My Experience with Religion | Teen Ink

My Experience with Religion

August 9, 2019
By un_named DIAMOND, Olympia, Washington
un_named DIAMOND, Olympia, Washington
56 articles 1 photo 91 comments

I remember being one of the three jews in my second-grade class. The second was a boy named Simon that my friends and I liked to chase around the playground and throw wood chips at him. At the time, this seemed like a perfectly normal interaction. The third Jew was my identical twin sister Dora.

Every Friday night the three of us would be dragged to the synagogue. After being persuaded to put on a pale-pink dress I would sit in a creaky chair listening to Hebrew chants. I didn't have a clue what they meant but I was content daydreaming while my mother sang along.

As I got a bit older I would go to a special class in the synagogue to learn Hebrew. The goal was that I would finally understand the chants, but what 12-year old wants to go to school on the weekend? For me, it was all about talking to my friends there and playing hide and seek in the pews. My teachers spent so long trying to teach me the language but to this day I can only get through half the alphabet.

My closest friend there was a girl named Mychaya, she had short brown hair and glasses that were a bit too big for her face. Even though I was young, I realized there was a secret I had hidden away for a long time. But I trusted Mychaya, so when she asked me if I had a crush on any of the boys in our Hebrew class I cupped my hands around my mouth and timidly whispered, "I have a crush on a girl instead." Her facial expression changed from confusion to disgust as she called me a d***. I didn't quite know how to respond so I laughed nervously and changed the subject. I hoped that it would never come up again, but next week she outed me to Simon. I felt so betrayed that I didn't even care how supportive and kind his reaction was.

As you may know, when a Jewish person turns 13 they usually have a bar or bat mitzvah. This is a celebration of them entering the Jewish community and growing into adulthood symbolized through reading the Torah. At that age, I was about as far from mature as you can get but traditions continue without regard to a questionable sense of humor. Unlike most Jewish parents I know, mine didn't force me to have a bat mitzvah. They sat both me and my sister down and told us it was our decision.

After what happened with Mychaya I felt like there wasn't space for me in the synagogue, which is exactly why I decided to go through with my bat mitzvah. My grandma was excluded from this tradition because of her gender and my great-great-grandparents fled to America to escape the holocaust. There is a clear history of being pushed to the side that I refused to be a part of. This time, instead of a pale-pink dress I was wearing a suit, and I was the one chanting in Hebrew.

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