Andrew Silow-Carroll’s column about the Pew survey and what Americans know about their own religion and other religions confirms two points of which I was quite aware (“Don’t know much about divinity,” Sept. 30). First, Jews may know more about another religion than its own practitioners and, secondly, non-Jews know very little about Judaism. When I was 15, some of my Catholic friends invited me to their catechism class for Brotherhood Week. The nun asked the students what Immaculate Conception is. The students mistakenly believed that it means that Jesus was conceived without benefit of a sexual relationship. The nun was somewhat miffed that the Jewish kid was the only one who knew that Immaculate Conception means that Mary, in order to be pure enough to bear the Son of God, was conceived without the taint of Original Sin.

In Jewish religious school, we had studied Christianity as part of our comparative religion studies. Even Geraldine Brooks, who wrote The People of the Book and who is Catholic, made this error in her novel. I wrote to her, and she was embarrassed that her years of catechism seem to have been wasted.

I also realized and was shocked to discover that none of my coworkers in a public school were aware that Jews fast for Yom Kippur, nor did they have any idea of what kind of holy day Yom Kippur is. It was only the Mexican custodian, who is an Evangelical Christian, who knew I had fasted over the weekend.

Natalie Krauss Bivas
Palo Alto, Calif.

read more: