Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Pintele Yid


My parents weren't very into Judaism while I was growing up. Because of the Holocaust, because of seeing things during the war that they felt were incompatible with the existence of any God, none of that was part of the Jewishness I grew up with. Food was, Yiddish was, and, of course, the Holocaust was. As a matter of fact, instead of my parents picking between Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism and Orthodox Judaism, they simply made up their own denomination: Holocaust Judaism. Our worship consisted mainly of repeating over and over again all of the horrors our parents lived through during the war, until we all ran shrieking from the house into the arms of non-Jewish spouses.

But I had a longing for more. I had a pintele yid - a little Jewish spark inside me.

In 1989, I got divorced from my first husband. There were a lot of reasons for this but they can be boiled down to the most important one: I was dying inside my marriage. That's all. My pintele yid reared its head hopefully. Could the little Jew come out again? I didn't know anyone in the Jewish community, I hadn't been to a synagogue in years - I'd been hiding in fact, believing I didn't belong. But I also believed one thing absolutely: if I had to start all over again I was going to get exactly the life I wanted.

This past Sunday was the Israel Independence Day Fair in Phoenix. Husband and I went and walked among all the tables and booths and I saw what my pintele yid and I had built in the twenty-one years since my divorce, and in the seventeen years since my second marriage.

I wasn't alone anymore; that little Jew inside of me has nothing to hanker for. My synagogue, my Rabbi, my kids' Preschool teachers, their Jewish Day School teachers and staff, their camp, my chavurah friends, the moms and dads I've met, the charities with which we've been involved, and so much more. A rich life. A life that at one time eluded me. From Holocaust Judaism back to Judaism, one step at a time.

The life I dreamed of the day I watched my ex-husband drive away, his car loaded with his belongings.

Did you ever have to start over? After a move, in college, as an adult? Did you ever have to start with nothing but your belief in a different life?

24 comments:

  1. I came over here because I saw something about a Bar Mitzvah and my daughter is getting ready to have hers. Bat Mitzvah. Only it's the Mexican version. Quinceanera. But I found so much more here instead. I think I read 30 of yours posts and now I know so much about you and your family. Feels like I just found a really good book, or soap! As for starting over, my husband was in the military and I thought we were constantly starting over, but then he retired. That was starting over without knowing where we were going. That was a tough one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Linda,
    I understand completely what you mean by having a desire that something is missing. I have never felt like starting over, but I have changed my game plan. Just knowing that I can start over is a comfort. Nothing is set in stone. I think about having , maybe 80 years (the average), and what exactly I will do with them. I want them to be filled with meaning, mistakes and all. I really like your story. I like how you embrace life and like that you had the courage to start over when eveything was our of kilter.
    ps. I learned a yiddish word last week and I thought,you of all people would appreciate my sharing it with you. My friends husband said it to me on my birthday. Much naches to you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I, too, left my first marriage - had 2 year old daughter in tow - knew I needed a change (really suffocating in that marriage - totally in the WRONG PLACE for me) - and also had a desire for something else. I kept looking for signs that I had done the right thing (because I relocated too), and ... did find some - mostly by sort of looking inward, trying to make sense of it all spiritually. I really feel like your sentiments echo mine in that I have found a nurturing school for my kids, a support group of people, a church that makes me feel OK and does honor my Dad's strong Catholic beliefs - a happy - like you said - RICH life that is good. Congrats to you :-) for all that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love this post, Linda! Simply love it. Starting over is so hard. Even when you have a spark, it is hard to trust that it will be okay. You done good!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think my biggest starting over came after college when I followed my parents from the east coast to the midwest and started grad school. I had gotten past some horrible college acne and lost some weight and was a new person. I felt very different. And happier. And that probably led to me meeting my husband:)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love the idea of pintele yid. I think it would do all of us some good to believe that we've got a small spark within us, just waiting for recognition. One that will fortify us and give us courage in times of difficulty.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh I just love this post and your open, honest sharing of your experiences. So I just have to share back - I got divorced from my first husband after seven years of marriage and just like you, it was because I felt I was dying inside (I could not have worded it any better than you have). He wanted a life that at the time I simply did not - I wanted to see the world, build my career, live in other countries and more. He did not. So I started over, I did all those things and now, sixteen years later I am married, with a little girl but before I got to where I am now I did all those things I wanted to do and do not regret for one moment doing it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am still starting over, Linda. I thought I did it when I got divorced. I thought the migraines would just go away. They didn't. I moved to FL and in with my parents and I started to get better. I moved back here and had a really bad allergic response that nuked my immune system and the migraines (and everything else) is worse than it was four years ago. This path to recovery feels like forever, but I am convinced that if you don't give up, you will get there.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have started over many times--in college, in marriage, and in becoming a parent. My religion, like yours, has kept me grounded. It has given me a level of stability I don't think I would've had otherwise. I am so grateful for that.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I never heard the expression, a holocaust Jew. What is it about practicing Judaism that speaks to you?

