Monday, May 26, 2008

One Of The Things That Pissed Me Off

in court on Friday was the fact that TF wants to prove I'm not what I say I am. As in... I'm not really Jewish.

OK, I'm not really Jewish, but I call myself that for lack of a better word. I mean, what else am I? I follow the dietary laws as best as I can (and there's all sorts of philosophical things I question between what's actually written in the Old Testament and how it gets interpreted by various peoples/religions/etc... but in essence I eat pretty much the way it's outlined in the Old Testament. And there's actually modern-day, provable and valid reasons to follow the dietary laws... you can read one article here.). I keep the religious observances as best I can. The MAJOR difference between myself and about 98% of the world's Jews, is the Jewish Calendar.

So if you don't know the story, once upon a time a long long time ago, Poppy was looking for spiritual guidance and started reading the Bible. Being the man he is he started at Genesis, and continued on in order. At some point he hit the Dietary Laws, and we stopped eating pork. Then we started keeping stricter Sabbaths. Then, he came upon the religious observances. I guess he knew about the Jewish Holidays, but we were in the middle of Jamaica... Kingston to be exact, and there weren't an awful lot of visibly practicing Jews. So we started keeping the holidays in the same order as they are in Leviticus, but on the Roman Calendar.

And it just stayed that way. As a grown woman, I go back and forth about whether or not to convert... to officially become a Jew. But since at the moment I'm in a pissy mood, for various reasons, I'll be perfectly blunt and come right out and say that for me, one of the major reasons I haven't officially converted is racism.

Meaning, the Sammy Davis Jr jokes piss me off. And the surprised looks when I walked into the Temple out here on the Rock. And the fact that the Law Guardian and TF's lawyer, both Jewish, seemed to take a personal affront to the fact that here was this little black chick "pretending" to be a Jew. And it pissed them off.

It also pissed TF off, because over the years I have been consistently adamant that my child not eat pork or shellfish, and that the Sun observe all the religious holy days with me. So TF keeps trying to "catch me out there", and I guess his lawyer thought it great sport to help him do it.

Last week, when I got their version of a proposed visitation schedule, the following passage nearly sent me into a murderous frenzy (click on it it make it bigger/easier to read)*:

In the notes, I wrote back:

"This is completely unacceptable, as it is well known that my family does not follow the traditional Jewish Calendar. There has been and will continue to be discussion as to whether my family will officially convert, but this is a private matter that I do not want to discuss with [TF]. The days I have requested in the past, present and future continue to be 1/14-15, 21, and 7/1, 9, 10, 15 and 22.

I deeply resent [TF] and his lawyer's continuing efforts to question my faith. I find it deeply offensive.

I will not argue [TF]'s religious affiliation, however I challenge him to name the dates of all his holy days. I have known [TF]for 11 years and he has never expressed concern for any holidays other than Christmas, Easter and Good Friday."


In court on Friday, TF's lawyer tells the judge he wants to put TF on the stand. He gets up and gently leads TF through what it was that he wanted as visitation... which was essentially everything I had already said I didn't have a problem with. But then he gets into the holidays. It matters you see, because it means TF can't take the Sun WHENEVER the fuck he wants... and it essentially means he can't take him to California in the beginning of July. But it certainly doesn't stop TF from coming here to NY to see him, now does it? But no... TF must have complete control.

So then he actually lied and said he had no knowledge of me ever keeping religious observances in July. I actually did an incredulous double-take, particularly since we have an unsigned mediation agreement from before the hell of Family Court, where he had agreed to the very same days I've been asking for.

There was other stuff... but I'll leave it for another post. Eventually my Lawyer put me up on the stand. And the judge kept giving her a hard time about her line of questioning, and Lawyer was getting VERY frustrated and I was just trying to keep from exploding. Lawyer did get to ask me how it was that I kept the holidays when I did. I told her it started when I was a little girl, and it just continued on. That there had been discussion in the family about converting officially to Judaism, and the Jewish Calendar, and that we still might, but that it was not a decision I wanted dictated by TF. I said that really, religious worshiping tends to be a communal thing, and if I converted, I'd want my family to do it to, cuz what would be the fun of doing it by myself??? The judge asked me if I'd ever spoken to a Rabbi about it... and I told her I had.

(Well, not a Rabbi, but someone I knew had almost become one, as well as several friends who are Orthodox and one who was an escaped Hasidic woman I met while at Pratt. But I didn't get a chance to explain that.) In any event, the judge asked me "what did they say?" and I said that sometimes the practice is more important than the rules... meaning, sometimes it's what in the heart that counts more than HOW things are done. "So anyone can just do anything they want?" the judge asked snidely...

which pissed me off royally, cuz how many different Christian faiths are there???? and I know for a fact that there is Greek Orthodox Easter and "regular" Easter. So what, all Jews HAVE to do things the same way???

...but all I said was "Of course not. There are rules and the rules should be followed. But sometimes what's in your heart is more important." And I also said that in the Old Testament, a calendar isn't specified... all it says is that Passover begins "on the 14th day of the first month at even", and that the Day of Atonement begins on the "9th day of the 7th month at even". It doesn't even tie those particular holy days to a time of year... not in your average every day Bible. In that context, it's perfectly logical that a bunch of (sort of strange, artistic) folks could just start celebrating holy days in that order. (Here's an interesting article about how Sabbath shifted from Saturday, or the seventh day of the week, to Sunday, the first day of the week.) I also mentioned that I had been quoted told about "the tradition of your forefathers", which was something my Hasidic friend tried to explain to me when I was trying to figure out where I stood.

