I'm Tired of Being Called a Bad Jew

Let’s start this off by saying I'm not religious, and I haven't been for, well, most of my life. I'm Jewish by blood, however. Until the age of roughly seven, I went to Sunday school at our temple until I dropped out. Until I was about 16 or 17, I actively went to temple for all of the holiday services. So I mean, you get the picture — I’m not very religious.

As I’m writing this, it’s about to be Yom Kippur, the day of asking for forgiveness for any wrongdoings, and I literally almost forgot it was coming up. Yet here I am the night before, and I’m spending more time upset that people keep calling me a bad Jew than trying to think about what all I did that was wrong in the past year. Someone, please tell me: what does it even mean to be a bad Jew? It seems fake and made up. I don’t walk around calling everyone bad Christians, so what gives you the privilege of calling me a bad Jew?  

People don’t seem to want to speak about the fact that the only holidays that are ever discussed are Christian holidays. I’m going to be super honest — you don’t see menorah’s out right now, but I can most definitely say that I’ve already spotted Christmas decorations. Even in school, whenever we would get days off for the Jewish holidays, students would always make it a point to thank the Jews for giving them a day off. We don’t say “Thank you Christians for giving us a winter break,” do we? I think some people would get upset that we were speaking about their religion like that. 

But, back to what I said in the beginning. I’m not very religious. I don’t think I ever was super into religion, and that’s okay. I do, however, understand the religion that I am by blood. I understand the importance of my religion and the traditions that we have. I even want to raise my own children to understand that their mother is Jewish, and that means they are too. Whenever I tell people that you're Jewish primarily if your mother is, they always question if that’s real. I've always wondered if someone who is Christian or Catholic faces the same questioning, because I don’t think they do.

So, anyway, I'm sick of being called a bad Jew. I think that’s an ignorant thing to say. I sometimes forget the dates of a few holidays, but so what? To be fair, Hanukkah changes its start date every single year, so I can’t be expected to always know when it begins. It’s not like I’m walking around with zero knowledge of Judaism, either. 

What matters is that I understand who I am and where my religion falls into my life. As I’ve started to mature, I’ve become more interested in my religion and understanding more about it. Maybe there’s a small part of me that's starting to actually believe I'm a bad Jew, or maybe I just feel like I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to learn more. Either way, can we quit calling Jewish people bad Jews?