I am big on being proud of being Jewish. I would rather be a proud Jew than a self hating Jew or for that matter a self hating person of any sort. If we are uncomfortable personally with being Jewish and expressing our Jewishness, how can we expect a non Jew to feel comfortable with us being Jewish. It is usually non religious Jews who are self hating.But by the same token, I know many great, wonderful non religious Jews who are very proud to be Jewish and to have wonderful warm Jewish Homes. The fact that they are NOT religiously observant does not make them any lesser beings in G-D's eyes.
Part of some objections (from friends) to me moving to the country is the fact that I will be 'away' from the Jewish communities.That maybe so so in distance but spiritually I will always be close and I feel it is better to have work and be self supporting and able to pay rent than living off the charity and good nature of others. It is only an hour away and to my way of thinking it is really not a big distance at all. There are people with family in NY and the USA or Israel and that is a lot further.
My son will be Jewishly proud despite the best efforts of some who bullied him, telling him that they were Jewish and he was not, telling him that I adopted him and the list goes on.
I had an interesting discussion with a young girl today about this very topic. It is the home life that makes a child a proud and balanced Jewish personality, not the school or the youth group. They help, but it is up to you the parent to ensure that he or she knows what it is all about. If you as the parent give mixed messages, then expect the child to grow up confused and unsure of his or her identity.
Be proud of yourself, your religion and your lifestyle.
I recently have had some very uncomfortable communication with biological family members. They do not accept me for who I am. Does that make sense. Well let me clarify.
I grew up in a non religious home of any sort. Religion was not present in our house at all. No crosses, no mezuzot. We have Jewish heritage on the Leeds side and my mother's side, but is she Jewish? I honestly do not know. I suspect she may have surprises in her geneology and one day I will find out. My father's mother was Irish and of Catholic heritage but due to distance and other attitudes within the family they did not practise any thing to the extent that they could not find a batismal certificate for my father when he came to be married to my mother in Sydney in 1953. So the Anglican priest did a two for the price of one, he baptised my father and then married him to my mother. You see, Gran had forgotten to baptise any of her three boys. It just wasn't important. But all three boys were circumcised. That was considered more important.
The bookshelves of my grandfather and grandmother's house were lined with books on the holocaust. Either my family had an avid fascination for the gory and grim details of warfare and human cruelty or some aspect of the pintel yid sparked in them and they had almost every book that came out on the holocaust post World War II. When I started to read around age five I developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge about anything and everything. I read quite a lot of these books before my grandmother realised it was not really the right sort of reading for a six or seven year old girl. I still used to find the key when she was resting and sneak into my Uncle's room and 'borrow' books, carefully arranging the other books so there were no gaps.
My father's family love books. My father's older brother had a library of well over 10,000 books and probably had read every one of them at least once. He was in his mid thirties and unmarried. His collection had probably grown from childhood. He had a book case full of holocaust literature, Jewish history, World War I and World War II, Japan and Germany, Aboriginal History, Society and Birds, lots of books on birds. He also collected eggs of different native birds and had a cabinet with these all carefully categorised and labelled. He was known as an authority on native species of birds in the South West of Queensland and Australian species as well as being knowledgeable about birds world wide. He read until he married at 47 and presumably continued to read unabated to today similar sorts of books, but adding beekeeping and bee care along the way to his knowledge, as he retired to town and kept bees for a living at one stage.
My father read history, sciences, national geographics, science journals, books on guns and livestock. My father's younger brother read mainly about horses and horse breeding. He later developed a taste for trashy literature thanks to the wife he married whose main focus in life seemed and still seems to be the basics of human bodily functions and interactions. She introduced him to Mandigo a text that is hardly historical in nature about the African slave trade fictionised with emphasis on the sexual relations between slave women and the white plantation owners. She also liked a tawdy historical romance series about Angelique a woman of questionable morals who was continually having adventures, mostly of a sexual nature that involved rape, seduction and forced sexual cohesion, having children and leaving them in out of the way spots for them to reappear back in her life at some later stage at the right moments. Methinks there was a desire for subjugation and summary submission of a physical nature if one is to go by her reading material and behaviour.
I liked Histories other than the holocaust which both horrified and fascinated me, horses, animals,sciences, stories like the condensed Reader's Digest texts that came every quarter or half year.
I remember reading To Kill A Mockingbird when it first came out, The Source James Michener and Exodus, crying over the assassination of JFK and his brother Robert when that happened a bit later. I was 9 when JFK was assassinated. My mother could not not understand how I could sit with full colour Life photos of a composed Jackie Kennedy in her blush pink suit blood stained and speckled with the brain and bone fragments of her late husband bawling like a baby.
'Why are you crying, stupid girl?' she asked me. 'You did not know him.'
'But he was such a nice man.' I wailed between sobs. 'He was a good man. His poor children. They have no father. His poor wife. She has no husband. He's dead because some bad man killed him.'
'Rubbish. How do you know he was good. He is an American.' My mother never forgot or forgave the Americans for coming into the war late and helping the allies. You see she was on the other side. She also did not forgive my uncle for having all this literature on the Holocaust and she used to believe that he did it just to spite her as an Austrian and to rub salt in the wounds of the losing side. She did not like Americans and would go on and on about the 'arrogance of the american soldiers' and her contempt for the Austrian and German girls who 'went over to the other side and had relationships with the USA Army Corps for a 'few Hersey chocolate kisses' would simmer to the surface twenty or more years later.
I called her a Nazi several times. It is true that she was brainwashed. Anyone who grew up in Germany or Austria at the time she did would have been bombarded with propaganda about Jews and developed a very skewed idea of who and what were Jews and homosexuals and communists. All Jews were secret communists anyway according to Mum. My mother was a closet Nazi for as long as I knew her. The first time I called her a Nazi she slapped my face roundly and several times. I immediately burst into tears and told her that her slaps proved that she was one and then I shot at her, 'I know what you did to all those poor Jewish children and their parents because look how you treat me, your own daughter. You are cold and hard as rock.'
I remember her taunting me and trying to get me to throw something at her or to hit her. I never did because some how I knew if I did it would only serve to fuel the fires against me. I actually could not hit my mother or physically abuse her. I developed a sharp tongue to defend myself. I learnt from her to give as good as I got in the verbal abuse stakes. She hated me with a vengenance and knew if she made disparaging comments about 'your precious Jews' she wouold never fail to get a rise out of me. By the same token I never missed an opportunity to point out to her the evils of the Nazi philosophy and their cruel acts. Our war of words has continued without end. I have never changed my loyalties and she hers. My grandmother was a point of refugee and peace in my life until I was sixteen and then she died. My role in the family was set as that nasty ungrateful and sloppy girl who fancied she was an artist and intelligent, but in reality she was a stupid, over emotional not set for a good future at all. My father tried to make the peace, but it was not to be. She would threaten to leave him with myself and my second brother and take my youngest brother and go back to Austria. He must have lived on a knife edge for most of his married life. She was not an easy person to live with.
I grew up with the idea of German Nazi = cold, murdering with out a conscious, scientific experimentation at the expense of others pain and suffering. Being Jewish = suffering nobly, wisdom, compassion, laws of the bible, respect and understanding. My grandmother and I also talked about what happened and she was not half so emotional as my mother. From her, I received far more factual and unemotional accounts of the world, people and its history. My mother took sets against people and would poison everyone she could against them. That did not make her very popular with others.
Anyway we all have our failings and at 90 years of age she is hardly likely to change for anyone. The irony is that her father was Jewish because his mother was Jewish. She could have spent time in a concentration camp if the right people knew a little of her family history. That part she conveniently ignores.