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Sep 15 2014

That Time My Son Felt “Like a Goy”

By at 2:44 pm

baseball-vizel

My 8-year-old son Seth and I were out at a baseball game on Saturday when he suddenly turned to me and said, “Mom, I feel like a goy.”

I was horrified. It never, ever occurs to me not to feel like a Jew. I feel like a Jew the same way I feel like a woman–it’s who I am. When I left the Hasidic community three years ago, people called me a shiksa and said that wasn’t Jewish anymore, that I looked like a goy. It had no meaning to me. It was like telling me I’m not a mother. You can’t tell me that. You can’t tell me I’m not who I am. In fact, since I left Orthodoxy, the more I’ve learned and expanded my horizons, the more I identified with the Jewish feminist movement, the Jewish progressive movement, Jewish literature, Jewish humanism, Jewish values, Zionism, and the Jewish yentas at my Jewish gym.

So I nuzzled Seth’s hair and said, “Honey, why would you ever feel like a goy?”

Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 20 2014

Though I Dropped Orthodoxy, This Passover I Will Celebrate with My Orthodox Wife & Kids

By at 7:00 pm

matzahs1

It’s Shabbat afternoon, and the girls are putting on a beauty pageant in our living room. To their 8, 6, 4, and 1-year-old minds, it doesn’t take much imagination to see our modest floor as a full-fledged stage, red carpet and all. The TV has been off for the last 20 hours, in accordance with Orthodox custom.

We’re fortunate in that our kids entertain each other very well–even the baby, who, at 1.5 years old, is more like a pet dog to her older sisters than a playmate with a fully-formed identity and equal rights. My wife Rikki and I are sitting on the couch, alternating between reading our books, watching the kids, chit-chatting, and dozing off. It looks like the lazy Shabbat afternoons of so many observant Jewish families, but then I do a quick check on my phone to see when Shabbat is over. My phone tells me we have a half hour more to go. I breathe a sigh of relief.

Up until a year and a half ago, I was observant–if not unhappily, then begrudgingly. But a year and a half ago, my increasing apathy towards the Orthodox lifestyle turned to antipathy, and I stopped practicing. This naturally created an imbalance, for we had specifically built our family around a lifestyle that requires intensive participation from all parties. And here I was, just recusing myself. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 20 2014

Stuck in the Shabbat Limbo

By at 4:02 pm

Doing Shabbat, my way

It was my second time meeting with Chana with the hopes of renting her Jerusalem apartment. I was in Israel on a research grant and following an ulpan (intensive Hebrew immersion course) in Jerusalem, had moved to Tel Aviv to be closer to my university. After just a few weeks of living by the water, I felt pulled back to Jerusalem.

Chana went through a checklist of the idiosyncrasies of the apartment. It would be furnished and I would not need to, nor would I be permitted to, bring my own bed. The school across the street could be loud at lunchtime. There was no dishwasher, of course, but I was welcome to use the laundry machine provided. And then almost as an afterthought she added, “Shabbat. Of course you keep Shabbat.”

“Well,” I started. And that was the beginning of the end. “I may turn on the lights here and there.”

“No. No turning on and off the lights. You must keep Shabbat.”

“But—,”

“No. No. I cannot. My friend rented to someone like you and first she had a car accident. Then…” her voice trailed off. “No. I cannot take the risk.” Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 13 2014

Why I Added Some Jewish Learning to My Over-Scheduled Life

By at 12:15 pm

why I added Jewish learning to my life

I am undoubtedly overwhelmed, overextended, and stretched too thin on any given day, at any given moment. A 3-year-old son, almost 10-month-old twin daughters, a home to maintain, a small business we are trying to grow, a new photography venture, articles to write, a cooking club, and a few other activities all make my life insanely chaotic and wonderful.

Then why did I commit myself to one more thing? Because, if you notice the list above, there was nothing dedicated to being Jewish. I am committed to raising my children in a Jewish home, but was I doing enough to achieve that just by sending my son to the daycare at the local JCC? So when I was invited to join Chai Mitzvah, a women’s learning group at my synagogue, I jumped at the chance. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 10 2012

Friday Night: Committing to This Shabbat Thing

By at 1:48 pm

spoonful of noodle kugel

Five years ago my husband and I completely ignored Shabbat for the last time. Eager to arrive at our friend’s 30th birthday party, we kissed our (then) 3-year-old son and baby girl goodnight, gave the sitter cash for pizza, and made for the door. By then we were hosting traditional Shabbat dinners most weeks. I liked the idea of a weekly ritual that brought our family together, but I didn’t want to feel shackled to it either.

As we walked away our son yelled after us, “But what about my Shabbos dinner?”

The poor kid sobbed. He didn’t want pizza or a babysitter. He wanted chickenkugelchallah, candles–the whole nine yards. Read the rest of this entry →

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