Rebecca Jacobson
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A Series on Religion, Part 1: Of Exoticism and Guilt

August 8, 2010 @ 6:10 AM | Permalink

From the beginning of my stay in Malawi, I knew religion would prove a sticking point. And indeed, in conversations with both Malawians and with expats, I have said many (many, many) foolish things. I try to tell myself to avoid the topic of religion, but I’ve often broken this rule — attempting to explain agnosticism, confessing I’m unfamiliar with Biblical stories, admitting I don’t attend church at home. The occasions are too many for a single blog entry, so I’m working on several posts about my religion-related mishaps. Here begins the series.



On my second day here, a German woman asked if I had been raised in the church. I should have said no, I wasn’t, and diverted the conversation (“Hey look, baboons!”). But instead I explained, in German, that my parents come from different religious traditions. My father is Jewish, I told her (“oh, I thought he looked exotic in photos,” she replied), and my mother was raised Catholic. But she left the Church, I said, because she disliked the guilt foisted upon followers.


I spent the rest of the car trip learning that God did not intend to make his children feel guilty. And when I met the woman’s husband later that day, he gave me a shrewd look before beginning the conversation. “So,” he said, “I hear you’re of Jewish heritage.”

I clenched my teeth. “Yes, I am,” I said. (“Can’t you see my curls?” I wanted to scream. “And hey, I’m of rebellious heritage, too!”) I stretched out my hand. “I’m Rebecca. What’s your name?”





Stay tuned as I attempt to explain Jewish weddings, discuss the Bible and masturbation, and spend a Sunday in church.


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Rebecca: I love the ending and I LOVE the second picture with the bright blue guy and the sepia tobacco. Angela

Angela Allen on Trafficking in Tobacco 2009-09-29

Thanks Angela! The second photo is my favorite as well.

Rebecca Jacobson on Trafficking in Tobacco 2009-09-30

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