When I was in high school, I had a friend from Hebrew school who frequently approached me to talk about how she was a “bad Jew.” “I don’t know any Hebrew, I’m such a bad Jew,” she said, launching into a conversation about how she didn’t go to synagogue, didn’t keep kosher, and didn’t participate in our synagogue’s youth group. At the time, I recall feeling unsettled by these conversations, though I could never articulate why.
I understood why she approached me with these concerns. I was a very active member of my Conservative synagogue, a frequent Torah reader and service leader, and a board member of my local and regional youth groups. I was, for all intents and purposes, a “Super Jew.”
However, my Jewish identity was often a source of conflict. My mom grew up Lutheran in rural Michigan, and discovered Judaism for the first time as a freshman at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!). Judaism spoke to her in a way that Christianity never did, and my mom underwent an Orthodox conversion shortly after graduating from college. Since then, my mom pursued a career as a cantorial soloist and Jewish educator, met and married my dad, and together raised my siblings and me in a vibrant Jewish home.