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SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 5:28PM

The New Year

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The New Year is here. I envy the families gathering together with heavenly smells coming from their kitchens. Brisket, matzo ball soup, potato kugel, tzimmes. I envy the prayers they know by heart.

I am Jewish by birth, but besides the food, I had no Jewish upbringing. I became the Wandering  non-Jew, wandering from one religion to another throughout my life. I settled on no religion, and called myself a Believer, which suits me.

I married an atheist, and raised a daughter to be a little of everything. She had children's books about Judaism and Christianity. I bought books for her about Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. I wanted her to be open to the world's religions. I wanted her to find the home I never did.

My daughter read the books I gave her about what it meant to be Jewish. She ate my matzoh ball soup, which somehow, miraculously, was always delicious, in spite of my iffy cooking skills. That was what I had to offer.

We celebrated the Christian holidays with her father's family. We made connections between the two religions.  Christmas was a big deal in our home, my husband and I making up for childhood pleasures we both had missed.

 My daughter made her own choice a few years ago. With her eclectic upbringing, she could have chosen anything or nothing. She chose to be Jewish. My daughter's mind is agnostic, but her heart is Jewish.  Or maybe it's the other way around. It doesn't matter. It's her path.

I envy people who know what they are. I wandered from church to church, mosque to temple, and never found my home. I am a Believer. I am not agnostic, I am not atheist. I do believe.

But I have no religion, and I am done wandering.

Sometimes I miss having a home base. I miss the comfort of knowing I am something and that I belong somewhere. I love watching the families  in my neighborhood filing into Saint Ann's on Sunday morning. Dressed up, smiling, carrying a baby or two. 

I love to watch the Bar Mitzvah parties at the temple down the street. The kids gathering mostly for the party, but also to listen to the reading of the Torah. I went to a Bat Mitzvah last year. It was beautiful. Regal, really. The family gathered on the Bema, each taking a turn speaking to their daughter. Telling her their hopes and dreams for her on this day, her Bat Mitzvah day.

It's the traditions I miss. The family gatherings I never had. It's my one regret in life. That I couldn't find a home in any of those religions. That I didn't belong anywhere. 

I studied many religions. I practiced different ones at different times in my life. They all really say the same thing if you have ears to hear and eyes to see. 

Tonight I'll buy the challah and the brisket. Tomorrow I'll make the matzo ball soup. I'll cut up apples with honey, and pray for a sweet new year for my family.

My daughter has brought me a greater appreciation of Judaism.

My Buddhist friends bring me a thirst to know even more.

My atheist husband reminds me by the way he lives his life, that that too, is a noble choice.

Our paths are our own.

But there is something about this time of year, this new year, that makes my eyes teary and my throat tight. It's about challah and brisket for sure.  But more than that, it's about being loved, and new beginnings, and second chances. 

Another chance. 

For the Believers, the Seekers, and the Doubters.





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This is as lovely a New Year's wish as I have read. Thank you, Joan.

Two things, tho, I deeply wish Judaism had:

1) a back-beat to its music, a little jump-gospel;
2) food that doesn't drive people to cardiac surgeons well before their time.

Happy New Year. :)

We all need another chance, don't we Joan. I know I do. Peace, my friend.
Happy New Year!!

I was able to rate you and maybe comment....YAY!! :)
An excellent piece. I can appreciate how you feel and what you think about this. I have similar experiences and my feeling is, my mission was, to give my children some kind of spiritual and cultural identity. I succeeded as far as a mother can succeed in that. They are young adults and still on their own journeys, but they love to be with us and home is their treasure.
Born Catholic, yet not raised Catholic. Mom encouraged us all to go to different churches with friends, to find the place we felt most at home. I chose Catholicism until my divorce when I realized they really didn't want me. Now I also wander and try to find a little home here and there. Beautiful, poignant post, Joan. Thank you, and Happy New Year.
Thank you, Jonathan. Happy New Year to you. Bring on the chopped liver and schmaltz... :)

So do I, desert_rat. I think we get one every morning... :)

Thank you, Tink!!

"home is their treasure." How perfect, Sheila. Thank you.

Firechick, sometimes being able to find a little home here and there is an awful lot. Thanks so much for coming by.
Joanie, the need to belong somewhere, to someone, is the most human of needs. You expressed this beautifully.

Lezlie, thank you~

toritto, you really just said it all~
Having an open mind and heart is a good way to live a life. Lovely post!
I'm impressed by Jewish food, made as it is out of humble stuff.

Well, lots of ethnic cuisines are based on humble stuff cooked by peasants and it is often quite wonderful (Mexican, Indian, Chinese, the various Euros - even the northern ones who found interesting things to do with beets and preserved fish...)

*My people* are an exception, alas, having produced only oatmeal and whiskey.

I did a lot of wandering thru various religions, tho after my adolescence none of the mainstream ones (so boring). I'm happy now with paganism, where we make up our 'traditions' and eat a lot. Brisket and matzoball soup might be good for the equinox...
Very sweet and familiar story, and some lovely thoughts for the New Year. Now that we have children, my wife and I have come full-circle: Jewish to Jew-Bu, back to Jewish. We’re seeking traditions for our young. Happy New Year to you, too.
Myriad, what better food for the Equinox than brisket and matzo ball soup? I was explaining some of my thoughts about spirituality to a friend one day, and she said, "you'd make a great Pagan." I took it as a compliment.

