Only Half


"So, like, you're only half Jewish"
My Hebrew school classmate sneered at me upon learning of my parentage
My father was raised Jewish
My mother was raised Protestant but converted
After I was born
You'd think that'd put me in the clear
My mom's Jewish, my dad's Jewish
Therefore so am I

Unfortunately some don't see it this way
Even though I've never been anything but
A large portion of my people only see me as
I'm not a Gentile
Not a Jew
I'm only half in the club
And, according to them, it's all
My mother's fault.

But let me tell you something about my mother
She taught me how to say all my prayers
In Hebrew
My earliest memories are of her
Sitting by my bed with prayer book
Chewing her lip and sounding out the
Strange words
"Se-sema Yisra-Yisraol, no, wait, shit, Yisrael!"
I'd arrogantly snatch the siddur away
Point at the letters and say
"No, Mom.
This letter is a shin. It goes shhhhh
Like when you tell me and Jake to
Then we'd read it together in full
Our eyes covered
I'd let her cheat by peeking at the transliteration

When it came time for my bat mitzvah
We sat together at the kitchen table
Hunched over our copy of the Torah
Puzzling through the complicated chanting patterns
"Your voice goes up here and down here
Like this"
She'd sit at the piano and try to
Tap out the melodies so I could sing them

Every time we go to synagogue
She dons her pale purple tallit
And gathers the tzitziyot around her fingers
And prays
In Hebrew
She raises her voice, an earthy alto, and sings
Ancient songs
Of leaving one's people of origin to find a home with another
In Hebrew
She taught my younger sisters
How to navigate the complicated waters
Of being Jewish but also kind of not
And she sings lullabies to them
In Hebrew

I am my mother's daughter
And I am, without a doubt 100%, Jewish.


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