I posed a few questions on Jewish identity and community to people from a variety of different Jewish backgrounds, and will be publishing them in their entirety here on JVoices in the coming days. In today’s installment, Felix Thomson, who is half Jewish and a mother of two kids, responds to my queries.

IB of JVoices: What does it mean to you to be Jewish? What makes you feel connected to other Jews? What makes you feel disconnected from other Jews? What kind of Jewish community do you have, and what kind of Jewish community do you desire?

Felix: I grew up in a non-religious household. My dad comes from a Scottish Protestant family, and my mom grew up in an atheist Jewish household. Her parents met in a young Socialists group. They were very anti-religion.

This feels artificial sometimes, but the main way I feel connected to Judaism comes from the tradition of activism among Jews. When I’ve gone to synagogue I’ve felt out of place and awkward. I don’t know any of the prayers or rituals. I get all anxious when the torah gets carried around the congregation because I’m not sure if I’m supposed to try to touch it or not. But I do feel a cultural kinship in the sense that if I’m hanging out with a group of Jews, I feel at home. Even if these are simplistic stereotypes, I know that in a group of Jews I can eat a lot, talk loud, argue, laugh, and I don’t have to worry that I’m overwhelming most of the folks around me.

I think about creating Jewish community in a more self-conscious way for my kids, but even with them I hold back because I have concerns about what messages they hear about women, god, and spirituality.