Quaker Universalist Conversations

“I Don’t Want To Be Jewish Anymore” from The Jewish Daily Forward פארווערטס

An excerpt from The Seesaw

The Seesaw: Answering All of Your Questions About Interfaith Life “is a new kind of advice column in which a broad range of columnists will address the real life issues faced by interfaith and families.”

Amanda Tobier of The Jewish Daily Forward has encouraged us to share this article from The Seesaw because of its relevance to Quakers. Ruth Nemhoff is one of the advice column respondents.

Image by Lily Padula, The Jewish Daily Forward
Image by Lily Padula, The Jewish Daily Forward

I Don’t Want To Be Jewish Anymore

When I was young woman I converted to Judaism. I had just married a Jewish man who wanted to raise Jewish children, some for his parents but also for himself, and so before we got pregnant I went through the process and became a Jew. I can’t say I remember ever feeling truly Jewish myself, but I did it for my family, so we could be part of a community and a value system that I believed in.

We now have two adult children, one married to a Jew and one engaged to one, and one Jewish grandchild, a toddler who goes to a Shabbat class once a week. Mission accomplished. Seesaw, I was raised Quaker and now that I my children are grown and my house is quiet I have found myself longing to return to worship with them.

I feel guilty about this, but also excited about the prospect of returning to a form of spirituality that I connect with – or at least once did. I would still accompany my husband to synagogue whenever he wants and participate in services as I have over the years, and would still host holidays at our house with joy.

So, if I do go to a Quaker meeting, what would this mean for my family? My Judaism? My marriage? —Straying

It’s Not Uncommon to Revisit One’s Past as Life Progresses

Dr. Ruth NemzoffRUTH NEMZOFF: You have certainly done your part for the Jewish people. I thank you for the time effort and energy you have devoted to Judaism and to Jewish continuity.

My opinion matters little in response to this question. Rather, I suggest you talk with your husband and explain how you feel. Highlight the pride you feel in having accomplished the goal the two of you set as a couple to raise a Jewish family. Mention that you are enthusiastically willing to continue the family’s Jewish practice. Share your need to explore your roots and add your past spiritual practices to your present. Mention it is not uncommon for individuals to revisit their childhood and its solace as life progresses.

Let your husband know you are not asking him to come with you, nor for his permission, but you want to be honest with him about your desires. Note that you have worked successfully as a couple over many years and you hope you will have his support as you continue your spiritual journey. Depending on your relationship and trust with your rabbi, you can consult with him.

After the two of you have come to an understanding, together you can decide if and when to tell the children. They are adults after all. I’d like to end this by once again expressing gratitude for what you have done to date.

Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, author of Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children and Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family, is a resident scholar at The Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. She is on the Board of Interfaithfamily.


Ezekiel 14:13-14 — "Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves." There are lots of Judeo-Christians, as they have find their righteousness in the light of Jesus. Christ came to fulfil the law, and it is normal for Jews to find their way to Christ as their atonement since the destruction of the Temple of God.
I get it. I have been in the same place. I love study, Judaism, language, always will, but far from synagogue, tire of the politics, and sometimes prefer the silence of Quaker practice and focus on care of all and God.
There are many Jews who practice Quakerism and find it a good home for their spiritual development, especially in Universalist meetings. There are a number of Quaker Jews whose primary sense of belonging is in Meeting but find complement or enrichment in Jewish studies. Jewish Quakers have a presence in FGC and have their own listserv. It has nothing to do with Yun’s idea of salvation thru Jesus knowledge or atonement. It has to do with finding out that Jesus was a Jew and that Quakerism shares (as a return to primitive [Jewish] Christianity) many things with Judaism. It has to do with the power of open worship and non-creedal religion. It has to do with moving on from exclusionary political ideas of religion.
"For who has know the mind of the Lord, that He will instruct him [or her]? But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:16) It is really wonderful to know how some Jewish friends came to the light of Jesus, and not just the traditional practices of Quakerism known to theists and non-theists.
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