To Max, From Santa

By Max Reusing


My father was born September 29th, 1945, Timothy Reusing, a Catholic. My mother was born September 3rd, 1954, Emily Ritholz, a Jew. They met in the late seventies at a demonstration in D.C. protesting U.S. intervention in El Salvador. Although they were nine years apart, they soon fell for each other, got married, and gave birth to my older brother, Alex, in ’83.

Five years later, in ’88, I was born on December the 30th, five days after Christmas and two days away from sharing a birthday with the new year. I spent my early childhood in Lancaster City, Pennsylvania, but when I was six, we moved to Mountville, a more rural area where we would soon keep llamas, goats, horses, dogs, cats, and some fish as pets. We never owned a huge quantity of animals. To date, we only own two of everything I listed above, with the exception of three goats. That may seem like a lot, but it really is more manageable than you’d think.

Neither of my parents was very religious during this early part of my life. It wasn’t until we had begun to sink our roots into Mountville that my mom started to meet other Jewish friends in the area who recommended that she try Degel Israel, an Orthodox synagogue near us. It was then that my mom and I started going to services and holidays and the whole shabang together, and I started to attend religious school.

Religion always seemed to be a realm that only existed between my mom and me in our family. My brother, who was well into his teens at this point, always had other interests and my dad stayed out of it for his own reasons, which I will get to later. Merging into Judaism was always my choice. I never felt like my mom was forcing me to do anything because Judaism was like an experiment that both of us were going through together.

I began to study my Judaism more and more along with other faiths, mostly Christianity, and soon I grew my own bond with Judaism and the Jewish people. Eventually, Degel Israel constructed a mehitza, a barrier to separate men and women during the service. Both my mom and I found this very offensive, and so we switched to Shaarai Shomayim, the Reform synagogue in Lancaster City. It was there that I had my Bar Mitzvah and where my mom and I currently attend services and feel quite comfortable.

Recently, I have become very interested in the plight of the Jewish people throughout history and with the amazing story of the creation of the state of Israel, having read Leon Uris’ Exodus, which I think everyone should read, and many other articles on the subject. Sometimes I forget that only one of my parents is actually Jewish. I long to visit Jerusalem and am currently planning to spend a semester of my junior year of high school there.

Still, my father was raised as a Catholic, which involves a little bit of a different story. For most of his life, you could call my dad a reluctant Catholic. He was always bitter about the faith and to this day brags about holding mock satanic rituals in the lunchroom of his Catholic school, which I’m still not quite positive is true. He was one of five, with three brothers and a sister. Often, I could start a conversation with him that would somehow end up being about the fallacies and ridiculousness of the Catholic faith. When my mom and I started being more Jewish, he looked into Judaism and found out how ideal it was. He accepted all of it and for the most part supported us in our religious efforts.

Still, my dad remained somewhat anti-religion, although I wouldn’t go as far as calling him an atheist. He also had trouble giving up some traditions, such as the grand old Christmas tree. I remember getting presents for Christmas and running down to the living room to find presents under the tree addressed: To Max, From Santa. There was no religious aspect in this at all. It was simply a fun tradition. We eventually gave this up as no one really cared anymore. Today, we don’t really care about presents anymore, but my mom insists on giving some out on Hanukkah.

My dad has not converted, yet one cannot at all call him a Catholic. He hasn’t become a Jew and I don’t think he should, as he wouldn’t be able to connect.

I love both my parents just the way they are and I wouldn’t want them to change at all. I am a child of an interfaith family, and I am all the better because of it.


About Max Reusing

Max Reusing was born on December the 30th of 1988 and grew up in Lancaster City, Pa., but now lives in Mountville in that same state. He currently attends York Country Day School and goes to Synogogue Shaarai Shomayim in Lancaster.