Ready To Out Myself, But How

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I work in a very secular environment. It is filled with rationalists and
professed atheists, people who are skeptical of organized religion in
every way, shape, and form. While I often agree with them politically
(who wouldn’t seeing the impacts of the organized religious right on
politics?!?!), I am increasingly an observant Jew. That’s not to say I
wear tzitzit and say prayers all day long. But I do go to services far
more often than I did twenty years ago (then was only on the High
Holidays and some years went to a seder). I also have been attending
Torah study (which to me sounds much better than “Bible study”
which they openly sneer at). I go to a Jewish book club; they say all
the books I talk about are depressing. I recently started doing dvars
(Friday night commentary on the Saturday Torah portion). I want to
start being more Shabbat observant. But they are very used to me
being 24/7 on email and phone. Ironically, our labor attorney is Jewish
and former president of the temple. (But they pay her, not me.) It
feels weird to be out as a lesbian but closeted as a Jew.
Ready To Out Myself, But How



Slowly, deliberately, consistently, persistently, with dignity, and
because it is your human and legal right to do so.

You have the option of just outing yourself in one fell swoop, but the
shock value will almost inevitably lead to some form of professional
discounting, especially among skeptics of all religions. It will make
Judaism seem more like a cult than what it really is: an ancient faith
with lots of value and teachings about living an ethical daily life. Start
by throwing some more common Yiddishisms or Jewish concepts into
your daily or weekly conversations. Not too often at first, and with a
light touch. But a well-placed metaphor gets people listening. Talk
more often about “meditating” and once they’re used to that casually
say “pray” and “services” and gauge responses.
Once you get comfortable (I’m talking months not days), tell a Torah
story or two. Take off for the major holidays. Eat matzo for Passover.
Be out and proud, not in an “in your face” way and not with any need
to antagonize their atheism or agnosticism. But in a way that shows
this is a good transition for you. Introduce the idea of Shabbats off-line
(no email or phone) slowly by simply not responding. When the
inevitable questions come, tell the truth. Not in an adversarial way,
but from the depth of how you feel and the strength of what you’re
receiving. And because no one should be on-line or on-call for work