21st-century Jewish: Pesach

It’s Passover, so let’s talk about what it means to be 21st-century Jewish.

I am Jewish. I’m an atheist, I don’t speak Hebrew, I never had a bat mitzvah, I don’t go to synagogue and my paternal grandfather was a United Church minister. Still, I am Jewish.

I’ve grown accustomed to explaining to people how it is that I am Jewish after they learn of my background. Most people I speak to haven’t met a lot of Jews like me. But trust me, there are a lot of Jews like me. My mother was raised in Chicago in a fairly religious Jewish family; so all of her children, no matter who their father is, are Jewish. Likewise my children will be Jewish because Judaism is passed through the mother.

Being 21st-century Jewish is awesome. It means that I get all the perks and none of the fuss. I eat pork, shellfish and will take cheese on my burger. I wear whatever clothing I want and stay out past sunset on Fridays. I also ate leavened bread this morning (something you’re not supposed to do during Passover). Still, I get to celebrate Passover. Passover started yesterday but my family is celebrating tonight because the timing works better for us. Tonight we will light candles, clumsily read some Hebrew prayers, sing some songs, eat brisket and matzo ball soup, drink wine and enjoy each other’s company.

In reality, I’m Jewish in the same way that many people are Christian. Most people I know don’t fast for Lent, but do have an Easter meal with their families. They’ll have a Christmas tree in their house, but don’t ever go to church.

My mom was raised Jewish, my dad was raised Christian, I was raised under both cultures and neither religions. It has always been normal for me and still is. And tonight I will celebrate Pesach, just as I do every year.

3 thoughts on “21st-century Jewish: Pesach

  1. This resonated with me. I am Christian in the way you’re describing. My parents are in the ministry, I grew up in a highly religious (read: weird) home and culture, but I am not agnostic, and basically a functional atheist. But I still find myself holding onto many of the traditions and language of the years in which I believed.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading! I’m glad you could relate to this post. Religion/spirituality/tradition/belief is all very personal and exists on a spectrum. Like you, my family would never stop celebrating Christmas with my grandmother just because we don’t share her religious beliefs. There are a lot of misconceptions about atheism for all religions it seems.

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