I’ve gone to look for America

I had an interestingly enlightening experience at the hospital here in Warwick on Sunday. At the hospital – the St. Joseph’s Hospital – I was treated for the mysterious bug that’s making my muscles feel like I’ve been lifting weights all day. The small town hospital staff were wonderful – they were humorous, caring, and I even got to watch Degrassi while being subject to the humility of wearing a hospital gown. A little taste of home. None of this was particularly enlightening.

What was interesting, was the check-in process I had to go through at the hospital. I informed them I was from out of the country. “Oh really, what’s Canada like?” Blah blah blah. No allergies to medications. Blah blah blah. Yes, I have insurance. Blah blah blah.

Then they asked me what my religious preference was.

My religious preference? “Ummm. I’m Jewish?”

That would never fly in Canada. You can’t even ask that question. I know they’re just covering their bases in case they need to bring in a chaplain, but that’s a serious invasion of privacy where I come from. I’m not passing judgement – it didn’t really bother me at all – but it was an interesting cross-cultural event.

Which of course got me thinking… is Judaism my religious preference? No. It’s not. Sure, I guess I do prefer it to other religions, but it’s not like there’s a religious buffet and I prefer the Jewish blueberries to the Buddhist strawberries. Judaism is a whole part of my self – not just a random preference I have.

Religious preferences. Sexual preferences. Political preferences. Aren’t these things a little too important to be considered preferences? Preferences change… shouldn’t these things be a little less fleeting and a little more ingrained in one’s identity?

And I’m ok, by the way… they gave me some wonderful painkillers. Life is beautiful.


3 thoughts on “I’ve gone to look for America

  1. Jordan Helfman says:

    I was in a meeting with the Leo Baeck College (British Rabbinical School) recruitment committee last year, talking about how much of a better job HUC-JIR does than them at recruiting (aka HUC does more than have meetings about it, and as much as some people.. Fuld and others.. object to their methods, they do get applicants), and I was talking from my position as a member of LJY-Netzer and said something about how the British progressive Jewish youth movements “are more focused on Zionist ideology than on Jewish ideology and emphasis Aliyah way over becoming a Jewish professional,” and Rabbi Professor Marc Sapertein called me out (probably correctly) and asked “Jewish Ideology!? What, pray tell, is Jewish Ideology?” or something like that.

    Whatever it is, I guess its more than a preference… (and I do have to say, after nearly 25 years of American-ness, I don’t think anyone has asked me my religious preference…. but I’ve never been admitted to a hospital before, either…)

    Have a great summer!! – Jordan

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