I’m Jewish. My mother is Jewish. My father is Jewish. My ancestors are Jewish. As a child I spent summers at (Jewish) summer camp, attended religious school, and was even bat mitzvah’d. I feel Jewish. Think Jewish. And catch me on a humid, not so good hair day, alas, I look Jewish.
All of that Judaism, for me, has meant one thing (okay, three): Food, jokes, and tradition. Let me break this down as to what this means….
Food. This one has nothing to actually do with the type of cuisine Jews eat, because frankly, if you judged my Judaism by the “Jewish things” I eat, I would not measure up. I hate lox, despise gefilte fish, and think herring smells like death. I have never tried a chopped liver I like, and that includes the zshuzshed up/real deal version that is foie gras. Blech. No thank you. For me, food, and how it relates to my religion is connected to my obsession with it– Not like foodie obsession, because no, I’m not a foodie. Simply, I like to eat. And I like to talk about eating. This 100% stems from a family that gets together to eat and spends entire said meal talking about food and what it is that they will eat next. Not only do we plan what we’ll have for breakfast as we eat dinner (and analyze this Passover’s brisket compared to the Hanukkah Brisket), but we take time to appreciate the ingredients in the food we’re eating. This past Thanksgiving, everyone went around and said how many sticks of butter they had used to make their respective dishes. We figured that 12 sticks of butter were used for our meal… There were 12 of us.
Jokes. A Jewish mother walks in to a bar. Enough said.
Tradition. For me, this is everything. It’s not necessarily about what the books say we should or shouldn’t do, or how we should do it… It’s what we’ve learned from our experiences, from our family that makes us do it over and over again. It’s these things that are etched in our minds forever and make us feel a part of a family, a group, a tribe. For me, it’s the 20 year old lamb shank that my Nana keeps in the freezer and takes out every year to proudly showcase on the Seder plate…. It’s freezer burned, petrified smell and the joy my Nana gets when telling everybody that someday, “god willing, this bone will be hers…” Or the prayer books we use that are literally from 1923 and use language that hearkens back to the days of yore… Sure, I was bat mitzvah’d, sure I spent a summer in Israel and can read Hebrew… but the rules, the regulations, the WHY of my religion? I don’t know. And frankly, I’m okay with that…. I believe that some things in life are okay to do because THIS IS WHAT WE DO… THIS IS WHAT WE KNOW.
And yes, as Baby-Ko gets older, I do hope to give him answers to his questions and teach him the why, how, and what of our religion and every other religion for that matter too… But for now, I’m happy to have conversations that go like this:
Me: It’s Passover, Baby-Ko. Happy Passover!
Baby-Ko: It’s happy… Passover? What does it mean?
Me: Um, um… It’s means…. It means, Holiday.
Baby-Ko: What’s a holiday?
Me: Um… holiday means… Happy.
Baby-Ko: No, it means Jewish.
Y es… Yes it does.
FILED UNDER: A Little Life