Someone commented on a post of mine suggesting I go to Israel for a summer maybe and really give myself a chance to really learn about Judaism before I do something irreversible (like marry B). So leaving B completely out of this, this is why I'm not going to:
As for going to Israel the summer...Well, first of all, it's logistically impossible. I don't get any financial help from my parents (and haven't for years) and I need to work in the summers in order to live (I teach summer college classes, since I don't get a stipend during the summer- I'm a phd student). Even if somehow I got a full scholarship to an Israel program, I still would have to pay rent on my apartment while I was gone (which is over $1000 a month) not to mention I have 2 cats that would somehow need to be taken care of. Technically i have savings that I can dip into, but they are savings so that when I get my PhD and move off to wherever I land a faculty job, I can buy a house. I don't think learning in Israel would be a good alternative investment.
Second of all, I also have already been to Israel several times...i lived there for a summer when I was 14 (in a lovely west bank settlement), and visited 5 other times with my family, and went on birthrite when I was in college. I talked to several rabbis/rabbinical students each time I was there (especially on birthrite when our trip director was a rabbinical student who I highly respect) and I've never heard anything that would have changed my mind.
Third of all, I feel like I HAVE had a good jewish education. I went to a yeshiva for preschool, elementry school middle school and high school. There were 3 different schools there in the north jersey/nyc/NYS area (I ended up in a different school for 7th and 8th grade than the rest of elementry school) and it may be that those particular schools might have all sucked, but they are all 3 pretty well respected schools in the Jewish community. I also learned at a weekly gemarah shiur with my dad from the time I was 10 until around 17. I admit I didn't do the year after college in israel since I was already pretty sure at least orthodox Judaism was wrong at that point, and the thought of spending a year learning more wrong things sounded pretty useless to me at the time, and I was eager to start college where I could actually learn things I wanted to learn about.
While in college i went to a weekly "lunch and learn"s with the local rabbi for 3 years, went to other talks about judaism all the time and participated in a bunch of jewish events including Birthrite, Shabbatons (that I organized in some cases), regular shiurim and I just generally hung around Hillel all the time (i was even VP of Hillel for a semester, and on the executive planning committe of Hillel for 3 years). Me and some of my jewish friends (from varying backgrounds) used to sit around and have long debates about various religious subjects. Even in grad school, for the first 2 years (I'm in my 4th year now) I went to a thousand jewish grad student events, even as i was more and more convinced that judaism was misguided and wrong..because for a while the Jewish community was a place I wanted to be. I have talked to awesome rabbis who were orthodox, conservative, reform (not reconstructionist though), people who were considered leaders of their community, most of whom were people I respected.
And I have never heard a convincing explanation for all the contradictions I see, and I have never been convinced that the religion was made up by God and not people. In fact, if anything, the more I learned, the more i was convinced the religion was made up by people. Pretty smart people to be sure, but people nonetheless.
I feel like I have given it a shot, and I forced myself to give it a shot even in the face of my huge amount of skepticism. Not only that, I WANTED to believe in it. Do you know how much easier my life would be if I did? Most of my family apart from my parents/brothers don't talk to me anymore becuase they know i'm not religious, and my relationship with my parents is certainly strained as a result. My brother still lives at home at age 24 (and my mom still does his laundry), but I was cut off right after college and told I couldn't live at home because of my beliefs (and in college i only got tuition paid by my parents at my cheap state school, and I paid for everything else myself). I LIKE my family, or at least I did before they were such douchebags to me, and i never wanted to get ostrasized by them. Not to mention the built-in jewish community that exists everywhere and that I could instantly be a part of if only i could bring myself to believe, or even pretended I believed (which I did for many many many years..)
Even as I was keeping less and less mitzvot, I have tried every brand of Judaism out there, hoping one would stick. I tried to tell myself that it wasn't that I didn't believe in God, it was just a problem with Orthodoxy..so i went to Conservative and Reform and Reconstructionist services on several different occasions, trying to find one that felt right. I went to several different kinds of sevices for each, including different orthodox services (on the premise that it may have been the particular community I grew up in that I had a problem with, and that other orthodox people would be better). And nothing.
