Being Raised Both As A Jew And A Christian

This Is My Life As A Jewish/Christian Redhead With An Irish Last Name At A Southern School

An interesting combination, am I right?

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As you can imagine, being raised both Jewish and Christian while having an Irish last name and having red hair on top of that has brought up questions my whole life. I grew up in an interfaith household and never really thought much of it.

It seemed pretty normal to me. Growing up in a town with a large Jewish and Christian community, I had friends that were Christian and friends that were Jewish. Some of my friends went to CCD every week and church on Sundays and others attended Hebrew school at the local temple three days a week and practiced Shabbat every Friday night with their families.

Our schools were closed in observance of holidays for both religions. With my mom being Jewish and my dad being Protestant, I was raised Jewish and given a Hebrew name, Lea Shira, but I was also raised Christian. I attended Sunday school, run by an organization for interfaith families, for five years. Over those five years, I learned about the history of Judaism and the Jewish holidays, how to read and write Hebrew and learned the blessings, prayers and songs of the religion. I was fascinated by the history of Judaism and would always come home and tell my mom everything I had learned.

After seventh grade, when students in the program graduated and had their bar or bat mitzvah, I became a TA for a first-grade class at the Sunday school for three years. I didn't end up having a bat mitzvah but I attended many bar and bat mitzvahs of friends and family members.

As a family, we celebrated Hanukah most years in addition to celebrating Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter. My mom, siblings, and I would get out the menorah and light the candles each night of Hanukah while saying a prayer before receiving our small gift. It's an interesting family dynamic for holidays because my dad's family and part of my mom's family are both Christian. My grandfather remarried after my mom's mother passed away and part of my grandmother's family, including my aunt, uncle, and cousins are Protestant. We celebrate Christmas with my mom and dad's families and Hanukah with only my immediate family. I am very lucky that I am able to celebrate holidays from both religions with both sides of my family. It's something special that not everyone can say they do.

I didn't really notice it until high school and now in college, but when people would ask me what religion I identified with, I would say that I am part Jewish and part Christian and the reaction was always a look of surprise. The follow-up question would then be, "Well, isn't your last name Irish? How does that work?" I would then tell people that my dad is Christian and my mom is Jewish so I celebrate holidays from both religions. Then if they asked about how I got the red hair, I would say that both of parents actually had relatives on each side with red hair.

Now that I am attending college at what I consider a southern university, it's definitely more unusual to people now when I tell them I am both Jewish and Christian. I'm definitely part of the small population of Jewish students at the school. Knowing that I celebrate Christmas, people are even more surprised when I tell them that I'm half Jewish.

I have come to be proud of the fact that I am a Jewish and Christian redhead with an Irish last name and enjoy talking about my family history.

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God's Letter To The Struggling College Christian

Don't give up on me because I haven't given up on you
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Dear Struggling College Christian,

Life can be tough, especially in college; you're at that age where you're not exactly an adult but also no longer a child.

You're somewhere in between, possessing just enough freedom to do what you want while still being held responsible for the decisions you make about your future. You're always stressed out. You're going to get hurt, you're going to feel like dropping out or changing your mind, and you're even going to want to turn your back on me, your God, but I want to tell you this: your suffering is not in vain.

SEE ALSO: I Am Christian Millennial And I Do Not Hate You

I want you to know that everything you are going through is a lesson. It's all building you into a better person, a better you. The things you've asked of me, the things you've told me you wanted – those are things you have to be prepared for and you still need a bit of tweaking.

The future, though bright, isn't all sunshine and roses.

The path has twists and turns, cracks are in it, fallen logs in your way, and most of the time you're not going to be able to see straight ahead of you. The weather is going to be unpredictable. The hailstorm is going to knock you off your feet and the twisters are going to send you spinning into confusion, exhaustion, and doubt.

But with the strength that I am trying to build up in you, you'll find that you know exactly where to find shelter when the storms break down your door.

You'll find that the lessons you learn from trying times are exactly what you need to fulfill my plans for you. You've read Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 hundreds of times, but there is a verse in the Bible that you may have never paid attention to.

Ephesians 2:10. It reads: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

The most important part of this verse is one simple word: beforehand. So while you're crying and stressing about what job you're going to land after you graduate, if you're going to marry that person you've been with for years, or if you even want to be majoring in what you're currently majoring in, I already have a plan laid out specifically for you. You are my child, my creation and you have a purpose.

