Sunday, March 30, 2014

A wandering/wondering Jew I am

History reveals that the Jewish people wondered the desert for 40 years before finding their biblical home in the Land of Israel. Similarly, as a man of Russian Jewish descent I find myself both wandering and wondering about my options as a modern Jew.
To set the record straight for those traditional Jews who always want to know your lineage, I came from  an entirely kosher yet  unique background. On my paternal side I knew my grandparents had ideological differences, one a staunch capitalist-entrepreneur businessman, the other a proud card carrying communist. Somehow my father, the youngest of 3 sons, raised in this liberal, highly cultured North End Winnipeg home,  managed to become a traditional Jew without organized religion.
 A conversation I once had as a child with my Dad, resonates with me." Dad,What is a Jew? David, A Jew is a good person who does good deeds." Simply in it's concept, it encompasses all of the values that I try to live, ever day of my life.
Unlike my father's family, my mother  grew up in a traditional Orthodox home in North Winnipeg, where her father earned a honest but modest income as a tailor..My mother, a breathe taking beautiful woman, was not able to convince her husband of the merits of this lifestyle although my parents participated in all of the Jewish holidays and raised their children with traditional Jewish values.
As I gently move into my retirement and approach the seventh decade of my life, I find myself increasingly conflicted by my heritage. On the one hand, I enjoy  the traditional Jewish customs and the sense of community it creates, yet on the other hand, I am appalled by the judgemental, rigidness and hypocritical ethical behaviour I see in some members of my society. Always a vocal minority, they often talk the talk, but don't walk the walk or to put it another way " they don't get it."
In many ways formalized religion promotes an exclusionary, not an inclusionary society. Many of us who believe in a higher power, realize that there are more than one way to climb a mountain.  
Over the years I have failed in my attempt to find a Jewish community whose values I could embrace unconditionally. Nevertheless I continue my search for such a welcoming, inclusionary community. In the intern I filter and adopt various Jewish practices which guide me . I try, as humanly possible, to be a good Jew, to walk the walk, and to make this world a better place.