and even some fringe ones. I answered most of the questions to the point where i could go on with life without guilt or worry for my soul. my belief in God is a very personal thing and I seldom argue it with anyone.

JBG
01-31-2010, 11:49 PM
I had a period of about 17 years that i would have told you I was agnostic or just didn't care. My favorite reading material was science digest, popular mechanics, playboy and mother earth news. At about 32 years I was haunted by death and questions in my own mind concerning God that had to be answered by me and no one else. I quit drinking and drugs, studied theology and most popular religions and even some fringe ones. I answered most of the questions to the point where i could go on with life without guilt or worry for my soul. my belief in God is a very personal thing and I seldom argue it with anyone.
I don't ask you to discuss anything you're not comfortable with.

My religion, Judaism, is a very non-spiritual religion. It gives me great satisfaction, though largely for its ethical and intellectual content. While it does handle life-cycle events and death well, it does not give the rich, almost drug-like spirituality of, say, many of the black Southern churches.

P.S. I hope that a Jewish Democrat in welcome on this site.

Rockntractor
01-31-2010, 11:53 PM
I don't ask you to discuss anything you're not comfortable with.

My religion, Judaism, is a very non-spiritual religion. It gives me great satisfaction, though largely for its ethical and intellectual content. While it does handle life-cycle events and death well, it does not give the rich, almost drug-like spirituality of, say, many of the black Southern churches.

P.S. I hope that a Jewish Democrat in welcome on this site.
I can only speak for myself but you are certainly welcome with me.:)

JBG
02-01-2010, 12:12 AM
I can only speak for myself but you are certainly welcome with me.:)
Thanks.

How many other extremely liberal democrats are there here? People whose posting style, like mine, matches that of DemocraticUnderground and DailyKos (from which I've been banned numerous times for leftist views).

Rockntractor
02-01-2010, 12:17 AM
Thanks.

How many other extremely liberal democrats are there here? People whose posting style, like mine, matches that of DemocraticUnderground and DailyKos (from which I've been banned numerous times for leftist views).

There are several liberals here to varying degrees and some moderates too. i can only think of one Jewish person. As to how well you will get along it more or less depends on how you discuss your point of view.

JBG
02-01-2010, 12:24 AM
There are several liberals here to varying degrees and some moderates too. i can only think of one Jewish person. As to how well you will get along it more or less depends on how you discuss your point of view.There will be some here who will say I am not a liberal based upon my support of Reagan and Bush II and my strong dislike for B. Hussein Obama. I maintain that Obama and most of the left and socialist elements are in fact reactionaries and against progress for poor and middle class people.

Rockntractor
02-01-2010, 12:27 AM
There will be some here who will say I am not a liberal based upon my support of Reagan and Bush II and my strong dislike for B. Hussein Obama. I maintain that Obama and most of the left and socialist elements are in fact reactionaries and against progress for poor and middle class people.

Barack strikes me as an elitist and that rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

AlmostThere
02-01-2010, 03:07 AM
I have been following this discussion and if I may quote Churchill; a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Welcome.

JBG
02-02-2010, 01:25 AM
I have been following this discussion and if I may quote Churchill; a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Welcome.

Thanks for the welcome.