So why arn't I orthoprax if I see all the advantages to being so (which I do)? Why don't I even pretend that I go to conservative services or just suck it up and sit through them or something (which would make my parents overjoyed at this point). Why don't I keep dating jews with the hope that one day I'll meet someone I can fall in love with depsite our religious differences? In sum, why have I given up on trying?
Well for one, I've never been a good liar. I don't know what it is, but it's both totally repugnant to me to lie about who I am, and I wouldn't be very good at it if I tried. But I did try! I lived a double life for many years, even after i was "out" to my parents (who i found it impossible to lie to given that I saw them on a regular basis), I met many other jewish people at the hundreds of jewish events i went to, and everyone operated under the assumption that i shared their beliefs, because I didn't tell them otherwise. I only dated jewish guys, but I looked for the jewish guys who had absolutely no affiliation with judaism, and who just knew that they were jewish (and there are a lot of guys like that out there, beleive me, i've dated many of them in my area. they are pretty easy to find on jdate).
Anyways, i don't know if any of you have tried it (and presumably a lot of you skeptics have), but living the double life sucks. I lost my beliefs long before I left the Jewish community, and interacting with other Jews who assumed I beleived the same things as them made me extremely uncomfortable. I felt fake. It made me nervous. I fell into long bouts of depression (months long) where I would force myself to go to jewish dinners, and then would come home and sleep for a day and feel like crap (well, not like crap, more like nothing would ever matter and life was crap). I started smoking things that I won't mention by name here (but that rhymes with "read") before friday night shabbat dinners on a regular basis (which I went to the first few years of grad school around twice a month), because when I did I could at least get over the uncomfortableness I felt enough to actually get myself to go there, and once I was there I could pretend all I wanted with no problem, as long as I was still fucked up at the time. Then I stopped smoking (mostly because my guy moved to california), and I started getting panic attacks instead. Before shabbat dinners (especially on the way over), before and after dates with jewish guys (especially when they wanted to go on a second date), even seeing the Hillel program director in the distance made me start to hyperventilate. It got to the point where I was having at least one major panic attack a week..usually on friday nights. I ended up going to a shrink for a year, which i'm not going to go into...but anyways, as a result of a heck of a lot of introspection, I ended up distancing myself from the jewish community. I also took a long time off from dating. And you know what? I haven't had a panic attack in almost a year and a half now. Not one. And I also have only been to one friday night dinner that whole time. And I started dating people who weren't jewish. Well, not a lot of people. Actually, B is only the second person I went on a date with who wasn't Jewish, since I was still of the mindset that I should date jewish people if possible (since I knew that my parents would flip out), but I decided that I shouldn't close myself off to not-jewish people, as long as I felt a connection to them already. I had no panic attacks after me and B's first date (which wasn't even really a date, we just hung out alone and talked for a few hours, didn't even go anywhere, but that would have previously been enough to send me off)...just butterflies cause I liked him so freakin much.
Actually, that's not true, I did have one panic attack earlier this year...when my dad offered me a free trip to israel with him to visit my cousins in the west bank. I initially accepted, and then had a panic attack after thinking about what it would actually entail (including spending shabbat in a settlement with no buses running at my extremely relgious orthodox cousin's house) and ended up backing out of the trip. So yeah, I don't think at this point a trip to Israel is going to be so helpful to me :)
I don't really know how to end this, other then to say..i have tried. I felt I've tried enough, and at this point there is nothing more i can do. I still actually read a few orthodox blogs, to see if there's any new ideas out there that will resonate with me...and there's nothing. I feel as if I don't have the personality to be able to be religious. Or something. I wish I could...sometimes, although I gotta say living my life the way I want to live it with no laws or bounderies other then the ones I set for myself is totally awesome. But at this point religion makes me physically ill, so I'm going to have to stay with the life I've chosen- and I gotta say, even with dealing with crap from my family and all the negativity that comes from that, at this point in my life I'm pretty much the happiest I've ever been. Part of that might be B, but before meeting him I was also the happiest I've ever been. So I'm going to stick with that :)