Confessions of a Closet Catholic, by Sarah Darer Littman, is about Justine “Jussy” Silver, a young Jewish girl who has decided to give up chicken and being Jewish for Lent to become Catholic like her best friend Mac. Jussy has recently moved and Mac is the first friend she made at her new school. At home, her parents celebrate the Jewish holidays and eat accordingly on Shabbat. That’s about it. Jussy has created her own ‘confessional’ in her closet where she confesses to her teddy bear, Father Ted, and practices communion with grape juice and matzoh.
Not long after, Jussy’s Bubbe has a stroke. She still can get around and talk, but it has left her weaker. Jussy is afraid that her giving up being Jewish for Lent is what caused this. Her Bubbe has been an Orthodox Jew her entire life, including her time at Auschwitz where she was the only one in her family to survive.
Spoilers contained within blockquote.
Bubbe comes to live with them after being discharged from the hospital. One morning her mother discovers a mouse in her closet. When the exterminators come they discover what she’s been keeping in her closet. She was more afraid of Bubbe’s reaction than her mother’s. Her mother is furious with her but Bubbe defends her saying that all children go through a time of questioning.
Soon after, Bubbe dies in her sleep, peacefully. Jussy is worried that the shock of her secret is what killed her. She even goes to confession at a church. The priest suggests that she talks to a rabbi. Slowly she starts reading about Judaism and talks with the rabbi and even starts going to Shabbat services. Eventually she starts to figure out who she is and how her faith plays a role in that.
I just finished it and it is a wonderful book. I’m really tempted to hunt down a copy for myself. I got all teary-eyed when Bubbe had the stroke and when she died. My grandfather had an aneurysm and then, as far as we can figure, a series of small strokes. He was unable to walk or really talk clearly to us. He never got better and slowly got worse before he died. It’s always hard to be reminded of that.
Reading this book makes me want to go and learn more about Judaism. I have two friends who are Jewish. She was born and raised Jewish and he converted from sorta-Baptist. I know a few things and have been to a few services in the days leading up to their wedding. But it makes me want to learn more!
I feel like I understand some of what she’s going through. One part is the friend. He didn’t grow up in a very religious home and when he started learning about Judaism, he said it just made sense to him. That’s how I feel about Catholicism. It’s just right for me.
When I was in college it took me a couple of years to start going to Mass on my own. Until then it was always something that I had to get up early in the morning and dress nicely for. In Junior High and High School I started to enjoy it more because we’d have Mass during the week as a part of the school day and I was really involved.
In college it just didn’t feel right to simply sit there, so I just got lazy and didn’t go. Then one day I finally got up the courage to ask the person in charge of the music group at that Mass if they could use a trumpet player. From there I went to Mass every Sunday I was there because I was a part of it and I loved it. Now I almost hate having to go out of town because I won’t be at the Newman Center on Sunday.
The Center for Jewish Understanding reminds me a lot of the Newman Center. The Newman Center is the Catholic Church for Ohio State. But it’s so much more. It’s a wonderful, active, loving community of college students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members. There are babies and grandparents there every Sunday. There’s no books or kneelers. There are simply very nice chairs set in rows and a screen up front over the choir for the music to be projected onto.
And the music! The thing I love the most about the Newman Center, and that’s not just because I play there. On Sunday we had an electric guitar and bass, drumset, violin, flute, piano, and myself on trumpet in addition to the choir. We’ve had 5 guitars and bongos in additon to all of that.
Every Mass is different because different groups of people come and different instrumentalists come. The Sunday evening Masses have more college students because many, like I did in college, like the fact that they can go to Mass at 6 or 9 at night.
Possibly the best part is the phrase that is used all the time and is very big at the beginning of the school year: “All are welcome.” It’s such a welcoming place. You walk in and feel relaxed and not at all worried about getting through Mass. I can imagine it would be a great place for people to experience their first Mass.
“We go where we are fed.” A friend said that to me a while ago when I was telling him how much I love the Newman Center and how I’ve never felt better anywhere else. I think that’s actually a good way to describe this book. Eventually, hopefully, we all find that place where we are fed. Whether it’s Catholic, Jewish, Wiccan, Pagan, or Atheist.
from A Book Addict
The original text of the review may be found here.