The Hidden Village of Aspergers

March 6, 2011

On Judaism and Aspergers: Part 1

Filed under: routine — kankurette @ 8:31 pm
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The rabbi at my synagogue is going to a conference on autism and faith at the end of the month and has asked me to answer a couple of questions regarding Judaism and Aspergers Syndrome.

The first question is: How does your Judaism help you in the everyday things you do?

I’ve got a confession to make. I wasn’t born Jewish, or at least I don’t think I was. My mum’s family, according to a friend who did some research on her family tree, were originally Jewish, but somewhere down the line it got lost, and I had started conversion before finding this out. It would have taken too long to prove, however, so I carried on with the process and finally converted in the autumn of 2008. I’d always been interested in religion, and as a kid one of my favourite books was about world religions. I met people in the Jewish Society / J-Soc at Manchester and began to look into converting.

However, I know that I will not be universally accepted as a Jew everywhere, and this bothers me. According to some Jews, I am worse than Hitler, I am diluting Judaism, my rabbi and the rabbis on my Beth Din panel are fakers and should be shot for making fake Jews, I am a fake, a liar, a fraud. I won’t be able to marry an Orthodox Jew unless I convert Orthodox, and even then I gather conversion for marriage is frowned on. So for a start, my status affects who I can marry (Levites and Kohanim are out too). However, I don’t think I’m ever going to marry. I know a Nice Jewish Girl should find a Nice Jewish Boy, settle down, have kids, but that life is not for me.

I was originally going to go Orthodox because the rigid adherence to rituals would have provided me with a totally stable routine, and it goes without saying that Lotte need routine or Lotte go crazy. However, because I am bisexual, I cut myself, I’m a female musician and there are certain laws I feel uncomfortable with, I went Reform in the end. I needed some freedom, and I felt I’d be too constricted by living an Orthodox lifestyle. It wasn’t me. Because I have such a thing about being left out, I had to get over, and still am getting over, the fear that I am doing something wrong in the eyes of G-d and that I will be punished. I don’t know if there really is a Jewish Hell, but I fear I’ll be going there for my ‘heresy’. Even though most of the people I’ve encountered who say horrible things about my religion – and by the way, anyone who flames me over it on here is getting deleted and blocked – are online, I take things literally and thus personally. When they say ‘Reform Jews are evil and are doing Hitler’s work’, they are, to me, saying ‘Lotte is evil and is doing Hitler’s work’. I’ll explain about this in more detail another time.

It’s not fair to say my life is exactly the same as it used to be, because it’s not. I changed my diet. I won’t allow any meat in my house, due to only having one sink and one fridge (and I won’t eat it anyway), and use paper plates for Passover (and oh, how I dread having to clean the house and check for stray breadcrumbs everywhere). I do candles when I can remember, although usually I make Kiddush at synagogue, and then I’ll go out for a meal with my friends. Because of my ME, I don’t always make synagogue on Saturday mornings (which is kind of unfortunate as I sing in the choir there), but I try to go on Friday nights. I don’t pray every night, and my Shabbos observance is pretty lame, but I do make sure I don’t do housework. When I was a student, I didn’t do any coursework. I don’t sort out any bills or go to work. I need to make it different from the rest of the week somehow. I always make sure I go to synagogue when it’s a festival, although I can’t fast on Yom Kippur as it will make me ill. The one festival I can’t stand is Purim, because it sends me into total sensory overload, but that’s for the next question.

The biggest problem is Christmas, as it’s my mum’s birthday and I would feel like a total bitch if I didn’t go to her house, plus I love my family to death and as my brother is in London and one of my cousins is in Belgium, it’s always good to catch up, and I like making people happy by giving them things I know they’ll like. I was such a bad daughter and sister that I feel I have to make it up to Mum and my brother for my horrible behaviour. When the Chanukah clash comes, you’ll find me lighting candles and trying to remember the words to Maoz Tzur. Luckily, my family aren’t religious at all and Mum always took priority over Jesus in our house, so it’s primarily about family. At the risk of upsetting people, my family always come first. Without them, I’d be dead. I’m not kidding.

