Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Having Opinions, and other Societal Faux Pas

yarn, sundara yarn

We're still on old pictures here at Chez Yarn. This one is an oldie but goody from last winter. Three skeins of Sundara Sock. Yum.

So what has me blogging the day after I blogged? Timer. Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Scarlett Johansson.

Wikipedia has just informed me that Scarlett Johansson is Jewish. I knew my Jewdar was failing, but this is not the product of diaspora. I loved Scarlett in Manny & Lo when she was just a child, but I never would have guessed she was Jewish. (Technically she is only half Jewish, but it's the "important"* half, her mother's half.)

And why should it matter? Because that is what I grew up doing, the age old conversation filler of "is she/he Jewish, or isn't she/he?" I rarely think on this, because I am so culturally removed from where I grew up (Long Island), I come in contact with so few Jews, and the climate of political correctness has changed.


Malabrigo Indiecita


To tell you the truth, I am really uncomfortable talking about this. Cultural sensitivity is not my strong suit. I grew up in what I believed was an environment that embraced all religions, all races. The only bias I can recall was against the XY's, as I grew up in an all female household with a distant, divorcee father. Naming peoples visually defining characteristic (black, Asian, Jewish, Puerto Rican, etc.) without there being any sense of judgment was commonplace in that world.

But that world is gone from me now. I am uncomfortable, but fuck it. I am trying to understand my place in Jewish culture, in Jewish life. So long I was a partial, cultural Jew with spotty matrilineal Jewish heritage. If you were going to marry an educated boy, chances are he was going to be Jewish.

I left that world when I moved to Boston for College.

The mother of my last boyfriend, the man-boy I was seeing right before I met my husband, actually contacted her Rabbi to get confirmation on my Jew status. Turns out I was not Jewish. I'm so glad the Rabbi three states over cleared that up for me.

In Boston, Jews were other. I met people who didn't know any Jews. I didn't comprehend the cultural divide I existed in. Now, looking back over 20 years ago I can see I was a Jew unknowingly left among gentiles. But now that it's 23 years later, who am I now?

I think Jews I grew up with would say I am a gentile. Their clannishness is not easily forgotten. I don't feel like a gentile, but I do feel less like a Jew as the years flutter away. Yet, when I opened up my soul this past year, what I saw inside is a Jew. She is a godless Jew, but a Jew all the same...

Wow, that makes me think of that wonderful conversation between Neo and the Oracle in Matrix Reloaded. I, like Neo, have made the decision, now I just have to understand it.



*According to traditional Jewish Law, a Jew is anyone born of a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism in accord with Jewish Law. If the same child was born to a Jewish father and gentile mother, he would not be considered a Jew. Reform Judaism considers children with either patrilineal or matrilineal heritage Jews.

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