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Oct 30 2013

Why This Jewish Mom is Excited for Halloween This Year

By at 12:04 pm

instaghoul halloween decoration

Walking down the street here in Brooklyn, we are practically under a Halloween assault. It’s a riot of pumpkins, multicolored cobwebs, skeletons, and scarecrows. My 4-year-old calls out her favorites (pink cobwebs, in case you were curious) and even the baby can point to the pumpkins. There’s a house five blocks away that turned their entire front stoop into a pirate ship with a skeleton crew, and the witty folks on our walk to school have a spooky version of Instagram (they call it Instaghoul, and I giggle inside every morning).

I grew up celebrating Halloween. In fact, I never knew it was something that some Jews didn’t do until I got to college and someone lectured me on how its pagan origins made it something that Jews specifically shouldn’t do. I suppose that’s true—Halloween certainly was once something deeply religious, and not for the Jews. But that’s just not how it feels these days, at least to me. The majority of those celebrating Halloween in America aren’t doing it for religious reasons anymore. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 25 2013

Goldberg Vs. Goldberg: Which TV Show Did it Best?

By at 3:04 pm

the goldbergs

Having a mother with a Master’s in Media Analysis means that not only are my poor kids (ages 14, 10, and 6) subjected to a semiotic postmortem following every movie we watch (What message is “Shrek” sending about intermarriage? Are “The Incredibles” elitists?) but also that I’m very particular about the television they watch. (I work in TV, I think it’s a fantastic, miraculous medium. But, I am also wary of the messages it sends, both deliberate and inadvertent.

I try to find shows for the whole family to watch together that are primarily entertaining. And feature characters the kids can relate to. And espouse values I believe in. (For instance, while I would love them to watch more shows starring African-American families, “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times” are off the table. I don’t like the subtext. Even if I’m the only one who sees it. “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “The Cosby Show” are better.)  Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 22 2011

Thanksgiving and the American Jew

By at 10:22 am

macy's thanksgiving day paradeI’m an overthinker. This puts me in good company with women generally, as we tend to analyze and fill in the blanks of our days and interactions, much to our distraction and occasional chagrin. But my overthinking started one Thanksgiving when I was about 8 and had a particular epiphany about what it means to be Jewish in America. No, really.

When I was a little kid, I adored watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York on television.  Clearly, my parents somehow encouraged this obsession: I’m sure it came in pretty handy for keeping me out of the way during Thanksgiving meal preparations.

I’d study the parade lineup in the New York Times as though it was a performance intended for me and me alone. Then, I’d sit down way too close to the TV, crossing my corduroy- or velour-clad legs, to watch the whole thing, start to finish. I loved watching the happy lipsticked smiles of the baton twirlers from Kansas and Missouri. I’d watch the hyper-enthusiastic facial expressions of spandex-clad dancers and the determined stride of the balloon-anchor-walker-people, whatever they were called. I’d even enjoy the wintry-bright cheer emanating from Katie Couric and Willard Scott.

But most of all, I loved the feeling that I was doing something that everyone else in America was doing. Now, as an adult, I’m well aware that most people don’t sit parked in front of their televisions watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. But as a kid, I just assumed that this was the Thanksgiving equivalent of going to synagogue. This must be what people did in the morning, and in the afternoon, you ate, just like every Jewish holiday I’d ever celebrated.

I loved it that every family I knew – Jewish, non-Jewish, whatever – was all doing the same thing. I didn’t realize at the time that we were freaks because no one in the house cared about football. All I knew was that I had a day off from school to be thankful, to eat turkey and to be American. And it wasn’t like Sukkot where even the other Jewish kids didn’t know what holiday I was celebrating – this was one that everyone could understand. It felt good.

But when I was 8, I distinctly remember the end of the parade. With great to-do, the end of the parade – “the moment you’ve all been waiting for!” – came. And it was…Santa Claus. Read the rest of this entry →

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