A new year questions my faith and brings much sadness

We’ll be celebrating the Jewish New year this week- and try as I might to ignore my husband’s insistence that all religions are clearly bunk- that you spend your whole life devoted to a deity you have no proof even exists, and that I need to come to terms with the undeniable fact that death is the end.

My husband is a scientist- he believes in evolution, he believes in only what he can touch and see and what science can uncover. He wasn’t raised particularly religious- he’s what we call a Yom Kippur Jew- aka a person of the Jewish faith who wears one of those pink yarmulkas he’s fished out of his wedding yarmulka collection from the 1980’s ( when he was a big on the I’ll be an usher at your wedding so I can meet a hot chick who will have drank too much and has wedding fever clouding her judgement about who she’ll agree to share a hotel room night cap with circuit) and steps foot in a synagogue on that one day to acknowledge in some small way the heritage into which he was born.

On the other hand I was raised in a very religious household, attended some serious religious school programs and whether it’s the guilt of being as he terms it ” fed more religious propaganda” or because as a kid- it feels good to have this belief that there is a larger presence presumably taking care of me- I bought into this whole Jewish faith and for a while it was what sustained me.

Fast forward many years, during which I let go of my long-held beliefs, and then once I had kids- those feelings of needing to give my kids an anchor (albeit my husband was convinced an imaginary man-made one) that would nourish them when I could not provide the answers I found my way to religion on my terms.

My husband, on the other hand, during our 14 years together- has unfortunately, at least for me- never been able to find any solace or comfort in a gd that he cannot be certain exists. And I have to admit I have been struggling with my own religious identity too- especially in the wake of my dad’s death which felt too sudden and so senseless.

It used to be when he’d present arguments for taking our kids out of their religious private school I could retort with a litany of reasons to keep them in– and since my dad passed- I admit I’m finding it harder to counteract his culled straight from the science diehard evolutionarists that this earth, this world, as crazy as it may feel is really all we have- that there is nothing after this- and so all these religious celebrations- regardless of which gd you subscribe too- are ultimately meaningless.

I am trying hard to keep going to keep holding on- to see this new year as a way to reaffirm my belief in a higher power and wanting desperately to believe that my dad is up there- smiling, watching and finally free of pain.


  1. says

    It is very good to listen and learn – but it is also good to listen to your own soul. I live with a very well-educated atheist and I am a Yom Kippur Jew 🙂 However — he cannot prove, and neither can your husband that something olutseide ourselves does not exist – and many many educated scientists have faith in something other than science.
    I am not suggesting you not hear him – but I am suggesting that if your gut and your soul tell you otherwise – hold onto it and explore it yourself. He’s not right and neither are those who have faith – until there is incontrovertible proof – hope can suffice.

  2. martyne says

    I know deep in my heart and always have believed that there is a power greater than all of us. I do not fear Gd like many believe we should, I embrace GD and pray to GD ( Hashem, as we Jews refer to that power) with every cell in my body and know that daddy is with hashem, watching us, taking care of us andf that in 120 years, when it is my time to be with him, I will.

  3. Elliot Levinson says

    Melissa, I was born and raised in Los Angeles. A long way from the religious center of judaism in the United States, Brooklyn. I’ve known and know many many jews. The vast majority of jews in this country are secular and believe like me, exactly the same things your husband believes. We acknowledge our ancestors but as far as following & observing “traditions”, we take the Cliff notes approach. Just enough to get us by. Believing that someday you’ll be reunited with loved ones is a nice thought but pretty hard for most to grasp. Most of us believe that heaven is on earth and that instead of following all those ancient teachings, trying ones best to follow the golden rule is certainly enough of a goal to try to achieve in living a good life. One thing that is common to every secular jew i’ve known is the concept of Le Chaim, too life! Live it, enjoy it and squeeze every ounce of every experience from it. Memories are all we get and all we leave.

  4. Rochelle says

    I believe you might be married to my husband. He believes just like your husband, exactly. He’s not an atheist, but a very educated traditionalist. He observes certain things by acknowledging them. We never argue, I do my thing, he does his. but I have to say, since I moved out of “brooklyn” where I thought religion was invented, i’ve come to realize that there are things in life that make so much more sense then staying in shule and begging for forgiveness. Since my mom passed away, without a warning (and i will not accept, “it was her time to go”) bullshit!! I’m enjoying my life day after day…just dont know what the next day will bring. Will I meet her there after I die? Who knows? really who knows?
    And yes, i do fast on yom kippur…but only out of tradition.
    Love you and keep up the good work 🙂

  5. says

    Even if your husband does not believe, what is wrong with sending your children to private religious schools? They are safer, the community and friendships and environment are warmer and closer and more nurturing…what on earth is wrong with that?

    This is why it’s probably best to marry someone with a similar spirituality. Someone told me that (a husband and wife should be equal in faith or lack of) for harmony, because isn’t it hard to observe when no one does it with you?

    I’m a scientist too (well, a chemist, but studied sciences for ten straight years), and many people who study science believe even more in G-d, because of the unbelievable things science constantly uncovers, and the genius behind it all. You can’t see oxygen, but you know you are breathing it…you can’t see everything that is there, or hold everything, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist 🙂

    You sound like a good mom, maybe you can use your feminine charms to convince your husband to keep your kids in religion programs *wink*- there is nothing wrong with them, and your children are more likely to make decent friends and marry decent people if they develop positive social circles.

  6. Pinny Gildin says

    I am and was raised Orthodox. Having had a religious education, in my opinion didn’t really solidify anything for me. I always questioned why it is we did and said certain things. My teachers would just say “because g-d tells us to”. While I still believe that to some extent, I struggle daily with it. With all the trials and tribulations I’ve gone through, and with the recent loss of my 9 month old daughter, I am trying to strengthen myself and not lose sight of the fact I have a wonderful wife who loves and needs me.
    For me what it comes down to, whether people agree with it or not, you have to “find yourself” like I did and know within your heart you are doing what you feel is right. Be a good person, and follow the path that allows you peace of mind without causing too much family disharmony.
    Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year ahead. Melissa, I remember your Dad well and he is watching over you and the entire family and praying on your behalf.

  7. Elliot Levinson says

    @ Penelope. The notion that sending your kids to private religious schools is in most instances falacy. Interesting comments yesterday on Meet the Press from Michael Bloomberg on that very subject. He said that “most of those who send their children to private religious schools” have no idea what public schools are like these days even in New York. They are safer, give students a much broader educational experience taught by more professional teachers. What do private religious schools prepare a kid for other then living a life in an isolated community with very little interaction with kids of another faith? Many of our ancestors (not mine) fled europe because they were being persecuted and kept in ghettos. Who is that so many especially eastcoast, religious jews choose to live in ghettos in this country? They isolate themselves from the rest of this great country. If your spouse is religious and you’re not & you both lead an exemplorary life, does the spouse get a better “seat” at the big show then their partner does? If you’re not religious but your kids are because you sent them to a private religious school, do you go to different “heaven”?

  8. Pinny Gildin says

    I am not here to debate you on your level of belief. However, I think you should as a Jew at the very least be respectful of those who choose to lead their lives by going to private schools despite the outrageous fortune it costs. Mayor Bloomberg, although he may be a Jew himself, should put his money where mouth is. He says ““most of those who send their children to private religious schools” have no idea what public schools are like these days even in New York”. Being a child of two public school educators with decades of experience, having friends who went through the system, he’s not looking at the whole picture. While I went to religious schools through elementary and high school, and having both a Judaic and secular education, I always seemed to excel more at secular education. Also, my parents raised me to be open-minded and respectful to those who were less or not religious at all and befriend them.
    Not all families are like mine I am sure, but in school we had people from various degrees of Judaism and we all seem to survive. I have plenty of classmates who went on to be professionals in the workplace myself such as doctors, lawyers, financial investors. Those who chose not to it is by far the minority in a day and age where you need both husband and wife to work to make ends meet.
    Bloomberg may be a Jew by birth, but his words seem to display an ignorance of the values that a Jewish education, no matter what religious sect you follow or at all, can provide.

    Our faith is what keeps us going, if not for faith in what g-d is telling us to do despite our own questions, then we would be no different then any other nation under His inspiration and creation.

  9. Elliot Levinson says

    I understand very well your position but Brooklyn New York is hardly typical of most jewish communities in this country. It’s actually the aberration. 1/2 of my family settled in the US beginning in the late 1840’s, the rest of the family in 1905. None of my family lived in europe beyond 1905 and they all migrated to Los Angeles in 1921. All of them received a public school education including myself and my kids. All of us are well educated and have been able to pursue the American dream. My mothers father came from Russia as a lubovitch cantor, arrived in the US saw how people lived, cut off his beard and began his life living as an American while maintaining his religious beliefs in private where he felt everyones belonged. No where in your response just now did you ever mention how you and your family or friends have ever interacted with other Americans, not just jews. That’s the fiber of this country and our lives. Your distain for Bloomberg for not being the “kind of jew, you prefer” is distasteful and serves as a beacon for your’s and other religious jews feelings towards those of us who choose to live a more secular jewish life. We certainly tolerate your right to pursue your religious beliefs in your own manner, unfortunately it’s not a two way street. We’re every bit as jewish as you are. To remain isolated from the rest of American society for fear of the dreaded “assimilation” is a foreign concept to those who seem to have more confidence that their beliefs are unshakeable. Your world view is so narrowed by limiting your horizons but fortunately this country allows for choices not necessarily in the mainstream. There’s plenty of time and opportunites for jewish children to get religious training outside the public school yard. You might want to view Bloombergs interview on Meet the Press yesterday. I don’t always agree with him but he made some interesting statements regarding the state of the public school system in New York City and actually challenged those who favor the private religious schools.Draw your own conclusions. Be well

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