I’m sort-of Jewish. Can I still join?

I’m going to create a club for pseudo-Jews like me who love bacon, bagels and bubbe

By Bryony Gordon, December 23, 2009

My name is Bryony and I am, in the words of Jonathan Miller, Jew-ish. In my 29 years on this planet, I have been to a synagogue twice — once for the barmitzvah of a family friend, and the next time, I seem to recall, on a school trip.

I could not tell the difference between Yiddish and Hebrew if I tried.

This year, in keeping with every other year, I shall celebrate Christmas instead of Chanucah.

I am a screaming atheist — I’m not in the slightest bit religious. And, technically, I am not the slightest bit Jewish.

I was damned to a life of religious nothingness by the fact that my father, and not my mother, was born into Judaism.

Oh, I am full of Jewish cliches, me. I love Woody Allen, would marry Larry David in an instant and I dream of making Sarah Silverman my best friend

I am what I call a pseudo-Jew. That’s what I have as my religion on my Facebook profile. My sister, Naomi, jokingly refers to herself as “half-Jewish”, as if it were a country and not a religion. And yet there is a truth there that will be recognised by the offspring of all Jewish men who married out.

I was not brought up religiously as Jewish. But culturally? Well, that is a different matter all together.

My grandmother’s name was Anne but we never called her that. To us, she was always Bubbe. She cooked us gorgeous kosher food and mollycoddled us, clutching us to her bosom when we turned up weekly at her flat.

I still salivate at the thought of a salt beef bagel — what I would do for one right now — and to this day I am comforted by memories of chicken soup. Luckily, my shiksa mother makes some mean matzah balls.

Oh, I am full of Jewish cliches, me. I love Woody Allen, would marry Larry David in an instant and I dream of making Sarah Silverman my best friend (I have almost come to terms with the fact that this will never, ever happen). I adore that Judaism can have a laugh at itself; that it is the only religion in the world with its own sense of humour.

It feels like a really cool club that I would desperately like to be a member of — were it not for all the religious stuff.

To me, it seems to be more about character than anything else. And I feel defined by it in a way, especially given that that my mother’s lapsed Christianity has never really been able to influence me.

When people say “well, you’re not really Jewish”, (and they always say it as if I am a fake and a phoney), I feel quite affronted. How come that person over there, who has a Jewish mother but a C of E father, gets to be more Jewish than me? Not fair. Sexist, dare I say it.

I take quite a lot of comfort from the many pseudo-Jews that I know. There are lots of us out there, you know. As my friend Polly, herself a pseudo-Jewess, says: “We always find each other in the end.”

Perhaps we should just think of ourselves as members of our own special club.

Bryony Gordon writes for the Daily Telegraph

Last updated: 3:57pm, March 25 2010


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