Being Jewish

Self-made Star of David in Adobe Illustrator.Image via Wikipedia

This is the time of the year that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall on.  For many reform Jews, who are past the bar and bat mitzvah stage for their children, like myself, it is the one time of the year that I reflect on being Jewish. 

As we all wish each other Shana Tova, Happy New Year in Hebrew, each friend of ours celebrate the holidays differently and each of their own Jewish history gives each individual a different connection to being Jewish. 

A few things happened this year that changed my direction and thoughts on being Jewish.  Emily is writing a paper and asked me “why did you raise us Jewish”?  A good question considering Fred was raised a Catholic. 

I was raised in a reform household with two Jewish parents.  My Mothers father was a big part of the Jewish community in Bakersfield helping Jews get out of Europe during WWII.  My father’s Mother got out of Europe just as Hitler came into power.  Being Jewish was definitely part of who they were.  Both of my parents were involved in starting two temples that have gone on to be the two largest reform temples in the country.  We certainly celebrated every individual holiday with the temple and at home with traditional meals.  Perhaps it was the destruction of their marriage, perhaps it was that they just didn’t give a shit or perhaps they just weren’t those kind of parents but they really didn’t care if we went to Sunday school or dropped out of Hebrew school or had any interest in becoming a Bar/Bat mitzvah and so none of us went for the marathon of getting there.  Why would we when the option was to opt out?  Once my parents got divorced and it was not pretty as it took place right there in front of everyone’s eyes at the temple, my Mom moved us to another synagogue for services.  At the first service we went to she deemed the rabbi as someone who thought he was god on the bema and we never returned.  Personally I breathed a sigh of relief.

Fred on the other hand went to church every Sunday growing up.  His mother is a religious woman and his father had zero interest in religion.  Fred continued going to Sunday services in college but he found the intellectual part of the Jewish religion interesting and was happy to support me in my desire to raise our kids Jewish.

Even though my families dysfunctional connections to being Jewish were part of my childhood, I still felt that connection.  I wanted our kids to know what it meant to be a Jew.  Fred and I took them to services; Fred learned the prayers and the kids all became a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  They are Jews.  Although both Emily and Jessica didn’t go to services this year, Jessica made the traditional brisket and honey cake for 18 people in Capetown where she is studying abroad.  Seeing that picture of her with the brisket totally cooked in the pot and her beautifully set dining room table really made me proud.  Emily picked up a challah, some apples and honey.  Josh went to services with Fred and me and to our friends for dinner afterward.

This year our temple embraced not one but two new rabbis.  When I do go to temple those few times a year I want to feel part of the global Jewish community.  I want to hear a sermon that pushes me to think, that is intellectually stimulating and makes me feel good about going to temple.  When you go to school and have an amazing professor the desire to learn is a game changer and I want that those few times a year I go to services.  This year, I didn’t get it.  I felt like I was a teenager again just yearning for the service to end.  Fred felt the exact same way and it is the sermon we both look forward to.

This year I am on the look for something new.  I want to continue feeling that connection to being Jewish.  Our kids will figure out what that is for them as they grow and one day has families of their own.  I wrote about the Passover sedar we had this past year when we went to our friend’s house and discussed the meaning of Passover in connection to a much bigger picture and it was amazing.  I want to have that happen at other Jewish holidays.  The sedar at our friends house set the wheels in motion to look for another direction that it is time for me to take on being Jewish.  I don’t want to lose that connection and I don’t want to feel like going to temple is a chore, at least not at this stage of the game. 

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