Am I Pagan?
Seriously — I ask myself this question all the time. When people ask me what religion I am, I say I’m Jewish, because that’s what I am. It never occurs to me to say, “Pagan.” I’ve been a part of the Pagan community for about seven years now and always felt very welcome. Actually, the Pagan community has made me feel a whole lot more welcome than every Jewish congregation I’ve ever tried to become involved with. Pagans just seem to be more understanding about the rules of hospitality. At the Jewish congregations I could go month after month and no one would ever reach out to me and say, “oh — are you new?” As a matter-of-fact, no one ever spoke to me at all. Even if I tried to talk to people, I never felt like they wanted to talk to me. But lately, I don’t really feel like I belong in the Pagan community either.
I’m Jewish by most definitions (Jewish mother, bat miztvah, choice, etc.) But, by almost every definition of Pagan , I’m not. I guess it depends on who’s doing the defining. If you simply define it as any of these people do, then I might be Pagan:
- “One who follows or practices an earth-based or nature religion,”
- “A generic term for a number of pre-Christian faiths – druids, witches. Pagan faith is linked to locality and to the Earth,” or
- “A practitioner of an Earth Religion; from the Latin paganus, a country dweller,”
But those are only a few of the definitions. Most people link Paganism to polytheism, which doesn’t really apply to me. I realize to many “aspected monotheism ” might seem like polytheism, but I assure you to me the line is quite clear. Many people define Pagan as simply not being Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. Well, I’m certainly one of the three.
So why does this even matter to me, since I’m Jewish? Well, I spend a lot of time supporting the Pagan community in DC. I was even on the board of Pagan community center intiative for a while and continue to do work for them. What I don’t do is spend a lot of time and energy supporting the Jewish community in DC. I’ve made some attempts to reach out to communities that I feel some affinity for, but basically all I’ve had is un-returned phone calls. The Jewish community I do support is the one hidden in the Pagan community. There’s a lot more Jews who have moved into the Pagan community than many people realize, and these people often are still searching for a way to resolve their understanding of the earth-based practices with Judaism.
Thankfully, we now have a lot more resources to work with. Not only are there people like me who are willing to talk about our personal experiences, but amazing rabbis like Jill Hammer and Gershon Winkler have provided us with amazing roadmaps of what authentic Earth-based Judaism can look like. By authentic, I mean pulling from our traditional texts and teachings and not just importing practices from others.
But that still leaves me with my real dilemma. Do I continue to support the community that has supported me, but I feel less and less a part of and can’t actually claim as my own? Or do I start to remove my energies from them and focus just on the smaller group that really needs and wants my attentions? Or do I work harder to reach out to the wider Jewish community? Or do I just get over my damn self and just keep putting one foot in front of the other?!?
Ugh. What’s a girl to do?
[tags]paganism, pagan, judaism, earth based judaism, magickal judaism, dilemma[/tags]