Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Part 'None,' Part Jewish, All Teenager - and Leery about European Anti-Semitisim

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Part 'None,' Part Jewish, All Teenager - and Leery about European Anti-Semitisim

Article excerpt

When the birth announcement of Athene, daughter of my Parisian college boyfriend, arrived by email, I excitedly showed la bebe's picture to my 16-year-old. My husband and I are perilously close to becoming empty nesters, which is suddenly making babies irresistibly appealing.

"Isn't she adorable?" I gushed. "You know what? We should go to Paris and see her!"

"Well, I'm not going to Paris any time soon," my son announced. "I don't want to be 'Je suis Ezra.'"

To hear him say this was surprising. He appears somnambulant during our morning carpool, but it turns out he's been attentive to the news on the radio. It had not occurred to me that Ezra might consider himself a target in the growing climate of anti-Semitism in Western Europe.

With his green eyes and fair complexion, inherited from his Ashkenazi ancestors; his tendency to over-use the word Oy, a habit he picked up from me; and the surname he shares with his father, he believes he's easily recognizable as being of Jewish decent. But he's Jewish with an emphasis on the "-ish."

Like many non-congregational Jews in America, our family barely qualifies as holiday Jews. Ezra's bar mitzvah took place in the community room of his Episcopal school. We attend Passover Seders except when we don't and celebrate what we affectionately call the three days of Hanukkah. By the third night, I've got to work late, the math tutor is coming, or we've just forgotten. The upside is that a box of candles lasts us several years.

I am a second-generation American, and a kind of cultural identification of Judaism, if not the religious imprinting, has stayed with me. The Yiddish I heard in my grandmother's house creeps into my vocabulary, and I buy challah for Shabbat - white chocolate challah, but still.

My son, on the other hand, claims membership in the "nones," the one-third of Americans under 30, who, according to the Pew Research Center, have no religious affiliation. I know I fostered this secular humanism, and I see his weekly volunteering with children on the autism spectrum as confirmation that community service doesn't require a religious mandate. …

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