Thursday, September 08, 2005

Jews + Missionaries

A repost of something I worte a while ago.
(As seen on Jewish Connection)
Jewish Education + Missionaries
I value my Jewish education (Schechter school from K-8 and yeshiva HS) for the questioning nature, concept of tikkun olam, biblical factoids that help me do well when playing Trivial Pursuit, and sense of depth it has imbued in me. I also value it because it has helped me easily shoo away some missionaries I’ve encountered.

The Hare Krishna Guy
Picture it- New Years Eve of the new millennium, Big Cypress Reservation in Florida’s Everglades. I was there to attend a Phish concert and enjoy the sunshine. Besides a few college friends I was accompanied by an old friend form my Schechter school. One day as we wandered around the campgrounds a guy wearing a saffron colored robe stopped us. Having recently taken a intro course to Eastern Religions I immediately recognized him as a member of the Hare Krishna sect. He began his spiel when one of us (not sure if it was me or my friend, D) piped up with “Umm…we’re Jewish”. The man began speaking about how all religions are related, or some nonsense like that. I countered with “I just read this great book called The Jew in the Lotus about how Buddhism and Judaism have some fundamental things in common”. Saffron man asked me more about the book. I told him a bit about it. He wrote down the title, thanked us, and walked away. D and I looked at each other and one of us said “Wow, all that $$$ my parents spent on Jewish education was worth it for the fact that we made a Hare Krishna walk away wanting to learn more about Judaism”.

The Mormons Go To Shul
Picture it- about 10 am on a Saturday, the summer of 2000, a hippie college town in upstate NY. I have just gotten up and am wearing pajamas consisting of a tank top, no bra, and boxer shorts. The doorbell rings. Who could it be so early on a Saturday? Mormons (the neat shirt and tie plus names tags gave them away instantly. Dressing up inIthaca means not wearing your Birkenstocks). The main door was open, meaning that they could see me through the screen door. Busted! I had to interact with them. They begin their spiel. I tell them that I had just learned about Mormonism in a class called Sociology of Religion. I then inform them that I’m probably not a good prospect, being that I am Jewish. They seem happy to hear this and then babble on about how our two religions are related. We are kinfolk. From the LDS website: The Book of Mormon is another witness that Jesus Christ really lived, that He was and is God’s Son. It contains the writings of ancient prophets. One of these, Lehi, lived in Jerusalem around 600 B.C. God commanded Lehi to lead a small group of people to the American continent. There they became a great civilization. I kind of nod. Then they tell me that they’d gone to temple the night before to celebrate the Sabbath. They really enjoyed it, even though they could not understand that language that people prayed in. “Hebrew” I inform them. Perhaps because of my tired state I then go on to explain the difference between biblical Hebrew and modern day Hebrew. They are very excited at this point and tell me that they are off to the library or something to learn more about Judaism…since we’re kin and all… A housemate comes out of hibernation and asks whom I was talking to. I tell him the story and he says “see you didn’t go to Hebrew school for nothing”. “Exactly” I reply “and worth every penny”.

[Side note- morning of college graduation another housemate answers the door to two Jehovah’s Witnesses. They begin to talk. B cuts them off with “Three Unitarians and a Jew live here. I really think you’ve got the wrong house.” Closes door.]

I told my parents those two stories and they said that it made them feel that spending all that money on my Jewish education was indeed worth it to ward off proselytizers, know who I am, where I come from, and to stay Jewish.


Anonymous said...
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Esther said...

Lyss, I think both of those anon comments sound like cleverly concealed spam. You may want to activate the spam filter on this blog...

BTW, when I was in college and people knocked on my door when I wasn't dressed, it was usually the chabad rabbi looking for a tenth man. Needless to say, that tenth man was never in my possession...

Tyler said...

Always got too many Jehova's Witnesses coming by my house, especially after they found out that I was polite and didn't quite get the "interrupt and close the door" thing. Buddhism was a good fall-back position of course.

W said...

I spend most of my days trying to ward off proselytizers. It's a full time job.