So, You're Really NOT Jewish?

3 years ago

I was invited to a book club recently because they had just finished reading my debut novel, The Art of Being Rebekkah.  I was excited and so honored  they had chosen my book.  I was also slightly panicked thinking I'd have to make a speech.  I didn't. It turned out to be a very fun evening with a group of intelligent, diverse, and really funny women. Along with some excellent Sangria.

The discussion flowed. They all gave reasons why they loved my book, things they thought I could have left out, and things I could have expanded on. It was also very loud, everyone talking (read shouting) at once; from debating whether my bad guy, Avram, is actually bi-polar and should be heavily medicated, to agreeing that Nick is totally the perfect guy.

The only moment of stunned silence was when in response to a comment from the woman to the left of me, I replied, "I'm not Jewish."

There were three women  in our group of eight who were Jewish, and they all stopped chewing and stared at me, mouths gaping open.  One of them replied, "You're not Jewish????"

"Episcopalian," I replied.  "With a Jewish husband."

I take their dumbfounded-ness as a compliment.The Art of Being Rebekkah is Jewish fiction. Rebekkah, my main character, is a Jewish woman who finds out her husband (the afore-mentioned Avram) has a dark side. She was adopted by Jewish parents soon after birth, but because her birth mother wasn't Jewish, her adoptive mother reveals that since she never had a conversion ceremony, Rebekkah isn't either.  It's a coming-of-age story of how Rebekkah defines what faith, family, and love mean to her. That these women couldn't believe I'm not Jewish means I got Rebekkah's story right.

I did some research for my book regarding Judaism, but being married to a Jewish man, I already knew a lot. I love Judaism.  There's something so haunting and spiritual about the traditions and holidays. Sometimes, I tell my husband I married him only for his Jewishness.  I love going to the synagogue with him; the peaceful quiet before the service starts, the way the sun blazes through the stained glassed windows, the prayers, and just leaving the rest of the world outside. 

Lee Harris used to write mystery novels starring ex-nun Christine Bennett. I loved them, they were so authentic. I recently found out that Lee is also Jewish writer Syrell Rogovin Leahy.  I wonder if anyone said to her, "So, you're really not Catholic?"

No, I'm really not Jewish, but it's one of the best compliments I've ever received!

Karoline Barrett

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