Monday, October 11, 2010

“Which tribe was that again, dear?”

Identity: Culture and Conflict

I phoned my friend Gloria the other day.

I talk to her often.

I am, apparently, an entertaining interlude during her more humdrum workday world as a county social worker.

We’ve been friends for almost a quarter of a century. She’s one of the best.

Gloria must truly love me.

Not infrequently, though said with a chuckle, she lets me know she is patiently tolerating my various eccentricities.

Often, she calls me“Portia,” star of a forties-era radio soap opera, “Portia Faces Life.”

Typically she begins a conversation, asking if I’ve been facing life.

A recent conversation went something like this:

Gloria: “So how’s Portia, today?

What’s new? Are you facing life?

Me: “Today’s episode is that I’ve returned to my tribe.

Gloria: “Your tribe dear?

Did you move?

Aren’t you still up in the mountains?

Do you have some kind of tribe up there?

Me: Of course, I’m still in the mountains.

I just talked to you two days ago.

And, no! There’s no tribe up here yet.

(Me: referring to our retreat center development vision and our (in progress) remodeling project.)

What I’m talking about is that I decided, after immersing myself in prayers over the Jewish High Holidays, to officially return myself to my birth tribe; the one that came out of Egypt with the exodus.

Remember that one?

Gloria: Yes, dear. I know that one. I told you I once worked for a Jewish foundation in the Bay area way back when.

(Gloria, just celebrated her eighty-fifth birthday. She has lots of stories about “way back when.”)

Gloria (continuing): So which division of your tribe are you returning to?

The Orthodox? The Conservative? Or, the Reform?

Me: I don’t mean returning like that!

As far as religion goes, I am not joining a club. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, those are religious clubs.

I consider myself a member of everything and nothing.

Like Ram Dass, if you remember him, I’m something you might call a pagan, Hind Jew or whatever?

Now that I’ve gotten my identity confusion cleared up, my interest is in honoring, celebrating and sharing my Jewish cultural heritage. And, doing my part for peace.

Gloria: “How’s it going so far for you?”

Me: “Well, it’s a bit mixed. I told a few of my friends (a few of the very few who are Jewish) about my newfound joy in being Jewish again.

They wanted me to hurry up and join their synagogue.

Then I told a Christian friend. She wanted to be sure that, even if I am born Jewish, that I believe in Jesus and get baptized.

By the time these conversations were over, I felt like I was back in sorority rush in college.

Like my vote was being solicited for a political election, with heavy penalties for not taking the “right” side.

I can see this returning I am intent upon is going to be a bit tricky.

I think it’s time I had some fun being Jewish.

But it might be a lot of work, just taking off my mask, the one that denies that I am Jewish.

To be continued…

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