I got home last night from a visit to the Land of My Youth, during which I told my family about the whole Jewish thing. I had been fretting about this for months now, since at least Thanksgiving, when I had thought I might broach the subject with my mom but was put off by how everyone was in full-on judgment mode. They were pretty much in this mode again on the subject of Mormons (what is it with my mother and brother bashing Mormonism? with my mom it's partly about Mitt Romney, but why is she still on such a tear about this?), but this was a longer visit than at Thanksgiving, so everyone had time to retreat to their separate homes and chill out.
The conversation with my mother happened very naturally. Sunday night, after my brother and his family went home, my mom and I were hanging out in the living room. The key here is that she had just poured her first scotch and soda of the evening, so she was totally sober -- important for a good conversation. She asked, "So are you totally unchurched now?" (Side note to say that the term "unchurched" makes me crazy.) It's been really distressing her that I haven't been able to find a church community that feels like home the entire time we've been in Adventure City. So I took a deep breath and said, "Well, actually, I have a worshiping community ... and it's a synagogue." She was surprised but interested, and we had a good conversation about how the origins of this move go way back to before I joined the Episcopal Church.
I didn't use the word "conversion," figuring that this was just the first of many conversations we'll have on the topic. And I was following the wisdom of Anita Diamant, in Choosing a Jewish Life, not to present one's family with one's conversion as a fait accompli but rather to include them in the journey.
Anyway, I don't know if she was exactly happy, but she certainly was glad to know that I'm continuing my spiritual journey and haven't sworn off God. It's possible that she's thinking of Judaism as a kind of Unitarianism, but I was okay at this stage of the game with her thinking about the similarities between Judaism and Christianity rather than their differences. The latter will happen soon enough, but it was actually a very peaceful conversation, so much better than my anxieties had predicted! She was also impressed at my experience (which I've blogged about) about doing more serious bible study in the last six months or so than in all my years as a Christian.
It also helped that the next day she had a long phone conversation with one of her best friends, who said, "Wow, I totally agree with WN in rejecting trinitarianism, and I wish there were a synagogue nearby that I could check out." (This friend lives in a small town in Iowa; I looked it up, and there actually is a Jewish congregation there, although it's clearly a tiny affair with a rabbi who leads services only once a month.) A big thing with my mother is always whether she'll be embarrassed in front of her friends, and so I'm glad that the first friend she talked to is accepting. We'll see how it goes as she talks with her more local (and, in many cases, more closed-minded) friends.
Another thing that helped the conversation go smoothly is that she's been unhappy with her church for the last year or so and is trying to decide whether she should experiment with another congregation. So she was in an accepting mood of spiritual experimentation and exploration.
After that good start, I took the opportunity on Monday, when I was having lunch with my dad, his wife, and my brother, to tell them the same news. My dad's wife was the only one who had a strong reaction. She's a fallen-away Catholic who is denied communion because she married my dad (they were married by a Justice of the Peace, so I think that the church sees her as living in sin), but she's never been able to bring herself to attend another church. She was a little upset at the thought that I was rejecting Jesus, but she did understand how a person could have problems with the divinity of Jesus. I'm sure she'll want to talk more in the future about this, and I'll welcome those conversations. My brother decided at this juncture that he needed to inform the two of us that religion was fine for people who needed to tell themselves comforting lies but that he was stronger than that. Thanks as usual, bro. And my dad had basically no comment -- par for the course. Again, I didn't mention the word "conversion" but simply said that I was worshiping in a synagogue.
All of this has been a HUGE weight dropping off of my shoulders! I hadn't realized how much the secrecy and worrying about their judgment was feeling burdensome, but I drove home yesterday feeling several pounds lighter than I've felt in months. Whew!