Edward Zachary Ableser has been a mental health counselor since 2002, and has worked with families and at-risk youth at two high schools in Phoenix, Arizona. He has also served as a representative to the Interfaith Council and a liaison to the City of Tempe from Associated Students at Arizona State University. Currently, he is working towards a doctoral degree in Public Administration at Arizona State University.
"A young man in his twenties (mid to late that is) should have a clear understanding of himself in relation to the world." This type of thinking was what I heard from my family throughout my adolescence. Each family member from both sides had their own understanding of how I should relate to the world. You see, I grew up in an interfaith household. My mother's side was Roman Catholic and my father's side was Jewish. As a child I just accepted that I was both, Jewish and Catholic. As I grew I heard from my mother's family that I had been baptized in the church and would be confirmed, therefore I was Roman Catholic. In addition to this my father's side of the family urged me to go to Hebrew school and prepare for my Bar Mitzvah. However, my family never really included me as Jewish, since I "technically" wasn't born that way. Now, as a young adult, through my struggles to find my own identity and faith, I have learned how to integrate all of my life experiences.
As a preteen, I was very excited about the time when I would be confirmed in the Catholic Church. I was also eager about when I would have my Bar Mitzvah. I was doing everything else my friends were doing, attending church and temple, going to Hebrew school and catechism classes, participating in all the High Holidays, I did whatever it took. To me this was completely natural, it all made sense. The stories I learned seemed to match up. Some of the stories were different, but I paid no attention to the differences. This naive and pure worldview was quickly disrupted. My maternal grandparents had a discussion with my priest, telling him they were worried about me going to temple all the time. This concern sparked a domino effect of bad experiences that would haunt me throughout my adolescence. The priest contacted my parents about my involvement with two "religions"; he proposed that I enter counseling, hoping it could help me. After this, my father talked to my rabbi, who also agreed that I should go to counseling. He also said that I couldn't have my Bar Mitzvah. I was finally asked to go to counseling and told that I wasn't going to have my Bar Mitzvah or confirmation.
This event, which I call my "excommunication," was very difficult for me. It was hard enough for me as an outsider in my Jewish community, but to not have my Bar Mitzvah was ostracizing. I was made fun of by my Jewish friends, being called a "poseur." Because of this I quit doing anything with any religious group. My parents weren't dedicated to their faiths, so they didn't mind. However, my extended family was mad at me for giving up. I wasn't considered a Jew or a good Catholic by anyone in my family. I felt extremely lost and confused at that point in my life. I decided that I was not going to rely on anyone anymore; I would depend only on myself. I took a self-exploration class in high school where I was allowed to explore any part of my life that I'd like to; I chose my faith.
Through reading about theology, Judaism, Catholicism, and philosophy, I started to find myself in this world of gray where you are supposed to be black or white. I started talking to my family about my faith and how it works for me. I was able to attend services for both faiths and feel accepted and loved. Slowly I was going back to what I loved as a child. I made it simple, not letting the complexity of life corrupt who I am. So now I tell people that I am a Catholic Jew, if they ask. I have found a special sacred space for myself to be me, I am a Jew and proud of it. I am a Catholic and proud of it. Furthermore, I have integrated my faith into my life and I am an interfaith person and proud of it.
Reform synagogues are often called "temple." "The Temple" refers to either the First Temple, built by King Solomon in 957 BCE in Jerusalem, or the Second Temple, which replaced the First Temple and stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem from 516 BCE to 70 CE. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.