I expected to have to defend, or at least explain, my decision to convert to Judaism earlier this year to a handful of people. My parents, devout Christian friends and rabbis to name a few. Never, however, did I think I would find myself defending my decision to the gal who cuts my kid's hair while he is seated in a toy airplane.
We have been going to this particular hair-cutter ("stylist" hardly seems appropriate when she give the kid a buzz every 4 weeks) for about a year or so. My first clue that I might be in trouble was in the fall, when she was uber excited that her kid got to read "The Christian Pledge of Allegiance" on a local Christian radio station. I had never heard of this and asked her about it. She enthusiastically explained that the kids all pledge their allegiance to Christ, Our Savior. "Hmmm...." I thought. After looking it up, I found the words "with life and liberty to all who believe" inserted in the end. So much for separation of church and state.
So last night we were in for my son's monthly shearing (seriously, the kid's hair grows like a Chia Pet. And in about the same pattern and texture). She asked how our holiday went and when I said great, we are headed down to Cincinnati this weekend to celebrate Christmas with my parents, this sparked a look. I can't describe it exactly, but maybe she thought she could save me back. She asks, point blank, which I believe MORE. Sticky situation.
I explained that while I have always been a questioner (really, Catholics? Unbaptized babies can't get into heaven? That seems a bit harsh), I felt as a Catholic I was never really allowed to question. Judaism allows me to question, encourages it, even. We also believe that you shouldn't so much worry about what is going to happen to your soul after death- that you should act here on earth like your soul depended on those actions. That our job is to heal the world - whether the inhabitants are Jews or Christians (although many seem split on what we do with Muslims).
Her answer to that? "Right on."
It was not the first time this week, even, that my beliefs cam into question. Christmas - this beloved holiday celebrating the birth of the Christian Savior - seems to bring out nastiness in people.
A friend on Facebook joined a group called "It's Merry Christmas NOT Happy Holidays." I felt the need to ask "Why not be inclusive?" A few others echoed my point and this particular person got all righteous, saying that I had pissed her off and that she didn't join the group to have her moral integrity or, and I quote, "diversiveness" questioned. Short story - she was hot about having her beliefs questioned, but didn't hesitate to plaster them on Facebook.
(For the record, I think if you put something out there on the interwebs, it is up for public debate and consumption. Since this blog is on the Web AND posts to FB as a note, feel free to comment, disagree, etc.)
I knew Christmas would be a challenge for me this year,since it is my first as an official Member of the Tribe. But it has turned out to be difficult in a different way than I expected. I don't miss the tree. I am, even as I type this, waiting for cookies to come out of the oven and I persuaded Sisterhood to adopt a family or two for Christmas, so I got to wrap and deliver gifts.
The holidays are difficult for me this year because it is the first time I have had to publicly say "I am different than you." For a kid who, for 30-odd years has wanted nothing more than to just fit in, this is a difficult, but absolutely necessary statement to make. I really do believe that it is only when we ask questions of one another and at least TRY to understand the other point of view, it is then that the world will run a little more smoothly.
So thanks, Jennifer G., for asking the questions. I hope my answer made sense and that you got a peek into what makes this particular Jew tick - and Merry Christmas (AND Happy Holidays)!