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Monica Rozenfeld moves to Brooklyn with two roommates — a Catholic and an observant Jew — and they each seek understanding of what it means to be religious.

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February 7th, 2011

Jesus is Following Me

 
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Filippino Lippi's Madonna and Child

Filippino Lippi's Madonna and Child


I have to tell you a secret.  A few weeks ago I started to feel reeeeeaaallllly funny.  Like, I was having a connection with Christianity out of the blue, and it wasn’t just some curiosity – it was a weird affinity, like I was having an existential crisis or something.  Now, if you read my blog posts on here you know one thing – a main thing – about me: Judaism is a HUGE part of who I am.  Understandably I was starting to freak out.  Let me take you all on my short-lived Jesus journey.

It all began one Shabbat afternoon when the sun begins to set and the end of Shabbat is near.  I was reading the Saturday Times and saw a short listing of a new exhibit at the Met where the featured painting was this Madonna and Child.

Seeing this painting sparked something within me.  Firstly it reminded me of my high school Art History class that I loved so much.  But even more than that I said to Annie, “I want to go to Italy for Christmas.”  I want to go somewhere for Christmas???  I never speak in terms of Christmas.  But then later on the phone with boyfriend I told him my plans – Christmas in Italy and New Year’s Eve in Paris.  I told him I wanted to feel the Christmas spirit.  I’m sorry, what??  I know, all strange to me too, but for some reason I was compelled at that moment to be in Rome to see and feel how they celebrate Christmas.  Is it the same as in America with lights everywhere and big trees?  Or something closer to the point of the holiday?

The next day Monica, Annie and I went to the Brooklyn Flea for a Brooklynite rite of passage and some shopping.  I got some jewelry and we got some artwork for our apartment.  While walking around, minding my own business, I was stuck in my tracks as I saw this:Sister

Who was this Saintly Sister and why was she put in my path?  Was it a coincidence or a message?  Annie and Monica continued to joke about how funny it would be if I converted to Christianity.  I was starting to get a little freaked out.  I was at least able to take my mind off of this Jesus trip when I had to meet a friend for dinner and on the train wrote my last post “Dear Boyfriend.”

Days later I was in the Times Square train station where you expect to see missionaries handing out fliers asking if you’ve let Jesus in your life.  It’s New York, people!  But again….minding my own business I couldn’t help but notice:For of him

I had to send this to my friend Lilah, who is an Israeli-American smoothie like me, and years ago had her own bout of Christian confusion.  She began reading the New Testament, studying with a friend, questioning, learning…I think she even went to church a few times.  But eventually she decided that it was nice but wasn’t for her.  That the faith she was born into was ultimately where she would stay.

Lilah and I met up for a drink in my neighborhood where we played catch-up talking about boys, apartments, work, and my existential crisis.  I knew I wasn’t walking on the path of conversion, but just that things began feeling oddly “Christian” at times.  Like when we attended a Tu B’Shvat Seder at my favorite house of worship, and under the slight influence of wine observed everyone singing (so beautifully!) and felt like I was in church.

I can’t explain any of this.  It was like feeling another presence – not guiding me, but just around me.  Although the feeling of Jesus following me has subsided, I am still intrigued by the idea of Christmas in Rome. (Stay tuned for that post – A Jew in Rome on Christmas!)  And I would like to learn more about Christianity and other religions.

Have you ever questioned leaving your faith for another?  Have you wanted to try to incorporate ritual from other religions?

 
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The Author : Farrah Fidler
Farrah Fidler is a publicist and social media consultant. A native New Yorker, and recent transplant to Brooklyn, she has always been a soul searcher and is constantly looking for new ways to connect with G-d.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Farrah Fidler

    Thanks, Noe, but I’m good with shabbos and kashrut for now. Maybe my chevruta and I will next tackle tzniut :)

  • Noe

    X-D

  • Noe

    Oh wow hon, torn to shreds. I have had similar but very powerful experiences as a Jew – an utterly guilt-ridden Jew…who just noticed your comment above about not seriously considering conversion and decided to stop talking about himself, the comment where you’re wearing the not-so-tzniut tanktop in the picture?…Farrahleh…have you considered more Judaism?

  • Michael Casey

    This sounds really exciting, allowing mystery to guide you. You sound like a very spiritual being. I would suggest, though, that if you have any real interest in Christianity, jetting off to Rome or Paris (both cool places, for sure) will teach you less about the faith that a week helping homeless folks or changing diapers in a group home. Christ makes himself available through the poor and suffering, the broken, the criminal and the sinner. Give the money for your trip to Paris to a homeless person with AIDS and you’ll be closer to Jesus and the reality of his message than you’ll get in Rome (sorry, Pontiff). Anyhow, keep searching. You’re a real inspiration.

  • Tom Gibbons

    Farrah, there is a Paulist who does a lot of work with other faith traditions and other Christian denominations uses a term called “Holy Envy.” It’s meant to describe the experience of really appreciating something in another faith tradition that I might not seem to have in mind. I actually experienced this when I went to Shabbas services at B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side a few summers ago, also when I attended the wedding of a friend of mine at the same place.

