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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


My mother’s coat is long and black, slapping against her legs as we walk up the steps of the church garnished with lavish, colorful windows. The incense engulfs my nostrils, seeping into the rest of my body. It sedates me, lulls into the massive stone building. The God this church praises has been tarnished in my eyes, weaponized in my home, so I keep my distance knowing in the eyes of this religion, I am not pure, something I am not envious of but for which I am thankful. Purity is an ignorance I find boring and unchallenging.

My brother claimed Judaism from the time he was old enough to proclaim it, something I could never do in the face of my mother. She drags him to church against his protests, fighting for a last semblance of familiar cohesion. She loves to sing the songs in the mass and holds my hand when we are sitting.

I feel bad. I put up no fight when we go. I feign enthusiasm. My religion in this room is for her. My prayers plead for her serenity.

My father refused to read Christmas stories to me. My mom never went to temple with us. Even at a young age, I understood I was fundamentally split. Fundamentally foreign from these proper forms of God.

I had gone to a Catholic school and to mass for as long as I could remember, a tradition filled with the monotony of hushed reverence for a God to whom I felt little connection.

The only moment of novelty comes when I am told to shake my classmates’ hands as a sign of peace, a gesture that warrants precise planning in where I sit, who I sit around. That and the time I accidentally received the body of Christ twice after waiting in the line I thought was for his blood. The second wafer felt wrong in my mouth, but my guilt did not last longer than the time it took for this second snack of the Messiah to dissolve on my tongue.

Despite my degrees of separation, I am familiar with the ways of this religion. These pews feel comfortable, like I could fall asleep in them. It is this feeling that I keep with me, cherish. My nodding off is my form of trust in this God, knowing this entity is protecting me in my slumber.


My dad’s bald head badly needs the shiny blue yamaka he dons inside the synagogue. Walls crawl with golden ornamentation that curls into corners of this sacred space. Men in suits and women in shawls pack themselves into rows of polished wooden pews, holding different colored books in their backs. Blue hues of stained glass depict a Torah and 6-pointed stars of David, casting bright shadows onto pale surfaces below.

I feel like a fraud, like at any second I will be recognized as not Jewish and be told to leave. Yet, I am among family. Many have never met me, but they would recognize my namesake, my lineage. Granddaughter of Judith, great granddaughter of Rica, cousins, second cousins, and cousins removed all carry some blood of this vein, but no one seems as removed as I. My mom’s Catholic blood burns inside me, running just as deep and red as the Sephardic heritage bestowed upon me, but its fire is a neon sign of alienation. It keeps me in unrest, forsakes me in the eyes of what could be my family.

The ceremony for the bar mitzvah starts. The manifestation of my alien status cements itself in my eyes, eyes that cannot read Hebrew. I have no idea where we are on the page. I read the translation on the left of each section, finding solace in the diluted poetry of verses praising Adonai, Hebrew for “my Lord.” It is one of the only words I know.

The cantor speeds through pages’ worth of prayer in minutes, maintaining a rushed, humming melody as she rocks with the words, enveloped by them. My dad whispers in my ear Hebrew characters that he points to on the page, translating a few letters worth of the prayers. I do not know how to tell him how futile this exercise feels, learning a handful of vowels in a sea of these unidentifiable characters.

Later, at the party, colored lights are cast on lavish arrangements of every kind of food and drink. A soundtrack of top 40 songs brings rhythm to the movement to partygoers of all ages. I never imagined my dad dancing to LMFAO, and know I now why.

“Mazal tov,” I give congratulations to a chubby 13-year-old who failed to crack a smile for the entire ceremony performed in his honor. Victim of middle child syndrome, I felt sorry for the conditions under which his manhood was cemented. But strength, I have learned, comes not from the given, but from the earned. His struggle to find his place reflects mine, and in his lost face I take strange comfort. It is a countenance I once held, failing to find God or happiness within the walls of churches or temples.

I want to say to him it gets better, this wrestling with identity, that his searching is not in vain. Happiness can be found in every act of creation, every thought dedicated to finding the meaning of this life. The journey is the best part.

Finding God is much like finding yourself. It is a task that is sometimes hard and lonely and will ultimately take you much farther than you are comfortable with, but this wandering is worth it, even if only to have something to occupy your mind, direct your energy. There is a reason revelations are made in deserts.

Plus, God is a lot cooler than all the bullshit people try to see in him.

I think these things, but I say nothing. It will take him years to discover this, I realize, just as it took me. Yiddish wisdom calms my thoughts. Gam zu l'tova, I assure myself. Even this is for the best.

Your weekend warrior,



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