Oh, the derech (the “map”, referring to living a traditionally observant Jewish life). I am so far from you. I guess it’s questionable that I was ever on the derech, but I thought I was maybe on some version of it at some point. Now, I doubt we would even recognize each other. We had a fling, briefly, a few years ago, when I stopped wearing pants outside of the house (insert joke about going pants-less here), I got supremely anal about kashrut, and I attempted to keep Shabbat. Only one of those pieces remains, the keeping kosher, which for some makes me a Super Jew, and for others is irrelevant, because I still eat dairy in non kosher restaurants.
On Saturday, T was in town from Oregon. We lived together in Boston years ago, and she is my radical activist hero. I met her and some other folks in the park in Brooklyn to celebrate her 30th birthday. We joked about me buying snacks and traveling on the subway on Shabbat, which is funny because I never didn’t do either of those things-neither of us did. I’ve always particularly struggled with Shabbat, because it’s hard for me to stop doing certain things (write, watch tv), and I’m so compulsive about my time- I need to control it and it’s difficult for me to relinquish that control, which keeping Shabbat in a traditional way dictates.
T and I discussed the fact that I’m now unemployed. She’s been in a similar situation more than once, and we talked about how that feels when it happens in the Jewish community, which is far worse than if it were some gargantuan for profit company (we imagine). In short-in spite of all the bullshit (and there is a lot of it-political and otherwise), you work insanely hard, because you love it, because it’s part of you, because it’s your family, like it or not. But because they’re your family, they inevitably disappoint you, and then you’re just left holding the bag.
I’ve spent a long time networking my way into Jewish communities, which is sort of funny, because I know so many people who are trying desperately to work their way out. Regardless, it’s felt familial to me, even though I have a precarious at best relationship with families and communities I haven’t chosen myself. (Cue arguments about what it means to be a Jew/who is a Jew/if you can get out of being a Jew.) Even when Jewish communities hurt and anger and disappoint me, which lately has been often, I’m for some reason still in. But staying in means I have to edit the situations I can be in-low(fine, very low) on the traditionally observant scale, high on the hanging out with people with similar frustrations and politics and also on the being quiet rather than going to giant Jewish social gatherings (i.e. shul).
I have no idea if this is a permanent change, but it feels a lot like being eleven or twelve and trying to figure out who I am by being who I am as opposed to being other people and doing it by process of elimination. For now, it’s impossible to know who the Jew coming out on the other side will be.