What I Learned From Having A Presbyterian Mother And A Jewish Father

What I Learned From Having A Presbyterian Mother And A Jewish Father

Shalom, y'all.

What I Learned From Having A Presbyterian Mother And A Jewish Father
Ryan Rothkopf

My mother, Sally Clyburn, grew up in Lancaster, South Carolina, where the McDonald's sweet tea was syrupy, the population under 10,000 and the median income a couple thousand above that.

My father, Howard Rothkopf, was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Jericho, New York in a heavily Jewish and Italian neighborhood, where the median income was, let’s say well above Lancaster’s.

Needless to say, they were and are very different people with very different backgrounds, families and even religion. But they made it work and I never felt anything other than assured in their parenting styles, different as they were.

But the other day, I asked my mom what their plans had been in regards to any sort of religious upbringing before having us. She told me they were going to “wing it” (they really aren’t big planners). So they decided to culturally give us both rather than ingrain the religious aspects of each.

From my end of things, that’s been pretty true. I was born and lived in a primarily Jewish town through the age of about six before I moved to Charleston, a majority Christian-populated city.

Each year, we lit the candles on the Menorah, said the prayer and instead of a gift for each day of Hanukkah, we each got one larger present. Then we put up our tree and woke up on Christmas morning and celebrated that as well.

It’s interesting. Having grown up a bit I’ve realized that as a child, there are questions that you do and don’t ask yourself.

You might wonder why it is that the sky is blue and you might think up a thousand and one “what if” questions to berate your parents with, but when did religion ever come up as a question? Questions themselves are posited when a person is encountered with a lack of knowledge or a challenge to believe.

Growing up, I called myself, “half-Jewish, half-Christian.” As if religion were genetic in nature.

I didn’t question meaning behind each of these words. I was whatever my parents were, like many of my classmates. But rather early on, my classmates and friends challenged this belief when they told me that you can’t be half and half.

“That doesn’t make sense,” they said.

“I’m Christian and I don’t believe the same things as Jewish people, so you can’t be both,” they said.

I didn’t really understand. I was selfishly proud to be different, to be something other than what everyone else was in my grade, which was especially uniform at my school. But now that wasn’t possible, it wasn’t within the parameters of a strict set of rules that set the guidelines for differentiation between two religions.

My freshman year of high school came and I was placed into a sophomore English class. I was a little less confident back then and I can remember telling myself to not say something stupid, to just be quiet, to make sure that none of the cool sophomores thought I was weird.

One day, my teacher decided to do an exercise in acceptance of difference in opinion. She would make a statement and you would go stand by strongly agree, agree, don’t have an opinion, disagree, strongly disagree.

She started out with easier statements that progressively got more controversial. And then I heard, “My religion is the one true religion in the world.”

I remember thinking, ‘Oh this is an easy one!’ and immediately moving to the strongly disagree side.

I looked up to find myself completely alone. Then, I started denying and arguing with every single person I saw under the taped sign, ‘strongly agree.’ This was one thing I knew not to be true. My parents were both right, these people are saying that one of my parents has to be a liar, how could they be so wrong?

I honestly couldn’t believe it. I sat for the remainder of the activity.

By the time my junior year came around, I was a blade of grass in a field of “What even is a religion?”

On standardized tests, I would look at the religion section and pick and choose what I was going to be that day. Sometimes it would be “would prefer not to say.”

At 19, I still don’t have a set opinion. But I’m going to be honest with you, at 19, I also really don’t care. Since that time, I've grown into myself, become more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses — I've developed my own sense of right and wrong.

Sure, I could write about a hole that lack of religion has left in my life or I could write about the importance of spiritual support, if I thought I was in the midst of some kind of identity crisis.

But really, until I encounter a loss of faith in myself and humanity, I’m sincerely okay just living my life as a girl with a good family support system and an idea of where she wants to go and what she wants to do.

And, I think that’s what my parents wanted to leave us with when they decided not to push two religions at us. That is me and my siblings.

Religion doesn’t mean judgment, which is what I, my classmates and even my teacher had difficulty understanding my freshman year of high school. It doesn’t mean condemning other faiths or systems of belief — my parents are the counter-argument to that.

My siblings and I aren’t some convoluted mixtures of two opposing ideas. We are the example of acceptance and coexistence.

And, that’s a pretty beautiful thing.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B just dropped the hottest summer single yet. It's called "WAP" and we're going to get into all the intoxicating lyrics.

This song empowers females and their sexuality. These women put the ridiculous music industry female beef to bed, and I mean tucked away in a coma.

Keep Reading... Show less

How To Write Down The Holy Grail Recipe Everyone Begs You To Make

Because everyone has a signature cocktail, cake, or pasta they bring to every potluck.


From back when I used to bring my mom's classic white chocolate chip cookies to preschool on my birthday to now stirring up my signature tequila cocktails at every friends' barbecue, I've always had a couple of standby recipes in my culinary rotation.

Keep Reading... Show less

Meet My Cat: Cheshire, The Stray Turned House Cat Who Lives in Michigan

I never considered myself a cat person, but Chess immediately stole my heart.

Madelyn Darbonne

In 2016, a stray cat gave birth to a litter of three grey kittens on my aunt and uncle's property. I had never considered myself to be much of a cat person, but these furballs immediately stole my heart. I got to watch them grow up until they were old enough to leave their mother's side.

Keep Reading... Show less

How To Binge-Watch A TV Show —And Then Write A Review About It

Writing your favorite and least favorite things about a show could not be more fun.

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

Looking for a new show to binge? Stop scrolling through your options and listen.

Sometimes a good show doesn't come down to the genre or the actors involved, it comes down to the fact that it is simply a GOOD show. If any of these things sound appealing to you, you should definitely watch.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

11 Reasons Why Getting A Cat Is The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Mental Health

Cats may mess up your puzzles but they'll always love you unconditionally — as long as you have some catnip, that is.

Scout Guarino

Alright, everyone, it's time to stop spreading the rumor that all cats are mean, aloof, and hate everyone. Like dogs, each cat has its own personality and tendencies. Some like a lot of attention, some like less — each person has to find the right cat for them. As for me, my cats Bienfu and Reptar have seen me at my worst, but they've also helped pull me out of it. They're a constant in my life and they give me the strength to get through the day in spite of my depression, and there's even scientific evidence to support it!

Keep Reading... Show less

I've been bleaching my hair since I was in seventh grade. Yes, you read that correctly, seventh grade. That's nearly 10 years of maintaining a very light shade of blonde that too-often brings about dryness and brittle strands.

Keep Reading... Show less

Chances are if you're here, you're probably interested in writing an open letter. Yay! We're excited to have you.

Of course, not all open letters are created equal. In fact, there's a recipe to writing one for Odyssey that'll get featured on one of our many verticals. When it comes to Swoon specifically (for those new around here, that's our dating and relationships vertical), we receive dozens of open letters each month, many of which are all very similar.

Keep Reading... Show less

With a new phone comes great responsibility: Do not break it! And the best way to do that is with a case. However, picking a case can be a challenge. No need to fret, I am here to help break down some of the best cases for the new iPhone SE 2020. Honestly, I think it's going to be impossible to choose!

Keep Reading... Show less

To some who have been out of the dating world for a while, it can be hard to get back into the swing of things after being single for some time. So, I asked 26 people what they think is important to know before looking for love again, here's what they had to say.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments