Another site I absolute LOVE is A Practical Wedding, which I think I've also mentioned, oh, a gajillion times. And up until now I have been 100% in agreement with Meg, the blog's owner/writer. But yesterday I read the comments to a post about how a wedding ceremony does or does not affect the marriage that follows.
Somebody posted a response that said she loved the symbol of the chuppah, and wanted to use it in her wedding as to be reminded of the meaning during her marriage. To which Meg responded that, FYI, Jews take offense when non-Jews use Jewish symbols.
A HUGE discourse followed, as apparently a LOT of people were as confused by this statement as I was.
Here was her main point:
-Jews have been persecuted pretty much forever. It's the trademark of the people. The trademark of their WEDDINGS is the chuppah. It's theirs. They've had everything stripped from them over and over, and taking any more away is hurtful to them. And considered by them to be "violent."
-Judaism is cultural, as much as it is a religious background.
-All Jews should have access to Jewish customs. Whether the person is just descended from a Jew, or is practicing, or non-practicing, or whatever. If a person has ANY BLOOD CONNECTION or has converted to Judaism, then they have a right to Jewish traditions.
She also drew such parallels as Catholics being upset if a non-Catholic receivs the Eucharist*, and mentioned hand-fasting and broom-jumping. One woman responded to this, saying that she's African-American, and that coming from a cultural group that has ALSO had many traditions and lifestyles ripped away, she takes issue with people using the broom-jumping tradition.
There was a response to this from a woman saying that she and her now-ex-husband used broom-jumping in their wedding, because they were both of Irish descent, and broom-jumping was actually a Gaelic, pagan tradition. To which Meg responded that it was a case of two groups having the same tradition with different meanings, and urged the Irish woman, "lets not begrudge them figuring things out for themselves, since we ripped their culture away from them, yes?"
Am I reading this right?
I, as a white non-Jewish person, am being asked to atone for the sins of (maybe my, maybe not) fathers? To the extent that I shouldn't use traditions because somewhere in history, religious and cultural groups that are not my own were persecuted? Of COURSE the history is ugly, and we should all be reverent and aware of it. But it wasn't my doing. I didn't run Auschwitz or run a plantation. And as far as I'm aware, that African-American woman was never a slave, and none of the Jewish women I've read from on wedding blogs were given Stars of David to wear on their lapels.
You totally get to acknowledge your lineage's history. By all means. Those who have been persecuted and kept traditions alive did so in large part for their children. But I sincerely doubt that when they were thinking, "My daughter will survive this, and she will get to use [tradition x] freely and happily...but you other kid on the playground, no, totally don't use this symbol or I will be highly upset about it." The tradition belongs to the person who suffered for it. You don't get to take ownership by association. I don't celebrate myself on my birthday, because I didn't DO anything. My mother and grandmothers did all the work (my dad rules, but he was at sea, and therefore no help whatsoever at my birth).
Meg kept sort of saying that non-Jews using a chuppah makes a chuppah mean less to Jews. Which is...um...kind of extraordinarily similar to people saying that gay people getting married makes their heterosexual marriages less valid. Less sacred. Which OMG Meg would be P*SSED if she read, and thank goodness she closed the comments on the post before I read all this business and had a chance to say so. She is a huge, staunch, crazygonuts supporter of the LGBT community. But really. She kept saying it's one of those things that you eventually just have to concede and say, "I don't understand, but OK I won't use this tradition because you're saying it hurts you." I see NO difference between these two.
Another commenter asked whether she (Meg) thought that appropriating another religion/culture's tradition was more hurtful when used by a secular couple who finds deep meaning in the tradition, as opposed to a non-practicing person (with the "appropriate" heritage) who uses the tradition just because it's tradition. And she said yes. Like...seriously. I read it several times to make sure I wasn't reading it wrong because ARE YOU KIDDING ME??
I absolutely LOATHE seeing non-religious people having religious ceremonies just because that's what's done. In fact, that line of thinking is exactly the sort of thing that A Practical Wedding is normally SO against. I see couples who were raised Catholic but are now...I don't know...atheist? Completely agnostic? Whatever the case, they no longer practice, but since they identify as Catholics by family, they decide they have to get married in a Catholic church. And then they "shop around" for one. Because they want it to be pretty. Because they don't HAVE their own local parish, and a parish community. I would SO MUCH rather someone who finds deep meaning in my faith's traditions be able to use a church or be married by a priest, than someone who doesn't even know when Advent is, but happens to have been baptized in the first days of her life.
So this has been an extremely long post. Without pictures. And I feel kind of badly about that. But I really needed to put this out there, and I want feedback from anyone who's willing to give it.
*So.not.the.same. Ingesting the Messiah is NOT like standing under a chuppah. But even when I do see non-Catholics (erroneously) receiving Communion, I am not offended. It doesn't mean the same thing to them at all, so they're not getting the same thing out of it. The only regret I feel about it is wishing that they DID understand and believe, so that they'd really be celebrating with the rest of us. And I think that a secular recreation of a Communion service in a secular couple's marriage would be quite beautiful. Breaking bread together is one of the oldest acts of community there is, and I don't have a patent on that.
Note: I asked Leaf - who was raised in a practicing, Conservative Jewish household, and attended private Jewish school, from 3rd grade through senior year of high school - whether he thought Jewish people would be mad about secular couples using a chuppah, and he was confused as to whether it was even a question, because why not?