My Dual Allegiance

After receiving permission from the Rabbi Jaimee Shalhevet, my grandmother, Eliza, and my mom ascended the bimah, joining in the traditional passing of the torah through the generations at my bat mitzvah.

While most of my friends know my Grandma Eliza and my mom’s entire family are members of the Syrian Orthodox church, what they don’t realize is how significant this dual allegiance is in my life.

Some weekends I spend my time at my local synagogue; some weekends I attend recitals featuring Armenian dancers. I observe Rosh Hashanah with my dad’s family, but eat grape leaves and Che Kufteh on Christmas with Grandma Eliza and my cousins. These are ways of celebrating my diverse background. My parents made sure I was exposed to both sides of the family, but peacefully.

My dad proposed to my mom in 1978, and this posed an issue to my mom’s father, who took intermarriage very seriously. Their road to marriage was not an easy one; my grandfather tried to set my mom up with Syrian Orthodox men, my dad was kicked out of my mom’s house and told never to come back, and my mom had to sneak out of her house to see the man she loved and eventually marry.

When my parents first recognized their relationship, they looked past their religious differences and only saw the similarities that drew them together.

Their marriage is proof that the integration of religions can be achieved. We can come together and live peacefully; we just need to realize that our similarities outweigh our differences. I am thankful that I am able to look at Christians, Hindus, Muslims or Buddhists the same way I look at Jews. Unification will make people living on this Earth stronger; we are weaker if we are divided.

Both sides of my family have had firsthand experience as victims of genocide: the Holocaust, and the Armenian Genocide. In fact, I was named after my great grandmother, Fanny, who survived the Armenian Genocide.

I grew up experiencing something people believe will never be accomplished: peace between religions. When my mom and Grandma Eliza walked onto the bimah, they took one healing step toward ending the misunderstanding and hatred that breeds genocide.

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