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Learning to Feel My Worth as a Jew — In Spite of the Gawks and Sneers

Suzie Tremmel

Suzie Tremmel

In typical Catholic-school fashion, I began resisting my religious education in middle school. But while my teachers might have thought differently, I never meant to disparage Catholicism. I asked questions because I craved answers, not because I wanted to be confrontational or facilitate classroom disruption. I had misgivings about Jesus, and longed for a more nuanced relationship with G-d that didn’t fixate on sin and the afterlife.

During my sophomore year at a secular high school, a friend invited me to her family’s Passover Seder. After one night of following along in the Haggadah and listening to everyone chant in Hebrew, I felt something inside me roar to life. I had never felt so enthusiastic in my 16 Christian years, and drove home afterwards trying to hold onto the spark of fascination, worried that it might somehow escape. It never occurred to me that Judaism was something I could join; I resigned myself to the fact that in spite of my deep admiration and curiosity, my relationship with Judaism would be limited to admiring it from the outside. When I finally learned that I could convert, that spark that I’d felt before grew even stronger. But my omnipresent anxiety made it seem too good to be true—almost too easy.