Gil Mann is the author of: How to Get More Out of Being Jewish Even If:
A. You are not sure you believe in God,
B. You think going to synagogue is a waste of time,
C. You think keeping kosher is stupid,
D. You hated Hebrew School, or
E. All of the above!
Gil's work on this book, on America Online, and this column are all done pro-bono. You are invited to his area of AOL (Keyword: Judaism Today,) for a free download of the first 2 chapters of his book and other Questions and answers with Gil. He welcomes your E-Mail comments and questions about this column or any subject. Write to DearGil@aol.com. To order the book ($17.95) call: 800-304-9925.
An Intermarriage and a Struggling Teen
On America Online, there is a popular feature called Judaism Today: Where Do I Fit? (keywords: Judaism Today - Non-AOL members: www.jewish.com/news/gilmann.shtml) People anonymously send in E-Mail letters to the author of the feature, Gil Mann, and he selects one letter for a public response in his Jewish E-Mail column. This column is now syndicated in Jewish papers across the US & Canada.
I am only 15, but maybe you can help me out. I am religious and I have been since I was younger. My father isn't Jewish, and when my parents got divorced, he became a religious Baptist. So, in my mind I was stuck between two religions.
My mother wasn't much of an influence because she is only being Jewish cuz that's how she was born . . . so, I never had someone over me saying, "don't worry, God is watching you" and stuff like that... But, my question is: How do we know God exists and even if we did, WHAT IS THE POINT OF ALL THIS? It's all too immense for me to understand... like thinking about how big the universe is and how deep and never-ending... I feel like I am falling thru every time I try to figure out an answer on my own...
You ask difficult questions about God. First, of course I have to say that there is no way that I can give you any kind of certain answers to your questions. These are difficult questions for anyone whether they are fifteen or a very old adult. I, too, struggle with these questions and know rabbis do as well. But I feel comfortable with my questions because struggling for these answers is a very Jewish thing to do. We are called the people Israel. The word "Israel" means to struggle with God. So your struggling is "kosher," so to speak.
Whenever I hear from teens or younger kids, I always tell them to speak to their parents and bring up the questions that they E-mail to me. I can understand your challenge because your parents each have a different religion, still I would advise you to talk with your mom and dad. You write that you feel like you are "falling thru every time I try to figure out an answer on my own." Only God could know the answers to your questions. So, don't be so hard on yourself and feel you must figure these questions out by yourself. Ask your parents and others. I ask others all the time.
Your E-mail brings up another important point. I have received E-mails from other kids like you who are struggling and confused in part because one of their parents is Jewish and the other parent is another religion. These parents often decide--with very good intentions--that they will raise their children in both religions. In other words they will give their children the wonderful traditions of both Judaism and Christianity, for example.
Some experts on intermarriage advise against this. They say this is much too hard for the kids. They advise parents to raise children in one religion or another... but not both. This is because, while Judaism and other religions have things in common, there are major differences that are very hard or impossible to merge. Asking kids to somehow do this is unfair and often painful. Your letter shows some of the difficulty a child of an intermarriage can face.
In closing, I want to encourage your questioning and searching and tell you that the difficulties you are encountering make sense to me and should not discourage you from asking.
Good luck and thanks for writing!