On that subject, I was going through a sort of prep period when my gran died in 2005, and my belief in G-d helped me get through, although it didn’t stop me taking an overdose a couple of months later. I finally took the plunge, contacted a rabbi and started going to synagogue in August that year, and on the way I met loads of new people, some of whom became my friends, others of whom became my enemies. I don’t feel a part of the community, but there’s a small sub-community of converts that I do belong to – we’re all misfits in our own ways, there’s a few of us on the autistic spectrum, and we’re all going on the same journey, so we have to stick together. Although I wasn’t looking for an identity – I had other identities, queer, female, Aspergic, feminist, British etc. – gaining this new identity made me see myself in a different light. I was part of a group of people who’d survived everything that had been thrown at them over thousands of years, and in a strange way I felt like somehow, I’d come home.

4 Comments »

  1. […] Hidden Village of Aspergers explores the links between her Jewish religious beliefs and her aspergers. I was originally going to go […]

    Pingback by This Week in Mentalists: Avoiding the Rugby Edition « Mental Nurse — March 12, 2011 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

  2. The famous king of Israel, King David I tend to believe would not agree with your Jewish acquantances who do not accept conversion into Judaism. I hope this is a insight into the value of those who have converted into Judaism as we take a look at the close family ties to King David, we must remember his grandmother Ruth, (there is a book about Ruth’s life) was a Moabitess and converted to Judaism when marrying her first husband the son of Naomi who later died, Ruth remained with Naomi and helped care for her mother in law and then later married her kinsmen redeemer according to Jewish law, Boaz. Later they concieved and bore a son Jesse, the father of King David of Israel. In the future when some folks give you a difficult time about your conversion, send them to their ancestors for some insight.
    G-d bless you.
    Bonnie

    Comment by bonnie — October 25, 2012 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

  3. I hope you still went to your mum’s house for Christmas. I don’t see why not, Jews gave us half of the Christmas music we have, and the only reason that people even know a holiday named hanukkah exists, is because it falls around the same time, giving Jews something to celebrate alongside Christians during that special time of year. Sure, it is celebrating the reason that we’ve been hunted for ages, but it has also been the Christians who took our Torah to the world, and have been the best friends of the Jews.

    That said, I do hope you find a spouse, and though I don’t care that they are ethnically Jewish, I do hope they share your same values. And in any event, Israel is very open to lesbian couples, have you ever thought about making aliyah?

    A side question that I hope doesn’t offend you, but does the morose history of the Jews draw you in? To raise a child Jewish is to re-live Abraham’s sacrifice… in that you are offering up that child for sacrifice by way of the bigotry and hatred that they may face at some point, simply for being Jewish. Some parents after the holocaust said it was just not worth it, and dropped the faith, the identity, & gave their children non-Jewish names, and converted to Christianity. I only ask because you say you see yourself in a different light since converting, and that you are a musician(is it punk? rock & roll?), and cut yourself. Not that those things would necessarily make you morose lol, but the correlation worked out that way in my mind.

    By the way, it is those Jews who think that your Rabbi’s are making fake jews, that should be shot. It is primitive to think that God gave us something special at Sinai, something that we only then keep to ourselves, and do not share with humanity. It’s total Bull. One of the largest reasons for Jew hatred is the insularity of the ultra orthodox. Instead of making the world a better place, they looked inwards and removed themselves from the world. We have a mission to elevate the world, and we cannot do that if we only keep to ourselves. Anyways, enough of my rant. Welcome home.

    – a fellow aspie Jew.

    ps… the first Jew, Abraham, was a convert. The messiah will come from the line of Ruth, a convert, and ethnically not Jewish.

    Comment by Howard Fines — May 17, 2013 @ 7:30 am | Reply

  4. This is going to be a really short comment for right now but I will make a longer one later 🙂

    I like this blog post. I kinda skimmed it but I got enough.

    Anyway, I have heard Judaism described as the “Aspie religion”. I am a Bat Noach but I am going to be converting to Orthodox Judaism. I am worried about the married part though. I am a woman and I do not want to get married but I do want to be an Orthodox Jew.

    I’ll respond more to your post tomorrow 🙂

    Comment by Chaya Lander — December 4, 2013 @ 12:35 am | Reply


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