I converted to Christianity from Reform Judaism in 2008. The distance between childhood and today grows wider, but our roots are some of the strongest influences on the adults we become. The truth is that while my worldview has undergone a radical shift, Jewish culture and theology continue to affect my faith.
These are just a few of the ways: some positive, some negative, others neutral:
Social Justice Is Integral To My Spiritual Practice
One common denominator in all branches of Judaism is a passion for social justice. In fact, I know plenty of Jews who would argue that social justice is more important than belief in God.
Justice matters in Christianity too, of course. But it’s my Jewish background that leaves me feeling utterly bewildered at the way social justice movements are trivialized or treated as heretical in some Christian circles. I will say that it would be heretical to measure one’s faith by the number of good deeds they perform; our salvation is in Christ alone.
While we know this earth is not our forever home, Christians are charged with the responsibility of taking care of it — and its inhabitants. This is part of what it means to live out our faith, and I take James 14:26 as an indicator of spiritual health. Faith without works is dead.
On a similar note…
I Can’t Help But Notice Systemic Injustice
It must have something to do with being a descendant of people with trauma in our blood. As a white person, I still have a great deal of learning and self-reflection to do about the ways in which I contribute to an oppressive system. But as a Jew, I grew up with communal repentance as a regular feature in my worship. It was ingrained in me at a young age that my community rises and falls together.
Too often, Christians are taught to view sin as a personal problem rather than a corporate one. If we are all one body of Christ, we are responsible for holding each other accountable. Maybe most of us don’t consider ourselves racist, but when we fail to address racism in our communities, we contribute to the problem. Therefore systemic injustice is ours to repent.
I Need All The Liturgy
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that, as a Christian, I ended up finding a home in the Anglican Church. The liturgical pattern of the services mirrors what I know from synagogue. Worship, for me, must involve my full participation, or it isn’t authentic.
Holidays Can Still Be Hard
Christmas and Easter are two of the most significant holidays on the Christian calendar, marking our savior’s birth and resurrection. But they often leave me feeling more lonely than joyous. I don’t have family (blood relatives, that is) to celebrate with.There were no childhood traditions to bring into my marriage. I love the season of Advent, in which we anticipate the birth of hope. But December 25th has never felt like anything but another day off to me.
Easter is harder, especially the Friday that precedes it. While I fully understand that, as sinners, we all contributed to putting Christ on the cross, internalizing this message as a Jew is uniquely challenging. This part of the Christian story is used as justification for violence and persecution against my people. I don’t believe the New Testament is anti-semitic; rather, toxic Christians over the ages have manipulated the texts to excuse all kinds of horror. That doesn’t make them any less difficult to hear.
There are more ways that Judaism continues to influence me — I wrote a whole book about them. But these ones are certainly the Big Four.
Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash
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