    You had so much strength to get out and move on! Perhaps that too comes from being the daughter of survivors. Each day is precious and don't let anybody take "you" away.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Love this post. We can start over, by want or need. I did after my marriage ended. Hard but empowering.

    ReplyDelete
  13. What a beautiful account of your journey back to Judaism. Thank you for sharing, it was truly touching.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is a powerful post, Linda. I especially appreciate the way you personalize the universal experience of searching and (hopefully) finding. I'm not sure that I've ever had to start over in exactly the same way you did , but, in a way, choosing to intermarry and, in doing so, giving up part of my identity to create a new, somewhat shapeless one with Husband, was a form of reinvention.

    Thank you for this thoughtful, thought-provoking essay.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh Linda! What courage it must have taken to walk away from a marriage and to just start over! I just want to give you a hug!

    Although I haven't started over in the sense you talk about here, I have in a meaningful way to me. I refuse to let the cycle of depression and traditional, suffocating ties of what other people will think (a very popular mantra when I was growing up)keep me from doing what will keep my pintele yid from being extinguished.

    In my family, growing up, we didn't try to change what was broken. Instead, we wore a mask of "everything is okay". As I got older and refused to conform, it got more difficult to stay among those who chose to remain.
    Because it felt like I was dying.

    So my starting over was getting married to the love of my life: an American, non-Catholic man who appreciated me, loved me, in spite of me.

    It was the best thing I ever did.

    Thank you for telling your story...You are an amazing writer!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I started over when I finally left home.
    I was never really at home there. I wrote a post about it once. Here....http://chrislivessimple.blogspot.com/2009/08/something-real-for-jack-sht-installment.html
    We start anew daily.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wow, what strength. The few times I've chosen to walk away from a stifling situation with only a vague idea of something better pale in comparison. Thank you for sharing this.

    ReplyDelete
  18. What timing this post is for me! I grew up a non-religious gentile, but married a Jewish man. We have three children. (all born in Skokie!). We sorta kinda practiced Judaism while we lived in Des Plaines, but after we moved in 2003 to rural Georgia, we stopped even keeping the traditions. We became spiritually and culturally lazy.

    Then this winter, our teen son was recruited by the local Baptist church via his friends and an aggressive youth minister. We realized that our son was susceptible to their methods of recruitment because we'd not given him any foundation in his own heritage. We asked if he'd sought out god or spiritual connection and he said no, it had been social. After some discussion, our family has decided to join a Temple. It has a part time Rabbi and limited services, but it feels good to reconnect with that part of our family's life.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love how you had the courage to start over and the strength to create the life how you wanted it. I think it is wonderful you found your way back to Judaism again.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is a beautiful post, Linda. Not only the Jewish spark in you which you have nurtured and built upon, but the notion of starting over, more generally.

    I have spent a lifetime starting over - and I am certain I am not done, by a long shot. As I married in my mid-thirties, there were many instances of starting over long before, including in new careers, new cities, new "selves." Oddly, since divorce, I don't feel as though I've started over. I've yet to do that, and hope to be in a position for it when my second little bird has flown the next.

    We all keep our little flames of many sorts - spiritual and otherwise - to keep us going. To imagine a life that we could, possibly, attain.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I love the idea of the pintele yid, what a guiding, prodding force it can be. And perhaps the source of so many great things which lay buried until the pintele yid burns too bright to ignore.
    Off topic perhaps, but I wanted to say thank you for your well written essay in the last issue of Brain, child.

    ReplyDelete
  22. You were involved in Hillel and the Israel Action Committee at ASU - you don't mention it but it must have been part of your journey from "Holocaust Judaism" to Judaism. For me it was a step from no Judaism (just identity, or a "pintele yid") to being a Chozer L'tshuvah (return to repentence) and of course a return to the Land of Israel. Now here I am in Nitzan, Israel after being expelled from Gaza by a "Jewish" govt. married, blessed with 7 children living a religous zionist life in Eretz Yisrael. A pintele yid is a powerful thing!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I just wanted you to know that I left you something (not an award that requires work) on my page. Whew. No, I tagged on HERE'S TO YOU THURSDAY. I hope you like your video. I am pretty sure you won't be sending me an email asking for an explanation:-)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Great post Linda. I'm so glad you started over and built the life you wanted. (and got to go out to dinner somewhere other than Monti's)

    ReplyDelete