    If you make it Rome for Christmas, I will be very jealous. The Paulists run a parish in Rome that’s catered to Americans – if you go you’ll have to drop in and say hi.

    Great post!

  • Farrah Fidler

    Hi everyone, thanks for taking the time to comment. While I’m very happy with my faith (not converting!), I think that there was definitely a different sort of religious energy in my life during this time and I didn’t want to ignore it even though I didn’t/don’t understand it.

    Jason – I agree with AlarBean. Light candles if it is meaningful to you. Take it as a moment to talk directly to G-d. It’s one of my favorite moments of the week.

  • Joe

    I’m a religious educator, and I would beg of you one thing… Do not think of coversion! These are feelings you might be able to reconcile through open dialogue with a rabbi. I should stress that – so much can be accomplished when we discuss such matters with the authorities that God has provided us (that’s the case for Catholics & Jews). Jesus would never had been such a big friggin’ deal if he wasn’t especially compelling to Jewish peoples. I mean… Jesus was a Jew & a total rock star! Though he can be emotionally compelling, I find that poor foundation for conversion. This is about what you need from God – maybe Christ is the only thing that fits that bill. Maybe you can get it elsewhere… Either way, Rome rocks – enjoy!

  • Julie PUHR

    Look up a Rosiland Moss. She is a fulfilled Jew Who has found Jesus

  • alarbean

    Jason,
    As far as I know, none of the things you described are forbidden for Catholics or first require you to be Jewish. If you want to light candles, do it :)

  • Jairo

    his name was rabbi Israel Zolli . The book was his autobiography

  • Jairo

    I don’t believe in coincidences. Coming from the word to coincide has meaning for me.
    I was once told miracles happen all the time, we just need to pay attention.
    It sound like somethin definitely had you attention. I’m not sure what it means or if you should consider changing your faith even. Whatever it was, you seemed to have a blessed experience . I once read a book by the chief rabbi of Rome during WWII, and how experiences he had led him to become a Catholic in later years. It’s a great read you may want to pick up.

    Enjoy Christmas

    J

  • James Leo Oliver

    I am a Catholic and I love all things Jewish. Most of my limited knowledge comes from the fictional writings of Chaim Potok, an American author and Rabbi. I thank you for your story of thinking about Christianity.

  • Jason

    I found myself going the other way. I am a Catholic who finds myself drawn to the traditions of Judaism–halakha and the total commitment of oneself to G-d, the idea of the radical unity of G-d (as something different than the trinitarian G-d), the holy days marking the stories of an even more ancient tradition than Christianity. These things have tremendous beauty and pull for me.

    Yet, I am a Catholic. A Christian. There is something in the Incarnation that I cannot move from. There is something in the Christian teaching of redemption that I find offers liberation.

    Still, I wonder what it would be like to light Shabbat candles. To fast on Yom Kippur. To erect a shelter on Sukkot. To rejoice on Simchat Torah.

  • http://alarbean.wordpress.com AlarBean

    I’m writing with the knowledge that there are details and feelings that I don’t know about, so if I make major mistakes, please don’t hold it against me.
    It sounds like you’ve found a positive spiritual connectedness. While that source isn’t one you grew up with, or what you necessarily believe in, it’s not unusual or a sign.
    There is something romantic about Christianity and Christmas. Rome and Paris are a destination of choice for millions of people who want to experience, at least for a short time, another culture. Your desire to visit during major holidays is normal and is not indicative of some sort of fault in your “Judaism”.
    I remember when I was in high school I would listen to a children’s Christian radio show partially because of the spiritual feeling it gave me. To me Christianity was only feelings. I mean that it was full of feelings, but it lacked logic for me to take it seriously as a belief.
    However, in my opinion, classic Judaism, while capable of delivering emotions, its feelings are not as easily tapped. As such, the attraction of Christmas in Rome is understandable to me.

    As someone who believes that there isn’t a god, it’s hard for me to advise you. The only thing I would suggest is not to worry too much about which “dish” you get the jellybean out of, just enjoy its sweetness.

  • Chelsea

    As a Catholic with a Jewish Mother.. Yes, I have been torn before but the beautiful correlations between what is considered the Old Covenant for us as Catholics and the New Covenant is so profound and has such meaning it doesn’t make me feel any less of a Jew, it makes me feel like I am embracing the “Jewishness” my Mother put in me more. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know for some Jewish people this would be offensive but if you study like I have and really immerse yourself in the “New Testament” it feels like just coming out of the mikvah, that refreshing feeling, where all negativity and doubt is removed for you? At least that’s how it is for me. It’s like I just know that being Catholic has helped me embrace G-d more while also embracing and appreciating the Jewish way of life more. It’s not a bunch of scattered ideas thrown out there. Catholicism is the embracing of the Old Covenant tied with a beautiful gold ribbon for me. I lose nothing, I gain something that nothing else could truly replace, and yet I still remain me, even if others don’t understand and even if the rejection hurts sometimes from those who don’t understand.

  • Catholic

    Farrah, Thank you for your honesty! This is beautiful! I wish you many blessings on your journey. Unexplained events that feel too real and perfectly timed are so very special. I can relate to these experiences all too well. Oh my, Christmas in Rome!

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