There’s a joke that I like to use regularly in my standup set:
“I grew up half Catholic half Jewish, so I like to call myself a CASHEW.”
It’s a terrible joke, but I mostly emjoy the groans that I receive from the audience after telling it.
Religion was never a very important part of my upbringing. We would go to church on holidays, until I was twelve and discovered punk rock and declared myself an atheist, but not enough of an atheist to not take advantage of the double gift deal on chanukah and christmas. A true hypocrite at a young age. I no longer needed god because I had discovered Hot Topic pants and an unhealthy obsession with the band “Silverchair”
I grew up as an over privileged straight white male in a society where that’s all I need on my resume to get ahead. It’s something that I’ve always felt guilty for and probably always will. As I progressed from a whiny adolescent to a whiny adult, I kept trying to find ways to separate myself from that identity that I hated so strongly. In my teens I found solace in black clothing and angry music. My early 20’s were filled with a hippy stage that consisted of me getting high in the woods and occasionally sleeping in my car for the “fun of it.”
My friends in college always associated me with being Jewish. One day in class my professor asked if anyone in the class was Catholic and I raised my hand, confusing the hell out of all my friends. At the time I didn’t know what I was. My baptism as a child labeled me as Catholic, but it’s a religion that I never connected with and to this day still hold a good deal contempt for for obvious reasons. The reason why I raised my hand was because recently another classmate had told me that I had no right to call myself Jewish because it was on my dads side and I never practiced the religion. Feeling guilty, I tried to seperate myself from my Jewish identity.
I had more conversations with the same classmate in an attempt to learn more about their Jewish routes, only to find out that no one in her family was Jewish, but that she had converted to Judaism about 2 years ago on her own doing. Now I try to be an understanding person towards everyone’s religious beliefs. I think everyone has the right to practice religion just as I have the right not to…but this person can go fuck right the fuck off (not the most eloquent way of putting that, but it was I felt in my heart. Like god. God told me to tell this person to fuck off).
This interaction sparked even more questions for me. There’s been the argument that Jews are actually a race because of our past persecutions and the fact that we do carry certain genes that separate us from others (for more on this subject view the article links at the bottom of this page)
Since then I haven’t felt guilty proudly embracing my Jewish heritage. I’ve studied my family’s stories, learned more about the religion and the phenomenal ways in which the Jewish people celebrate life and family.
For me, and my choice to associate myself as Jewish, it comes from a desire to preserve my family’s stories and honor them. They survived the holocaust, they’ve survived antisemitism in the states, and I’m damn proud to be a part of that legacy. This goes beyond a confused young man wearing tight pants and sporting a mohawk in an attempt to separate himself from his “white boy” image. This is about preservation and celebration of my brave ancestors.