One night when my father was about 10 years old, he came downstairs looking for his mother. He paused at the top of the cellar steps. In the basement, he saw his parents and his maternal grandfather savoring a local delicacy–Chesapeake Bay oysters. In later years, my father would say that this night in 1933 marked the end of any real feeling he had for Judaism. He loved and respected his grandfather, a successful self-made businessman who was a pillar of the shul where my father would be bar mitzvahed and confirmed. But even as a 10-year-old, he knew hypocrisy when he saw it.
Still, my father never failed to make a generous contribution to the Associated Jewish Charities every year, he was famous for his skill at telling Jewish jokes, and without ever using the words, he instilled a strong sense of tikkun olam in his sons (two) and daughters (two). Did he make the connection between the importance he placed on service to the community–a value he both lived and passed on–and his Jewish heritage? I wish I had asked him.
To read more, head on over to JWA’s blog, Jewesses with Attitude.