As I was making copies while volunteering at school the other day, a friend of mine and I started to chat. As I jammed up the blasted copier, yet again, she began to ask me about my husband and my religious upbringings. Upon hearing that I was raised Southern Baptist and he was a Catholic-Christian hybrid, she then asked why my oldest son thought he was Jewish.
My eight-year-old has somehow decided along the way that he’s Jewish and has been sharing this new awakening with several friends. At first, I thought he must be intentionally making up a story. Somehow, he’s learned that our school has few children of Israel and he hoped to be rewarded for being in the first wave. You do get to wear a really cool cap, get beaucoup Hanukkah presents, and have a kickass 13th birthday party. What kid wouldn’t want to be Jewish?
I understood completely. I went through my phase of wanting to be a Scientologist just so I could meet Tom Cruise, but the whole auditing process reminded me of something from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Plus, Tom jumped on Oprah’s couch just to proclaim his love from the Dawson’s Creek chick. Yeah. That has mental hospital written all over it.
Back to the story. I asked my son why he’s been telling people he’s Jewish. He answered that he thought we really were followers. How? He confused my mother’s Southern Baptist church with a synagogue. I’m certain that this has never happened before in the history of the faith.
“Jesus was Jewish,” he said. “And people say we should be more like him.”
From the mouths of babes! Needless to say, I had to explain to him that following Jesus is way cool, as is the Jewish faith, but we’re not Jewish. We’re Christian. And although mama has been called a shiksa on more than one occasion (ah, those nice ZBT boys), she did marry a nice goya boy from Southern Indiana. Yeah, I can throw down some Yiddish just like Streisand in Yentl.
As with other errors my children make, I refuse to let them forget. Normally this consists of making references to said mistake and then chuckling under my breath. But this time, we actually used this as a learning opportunity. While at Target, I bought my family a menorah with some candles. We researched what the piece symbolizes and how we will light it during Hanukkah this year. It never hurts to learn about other cultures and religions. Now to ensure that the kids don’t blow out the candles like the flames on a birthday cake. That can’t be good.
In addition, I downloaded Adam Sandler’s “The Hanukkah Song” and played it for my oldest. He knew none of the mentioned people, but did like the tune. I forgot Adam sang of pot in it, so had to make up a story of my own. Thank goodness marijuana sounds like a woman’s name.
All and all, my son understands a little bit more of his own cultural heritage and about another kind of belief system as well. Plus, I’ll be prepared when he starts telling people he’s Buddhist because his mama practices yoga. So, on his behalf, may I be the first to wish you a wonderful Christmas season and a very Happy Hanukkah. Namaste.