Jewish enough?

Comrade. It's a word we all know, but not often a word we feel. Yet, hearing it again and again at my uncle's memorial services, I felt it, I felt a part of a community, a community of volunteers, a community of veterans and a community of Jews. I needed that.

Too many times in my life when I discussed my upbringing as Catholic with a background in Judaism, I was told "you can't be both," or "those are too different." These people were unable to reconcile that their own religion was based in one older and more established, that their own deity preached the beliefs of that religion.

But more recently, I watched the opposite, of people not feeling "Jewish enough" even while trying to digest the news that their genetic mutation likely stems from a Jewish heritage they didn't know existed. People once again reminded me that the religion in which I was raised and that of my heritage are "totally different." Some explained that if one's mother is Jewish, then you are, too.
I get it. The end result is quite different, but at the core of Christianity -- even the first five books of the Bible -- is Judaism. So not "totally" different, in my opinion. And if my genetic history can be passed down from my father, why should culture be ignored?

In the celebration of my uncle's life, I was reminded of how proud he was to be Jewish and that wasn't entirely based in a belief in G-d. It was based in a love of education, passed from an oncologist grandfather and a grandmother who was the first woman to graduate from a Boston law school to a mother who taught her five children to speak well and carry themselves far and a father who patented his ideas. It was based in a culture of perseverance and determination. His first words to his would-be wife were, "You know, I'm the only Jew in combat fatigues." He was one of only three people chosen by the Army to be put through law school. He served his country, worked in law enforcement, patented his own ideas and continued to serve his community for decades.

And he never once judged our upbringing. He just continued to educate us on our heritage. He never acted as if our mother's beliefs could not coexist with his mother's, our grandmother's. More people on both sides of the coin should live as he did and I was comforted that he was a part of a group of Jewish War Veterans who did that.

To anyone discovering their BRCA mutation, digging into their genealogy and discovering a Jewish heritage -- welcome! Don't ever let anyone let you feel not Jewish enough because outside of a religion, being Jewish is a state of mind, a belief in oneself and a culture bigger than all of it, in education and perseverance and determination. These are all traits we need to live with and cope with our BRCA status, and they've gotten our people this far. Continue the tradition.


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