29 November 2006

When in Rome...

This JOI blogpost about Rome's Jewish community and intermarriage brought up old memories. Some very good ones of our brief contact with Jewish Rome--the world's best gefilte fish (in sweet-and-sour-tomato sauce), as part of a Shabbat dinner cooked by a wonderful older woman who lived within walking distance of the pensione where we stayed; wonderful melodies at the synagogue we went to that Friday night (founded by Jews who came mostly from Tripoli); the beautiful main synagogue and its museum...and some not-so-good ones, which I was moved to comment on there & repeat here:

On a previous visit to Italy, however, we were turned away from synagogue in Milan: we were asked whether we were Jewish, and being the honest person that he is, he replied that his conversion would take place in 3 weeks but he was not yet a Jew. "Sorry," said the 2 men doing security detail. "since we don't know you two--we could let her in, but not you." (One might wonder: how does having my word that I'm a Jew, versus his that he's not yet but is becoming one, make me inherently more trustworthy: there's something of the "All Cretans are liars" paradox here...)

"Didn't we just read in last week's Torah reading, 'There shall be one law for you, both for the stranger and for the native citizen'?" They were unmoved, but I was beginning to cry. So we left, and rejoined the rest of my family sightseeing in Milan's cathedral on a Shabbat morning, instead of in synagogue.

Luckily, that was the only time in our visits to synagogues abroad (Israel, Greece, England) and in the U.S. as a mixed couple that we were not made welcome as a couple because one of us was not Jewish. But that one casual rejection cut deeply: I'm glad we didn't have to endure it in a place where we're looking for community, and I feel for those who do. And I thank all those in my Jewish community in Arlington, VA (at what is Congregation Etz Chayim) for looking at my non-Jewish father, Jewish mother, and us 3 kids and seeing a family who's part of their community--not an outsider, a transgressor, and 3 future "victims" of assimilation whose Judaism will never stick.

I'm not going anywhere. :)

But I'm also not going to reject or abandon the non-Jewish members of my family and my husband's family, or parts of our past experiences that have to do with non-Jewish religion, in order to be where I am or go where I'm headed.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Great post, R. Very moving and poignant.