Growing up in a Conservative Jewish home in suburban Toronto, I was a regular attendee at synagogue on Sabbaths and High Holy Days, and I lived a committed Jewish life. My father is a Polish Holocaust survivor from Auschwitz, and my mother’s family escaped the organized massacres of Jews in Russia.
My sister and I were raised in Canada in a Jewish, Yiddish-speaking environment where all our friends were Jewish, and Israel was our raison d’être. Christianity was the religion of the outsiders, the faith of anti-Semites and Jew-haters, the creed of the Crusaders, Inquisitors, Persecutors, and Nazis. Yet my mother would remind me continually that “Jesus was a Jew.”
For the first time in my life, I began thinking of the “big picture”: What do I want to do with my life? Who am I? What do I believe? It was about the time I began asking myself these questions that I started attending daily Mass at the local parish, St. Anthony’s Church. Why did I start going to Mass? Today, as a priest I would say that it was God’s prompting, an action of the Holy Spirit. But back then I thought the reason was familiarity. I had been going to Mass there since I was seven, and thanks to scouting, I’d spent plenty of time in this building (more than I ever did in a synagogue).