David, I am so grateful my daughter found her "home." It means a lot to me, and I understand you wanting that for your children. Wandering can be very tiring. Happy New Year to you~
I truly understand, Joan. Happy New Year to you & however many at your table enjoy the feast. R
One doesn't need religion to be blessed in their life. One just needs love, friends and family to be blessed. You my friend, are most certainly blessed!
I love this post, Joanie H...yes, our paths are our own. "My atheist husband reminds me by the way he lives his life, that that too, is a noble choice." So true, so many good people whose actions make the world a better and kinder place. Happy New Year to you, Joanie!
How beautiful this is. It sort of vibrates, like air does, carrying the sound of bells. I can't think of anything quite good enough to say, Joanie, except happy new year. Have a lovely holiday.
Although an atheist, I must thank you for reaching deep inside your very self, taking out your precious goodness of spirit, and sharing it with us all.

Religions come and go. Goodness such as your is the foundation of all morals and ethics borrowed, and claimed as their own, by all religions.

It is too bad that we can't impress upon religions the idea that it is this goodness that it is their job to share, not their stupid little jealousies.

You may find the right community. That would answer what you're looking for.
This was so beautiful and thought-provoking. Like your daughter, I grew up in a household where my parents taught us about different religions, and where we celebrated Christian and Jewish holidays. But like you, I've never found one, single religion that completely FITS. I love many of the traditions and ideas behind Judaism - especially Reformed Judaism. But I'm definitely a Christian of some kind. I love a lot about Roman Catholicism - the majesty of a beautiful church, the almost hypnotic rhythm of church service, the idea of nuns. But I cannot agree with so much of it - including the concept of the Pope. I also have many Buddhist beliefs. I've recently read about Sikhism and find a lot there I relate to, as well.... Ultimately, I'm a Believer, like you (I love that term - thank you for it!). And I guess that the main thing is, while we may not have an organized place of worship or a set of rules, we have a spiritual center that guides us and comforts us, and I think that's the most important part.

Wishing you and everyone health, hope, and happiness this new year!
postmormongirl, it's the best way to live, I think.

Marulyn, thank you, and thanks for reading!

Barbara, for me, that is true. I know religious people who would disagree with us, but, we're all on on own path. We need more respect for each other's paths, but that's another post...:)

clay ball, thank you. I'm always so glad to see you on one of my posts!

femme, thank you. I am stealing your line about air vibrating like bells, if you don't mind. Leave it to you to inspire me with your writing, even in a comment... xox

skypixie0, I couldn't agree more.

kosher, I'm not sure such a broad community exists.

Alysa, this is not the first time something you've written makes me nod my head the whole time I'm reading it.
I recently said something to my daughter about my "inner Catholic."
I love so much about the Catholic religion. The majesty, the Saints especially, even the idea of nuns. But, I can't be Catholic. The ideas of the church, the Pope, are things that I don't agree with. But oh, what beauty lies within that religion!
I lean toward Buddhism mostly. I know nothing about Sikhism, but now will read about it. I still have that desire to know different paths, although I am sure I will never be a part of organized religion.
You are so spot on about having a spiritual center. For me, that's what matters most.
Thanks so much for coming by, and giving me more to think about.
Religious families have their issues also, somebody is always coming into the religion, and somebody is always leaving. My family is like a rainbow coalition of religions, Jehovah's Witness, Dunkards, Muslims, American Baptists, Hindus, and Lutherans.
You are your family's home base. And they are yours. As am I, my sister. This is just simply beautiful. L'Shana Tova to my extended DC family.
I just came across your blog and reading your beautiful words. I thought I would leave my first comment but I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
samaa tv
Le'shana Tova Tikoteiv Vetichoteim Le'Alter LeChaim Tovim U'Leshalom ;-)
This is lovely, Joan. I'm sorry you never found a place you felt at home in. I'm not sure an independent thinking person will find a 'place' very easily, but it's worth looking for the smiles of community, worth it to me, at least.
I never did find a place either until a couple years ago when we found the church we like -- still don't go often, but I did learn from my search that my 'place' must be inclusive, not exclusive.

Just noticed Jon's comment -- as a kid I so wanted my mom's church's "funeral dirge" style of hymns to be a hopping gospel choir! I'd stare at the AME churches with lots of music pouring at of them when we drove by and wish our dried up ol' honky church would get some rhythms God might want to hear (yes, that is how I thought of mom's church as a kid in late 60s, early 70s Atlanta -- I got the phrase from some kids' choice of words for my mother...long story : )).

Again, wistful and wonderful, this post.
I love your daughter's strong sense of herself.
"...the AME churches with lots of music pouring at of them when we drove by..."
That sentence s/b: "...pouring *out* of them..."
This is interesting.

You wrote: "I studied many religions. I practiced different ones at different times in my life."

Which kind of practice did you have, within for example Buddhism?
Hannu, I spent several years with several different religions. I appreciate and honor Buddhism, but I am a beginner.