The Thorny Path

A Russian in America, a Catholic Jew

In a certain sense, every Christian is Jewish. This is something I could have told you years ago—I’m a scholar of religion, after all. But it’s possible to know a thing without fully comprehending it. While I knew that Christianity started out as a sect of Judaism, I did not realize the depth of their connection until they came together in my one heart.

A Jew by birthright, I am connected to a nation spread around the globe, to a mythos and a vast history. It is the fabric of me, undeniable and inescapable, and as definitive as my humanity, my womanhood, or my Russian culture. Yet raised in the secular society of the Soviet Union, I would not have known fully what it meant to be a Jew if I hadn’t been reminded of it since early childhood by the pervasive anti-Semitism of the people I lived among. This is a common experience of Jews in diaspora. Observant or not, we come to understand our Jewishness through rejection; we learn our past through its history of disaster and flight, looking back toward ancient roots and preserving tradition in order to hold on to ourselves.

I am also—by conversion—a Christian. This double identity has been a challenge at times. Trying to explain to my Christian friends that I was not about to cease being a Jew, and to my Jewish friends that I was not betraying my Jewishness, I used to talk about Love and the great, abstract and mystical vision of reality—the...

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About the Author

Maria Kaplun teaches Catholic Studies at Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pennsylvania.