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Sincerely confused


Rabbi David Sperling

Iyyar 29, 5781
Im at somewhat of a crossroads in my life. My father is Jewish, my mother is Catholic. I was raised Catholic but not strictly and Ive fallen in and out of practice. My dad let me know I had Jewish heritage, like sometimes we celebrated Chanukah, but he never told me that the faith of Judaism is matrilineal, probably because I already inherited a faith from my mother and he assumed I wouldnt need to know that. Long story short, there was a moment I had a really strong connection to my Jewish side and considered converting heavily, spending time learning in the orthodox community. I learned so much more about the Bible and G-d and it just felt really special. And I honestly felt a little relieved to not feel the crushing "Catholic guilt" feeling. But I could never decide I dont believe in the main Christian idea - I just do. But now Im struggling with finding a place I feel I belong. I feel an intense belief in various things from both traditions. I absolutely believe in God and His love and I hope my struggle isnt disrespectful. I have so much more learning to go no matter which direction I commit to. Its painful to me sometimes when I go to classes the Rabbi and Rebitzin I got close to teach, knowing I think of them as my people and it isnt reciprocated. Anytime anyone uses the word goy people look at me for my reaction. But I know theres a truth there that Im not *really* Jewish and Im clearly attached to my Christianity. I feel I dont fit anywhere. Is it wrong to be Christian and still attached to my Jewish ethnicity? Is it wrong to want to participate in traditions or holidays? I just want to do all of things that make me feel closer to G-d and for G-d to know I love Him even if I dont know how I should show it
Shalom, Thank you for your question. I can certainly appreciate your struggles – you are not in an easy place at all! I’m at a loss to be able to give you any magical simple answers that will solve all your issues. But, let me point out a few things. 1. You are 100% correct in your feelings that you cannot convert to Judaism whilst still believing in “the main Christian idea”, by which I assume you mean the concepts of Jesus and attaining redemption through him. While your struggle is certainly not disrespectful at all (the opposite is true – what respect we have for honest religious growth done with such love and care for your heritage!), converting to Judaism while still holding onto Christian doctrine would be a travesty – and probably not a conversion at all. 2. According to Judaism (and I assume according to Catholicism) you are under no obligation to convert to Judaism at all. So, feel no guilt about that. 3. You don’t have to make any firm decisions now. A person is allowed to grow slowly in their lives. Give yourself time to grow and change. 4. There are certain aspects of Christianity that Judaism would see as good for you to cling to. These aspects are actually basic Jewish teachings for all of mankind. We call them the seven Noachide laws. You might want to look into a relationship with G-d, and with Judaism, based on these laws. 5. As far as participating as a non-Jew in Jewish heritage - this is not so simple. Spiritually, religiously, and socially, adopting Jewish practices for non-Jews is not so good. We believe that G-d knows better than mankind how to serve Him, fulfill our tasks in this world, and bring creation to it’s fulfillment. G-d has told us how to serve Him as Jews, and how non-Jews are to serve Him. To go against these teachings because “it feels closer to G-d” is a misunderstanding of what serving G-d is all about. He, and His will, are at the center, and not our feelings and emotions. (Although we certainly believe that when a person does serve G-d correctly, in a very deep way, they will ultimately “feel” a great blessing and closeness no Him). 6. On the other hand, there are many aspects of Judaism that a non-Jew can support and take part in. These are not our purely religious commandments – but rather things like support of Israel, fighting anti-Semitism, befriending Jews etc. 7. Perhaps, lastly, you would benefit from an honest private talk with the Rabbi and Rebbetzin you mentioned in your letter. As they know you, I’m sure they will be able to give you advice that is more personally suited to you. Feel free to show them this correspondence. Blessings.
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