However, while knowing these things is great, it is all pointless if you don't do. So here's what I want you to do: do not give up. Have faith in me. You believe in me, so why not believe in me in your darkest moments? That's the reason you became a Christian, right?

Because I'm the one person you know that won't forsake you. You know that I love you, and you know that I'm here for you, so prove it. I know it can be hard when you're pulled in a lot of different directions by your social life, your academic life and your extracurricular activities not to mention your family life and your own personal sanity, but take a few minutes out of your day, every day, to talk to me.

Tell me your fears and your desires. Remember that you can ask me for and about anything. I'm always going to give you an answer, whether it's a yes, no, or not right now. After that, I want you to stop worrying and fight on through the darkness. You are stronger than you think.

My Child, enjoy yourself while you are young: don't stress over the things that you can't see. Don't give in to the depression, the anxiety, or the stress; things that are not of me. Don't let yourself forget about me or believe that I'm not there when I am and know that my plan is set in place for you.

All you have to do is walk in it. Trust that this is all for your good. But most importantly, remember that I love you unconditionally–at your worst and your best. Life can be tough, but you are tougher simply because you are mine.

I've got you,

God

Cover Image Credit: Google Images

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Netflix's 'Special' Is A Groundbreaking Series About A Gay Man With Cerebral Palsy

Based off his memoir "I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves" Ryan O'Connell reimagines his journey in this witty 15-minute comedy.

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Ryan O'Connell is a gay man with cerebral palsy, and he's here to showcase his story in a must-see eight episode series. O'Connell navigates his world behind sexuality and disability in a coming-of-age twentysomething comedy, that's extremely important in today's society. When it comes to the topic of representation, O'Connell exceeds expectations as he shines a light on internalized ableism, being a fish out of water in his own community, and even the topic of gay sex. This series has a significant amount of charm, it's almost like a rated-R Disney show with its quirky music, fast-paced story and it's a success in making everyone's heart melt.

"Special" is about Ryan Hayes (Ryan O'Connell) a charismatic and shy gay man with mild cerebral palsy who's "28 and hasn't done a goddamn thing." Therefore, he takes the initiative of becoming an unpaid intern at an online magazine titled "Eggwoke" and begins his journey in soul-searching for his identity. His boss Olivia (Marla Mindelle), a chaotic Anna Wintour-type, expresses that most articles going viral right now are confessional ones. This allows Ryan to have his moment, as he writes an anecdote about getting hit by a car and inflates it from a minor injury to a traumatic piece, which allows him to use it as a cover story for his limp and to keep his condition a secret from his peers.

Ryan befriends one of his peers, a South-Asian American woman named Kim (Punam Patel) whose professional niche involves body positivity, the empowerment of being a person of color and a curvy girl. Her constant confidence helps paint her as the motivating friend that helps Ryan get more comfortable with himself. They share a moment at Olivia's pool party in a room when Ryan refuses to take off his clothes and she coerces him into taking off his clothes and appreciating his body. Kim might be a bit of a push towards Ryan, but she's only leading him in the right direction.

"Special" is extremely self-aware, especially within the first scenes of the first episode which explain what mild cerebral palsy is and in response a child screams in fear and runs away, leaving Ryan confused but humored. There even is a complex relationship between Ryan and his mother, Karen (Jessica Hecht). Karen's an overprotective mother who only wants the best for her child, but when she's at that point of finally letting him be free she's put into a place of loneliness. The show tackles a very specific mother/son relationship, as Ryan tries not to rely on his mother for help all the time, Karen does not mind any hassle regarding her son... especially with his condition. The two butt heads at multiple occasions, but their love for one another prevails.

"Special" has eight episodes that you can watch on Netflix right now, it's binge-worthy especially with each episode being around 15 minutes and it's also an eye-opener. This show helps strive for self-revelation and self-evaluation, it's a reflective process on identity and what categories we put ourselves in. Ryan O'Connell has made such a marvelous show, with a charming cast, multiple important messages, and a motive to help normalize disabilities and homosexuality to the public through a unique and specific perspective. It's a personal experience that everyone should watch, learn and love from.

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