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Shadows and Light

As told to C.B. Gavant

In what I know now was pure Hashgachah pratis, the paper included a write-up about the Jewish Learning Program of Mayfield, the town where I lived. The article described the program as dedicated to teaching assimilated Jews about their heritage. Assimilated Jews who needed to learn about their heritage — that was me!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

I’d been raised as a Christian, but just two years earlier I’d learned that I was actually a Jew. I’d tentatively explored what this meant: one of the fellow members of the La Leche League I belonged to lent me a copy of To Be a Jew, which I read cover to cover, eager to know more and more. Around Pesach time the following year I attended a class in the local Chabad house, where the rabbi distributed pieces of shemurah matzah to all the attendees. Small tendrils of interest — that was all. Aside from this, my Jewishness simply lay dormant at the back of my mind. I grew up in a small town in Maine, population 8,000, in a house with a creek running behind it. The only thing missing from my idyllic childhood was relatives. I had vague memories of relatives from when I was tiny, but other than a newlywed cousin,BeaPerlmutter, who had visited one afternoon, I’d seen no relatives in years. Yet I was happy. I attended Sunday school with all my classmates, and had been baptized at the age of three, along with my younger sister. Although my parents were both raised in New York and were considered more cultured than most of our neighbors, many of whom who had lived in the same town their entire lives, I never thought much about our background. At 13 I was expected to attend a confirmation class in the church. I hesitated, unsure if I fully believed in Christianity. I discussed my doubts with my father, who told me, in what I now know to be a remarkably Jewish answer for a man who professed to be a Christian, “All believers have doubts. If you have more belief than doubts, join the class, and if not, don’t, but keep trying to learn.”

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