Owning your own holiday
I grew up in a reform Jewish household. There was certainly a connection to Judaism on some level. My parents were involved with starting 2 temples which are now the 2 largest reform congregations in the country. You would have thought we were big Jews but we weren't.
I could probably list a million reasons of the reality of how I found myself disconnected from being Jewish growing up but I will save that for therapy . Neither me nor my siblings were bar/bat mitzvah'd. Yet when we had children, I wanted to give them a connection to Judaism. For whatever reason, I felt it was important. Not sure what kind of job I did there but my guess is, time will tell. In the post-bar/bat mitzvah life, they have zero interest but I am hoping sometime around their mid-20's something will hit.
All our kids went to Hebrew school from the time they were 8 until they got bar/bat mitzvah'd. My brother, funny enough, is doing the same thing with his kids. We are Jewish and perhaps passing on our heritage gives us an ability to connect to our religion in a different way as adults.
On Sunday night, we went to our friends house to celebrate Hanukkah. This is a guy who was raised orthodox. The room was a mix of reform, conservative and orthodox Jews (growing up) but we are all friends and my friend wanted to embrace the holiday and make it his own.
It was a wonderful evening. Latkes, brisket and jelly donuts on the menu. Food is always, no matter how religious you are, a major part of every Jewish event. So, we ate, we drank and lit the candles.
One friend, who is a singer, sang "Light my Fire" by Jim Morrison. My friend, who lit the candles, sang a song that his grandfather taught him for Hanukkah. After all of this, spoke to us and Amichai Lau-Lavie basically deconstructed the holiday. There was conversation around his whole schtick. He is an Israeli born teacher of Storahtelling. He was really fantastic, thought provoking and funny at the same time.
It was such a nice evening on so many levels. It allowed everyone there to continue their personal connection to Judaism be it their desire to continue in their family traditions or shift from being orthodox to becoming a little more reformed. But what was really nice, it let this group of friends connect at a different level because the one constant is that we are all Jewish. We all owned it in our own way as a group without any family and some serious killer jelly donuts.