Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
Current Issue   Archive   Donate and Support    

A Moment of Clarity


A Jew, a Catholic and a pharmaceutical company vice president walk into a bar. The Catholic buys a round of vodka drinks, and the VP cracks a joke of Jewish nature.

It wasn’t that funny.

But the ensuing conversation turned into rousing hilarity, or at least the topic of a sociology paper. It turns out, I was the Jew, the VP was my brother’s boss, and the Catholic, well, umm, that was my brother. This was just a few years back, we were both in our 20s and this was the first time we’d ever realized we sided with different religions despite living under the same roof for nearly two decades. True story.

We grew up in a split religion household. Dad came from a strict Catholic upbringing. Mom’s mom was nothing without her Jewish guilt. But by the time I was brought into this world—almost five years after Big Bro—the rents had figured out that they’d raise us in a non-denominational manner with a side of both religious cultures.

In full disclosure, the Harkins family wasn’t the model of practicing either religion. We did the big holidays. When December rolled around, we’d light the menorah and pick out a Christmas tree too bushy to fit in the living room. As a small child getting both Hanukkah and Christmas gifts, I thought I was the luckiest kid on the block.

There were Easter brunches and seder dinners.

I can remember going to church once or twice with my dad and attending more than a handful of bar mitzvahs when I was on the cusp of becoming a teen. But for whatever reason, whenever prompted, I simply answered, “Jewish.” Many of my closest friends were Jews, perhaps that’s why I sided with my mom’s religion. Or maybe it’s because the Jewish faith follows a matriarchal lineage. Or maybe because I’m a momma’s boy. There’s really no explanation. So basically, I became an Irish-Jew with an extra helping of Judaism, which is about as rare as the Sarajevo Haggadah.

Meanwhile, my older brother coasted through life thinking the menorah was just a tiny piece of our holiday celebrations. He liked the Christmas tree better, dammit!

We’re sitting in an empty nightclub in LoDo on a quiet Monday evening when all of this is revealed. Mike, the VP, was in shock.

How could two brothers—two very close brothers, to boot—never realize this throughout countless conversations, squabbles and family gatherings over the years?

It is a little mind-boggling, but since we were never that religious, it’s not totally surprising. In fact, the holidays were simply about family and giving, so it wasn’t really an issue whether one of us preferred sacrament wine while the other Manishevitz.

If there’s a moral to be taken from this story, it’s this: It doesn’t matter what religion you subscribe to (if you’ve even signed up for one at all), the holidays are a time to celebrate family, give thanks for everything you have and buy a nice little something for loved ones.

Although getting gifts during Hanukkah and on Christmas is still pretty freakin’ cool.

Leave a Reply