TF's lawyer had a turn at bat.

He again tried to figure out why we keep the holidays when we do. I said again that it just started that way, and continued, and again conversion is a discussion that's held from time to time, but hasn't been resolved in the family.

TF's lawyer continued:

"And how did you begin to keep the Holy Days that way?"
"Because that's how it was written in the old Testament".
"And how do you know this?"
I looked at him incredulously. "Because I read it for myself, it's in Leviticus".
"And so you accept the Bible as the basis for your belief?"
"Doesn't everyone who says they read the Bible?" I asked.

It was only later that I realized he was trying to get at Poppy... because TF had brought up before that Poppy had some kind of strange hold on the family.

But my answer caused TF's lawyer to back up and he left me alone after that. Well, except he asked me what I was doing on the 21st of January, when I had insisted the Sun come home. I said we were home. And we were... we didn't go out until after Sundown.

But then the Law Guardian had to get her innings in.

And she asked "So on Passover, what do you do?" I told her we didn't do any work on the first day, or the last day, and we didn't eat any bread. And then she asked me if the Sun were to eat leavened bread in say, March, during a traditional Passover, would I think that he was going against my beliefs? Which I ended up telling her I thought was kind of a trick question. I'm acutely aware that the rest of the world says it's Passover, and I'm not so full of myself as to think I'm the ONLY person in the world going against the grain and that I'm right to do so... so truly, it has occured to me NOT to eat leavened bread during Passover according to the Jewish Calendar, but I usually just stick to my own schedule so as not to confuse things.

I finally told her, no, of course I wouldn't, if I'm considering my schedule. But again, we could convert. And she asked me if I would inform TF if we did convert, and I said "of course I would".

When I got off the stand, my Lawyer was seething. And she had brought an associate, another lawyer, who leaned over to me and said "I'm offended on your behalf? WHAT was that all about???"

I can tell you what it WASN'T about... it had absolutely nothing whatever to do with TF visiting his kid. Nothing. And in my personal opinion, it had a whole lot to do with race, and religious assumptions, and two people who seemed to take a personal affront to someone who was questioning what they held to be true.

But this is America, isn't it? There is supposed to be a thing called religious freedom. And as I told my lawyer... had I told them all I was a Santero, and worshiped the Orishas, if they had no frame of reference, they wouldn't be able to challenge my beliefs in quite the same way. I had told Lawyer previously that if they REALLY wanted to make a federal case of the whole thing I would take them on. I was furious. I still am. And I haven't decided yet what to do about it... if in fact there is anything I can do.

*I left alone the fact of all TF's supposed Catholic Holidays, by the way.


Ros said...

I have nothing to say that doesn't involve a slew of curse words. Wait . . . what a bunch of freakin' racist bigoted morons.

Jacqueline said...

the whole scenario was completely OUTRAGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i'm so sorry!!!!

Jacqueline said...

ok, ok... I keep thinking about this... what was the *conclusion* of this holiday crap? what did they change in the proposed visit schedule? and notfernuthin', I was raised Catholic and unless they changed all the names of things in the past 20+ years, I've never heard of: Divine Mercy Sunday, Trinity Sunday, or Corpus Christi [Sunday]. Ok.. so now I'm googling them and not only is TF proclaiming to be Catholic, he is proclaiming to be "Super Catholic" as to follow these days. Ludicrous. And from what I can find on google, the feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated in the Latin Church. So now he's part of the Latin [Catholic] church too?

"Feast of Corpus Christi
(Feast of the Body of Christ)

This feast is celebrated in the Latin Church on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to solemnly commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist."

So ummmmmmmmmmm how often does he go to Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist? A Catholic goes to Mass every Sunday and receives communion every time. Someone extremely "religious" would attend Mass more than once a week and always receive communion. How many times has TF taken the Sun to Mass with him, if ever? Or has it just been presents at Christmas and Easter? Where's the "religion" in that? Oh yes... lest I forget, what about confession? In order to receive the Holy Eucharist, technically, one needs to go to confession *first*. That would mean weekly for a very "religious" individual, BTW.

I mean... he wants to get "letter of the law"? Bring it on.

I could continue my own tirade on this....

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

Sigh. You know I study religion in American so I just read this post with a shake of my head. Why, oh why, do people continue to think there is some "pure" form of any religion out there?! Everybody who practices religion does so in a way that is unique to them. Hell I wish I could have taken the stand for you as an expert witness..growl.

I had a student from Jamaica who was part of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, and they followed the Jewish holidays, I beileve on a different timetable. It's not all that unusual is my point.

The Bear Maiden said...

LOL Jacqui, love your outrage. And all I can say is "I know, I know". It's ridiculous.

The Bear Maiden said...

Ginger, they probably did it on the Roman Calendar as well. I'm familiar with the Black Hebrew Israelite movement... one of the reasons I disassociated myself from them is because in America there is a movement by the same name. Probably an extension. I grew up across the street from their HQ. And they were so unbelievably racist and militant that I disowned any association from them from the time I was about 13 on....

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

Oh I know about the black Hebrew movement (my student wasn't racist though, and I was STUNNED when I read some of their literature later) just using them as one of the many examples I could pull out of various religions being shaped by different perceptions, etc.