Oct 8 2014
During Sukkot, we remember how God freed our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. We build sukkahs, flimsy booths meant to recreate the temporary dwellings used while we wandered across the desert, leaving home behind.
I have been on my own wandering journey for about 14 years. I was brought up in a knowledgeable Reform Jewish home. As kids, my siblings and I lived in Upstate New York, and regularly attended temple services. The congregants barely filled two rows of pews if you mashed us all together. I loved it. I loved the hired soloist’s resonant soprano melodies, and the warmth of cuddling up to my father’s corduroy-patched sport coat. I jumped up and down out of my seat a million times, inhaling the rich aroma of coffee and wandering the lobby to sneak glances at the desserts piled high on the kiddush tables.
I knew that when I grew up, I was going to marry a Nice Jewish Boy, even though my parents had never planted the idea in my head. After the requisite years of adolescent angst, which involved piercing things you couldn’t see and dying my hair a variety of vibrant colors, I grew restless. I took a year off of college, worked, and traveled to Israel on a Birthright trip. There, in the city of Jerusalem, I found hope and inspiration. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 3 2014
I’m planning a Hebrew naming ceremony for my children. They aren’t twins. And they aren’t babies. Rather, despite their different ages, they haven’t already experienced this lovely rite of passage because I was ambivalent about my Jewishness. While I was raised Jewish and never questioned my religion, when my first husband insisted that I have my mother’s Jewishness “checked” by an Orthodox rabbi, this changed. According to this rabbi, my mother’s conversion wasn’t kosher, and in order to be married in an Orthodox ceremony and for any future children to be considered Jewish, I would have to study and undergo a full conversion. I was shocked.
As a child, I had dressed up like Queen Esther on Purim, endured matzah on Passover, had my apples dipped in honey for Rosh Hashanah, fasted on Yom Kippur, and decorated a sukkah in the fall. For a number of years, I accompanied my mother to Harold’s Kosher Market because she kept a kosher kitchen and Shabbat was a weekly observance. I was told we were Orthodox growing up, yet there was the official opinion: I was not Jewish–enough. This was not deduced from what was in my heart, my knowledge, or my soul. Rather, it was based solely on my mother’s conversion paperwork, signed by a rabbi not known to be from an Orthodox background. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 9 2013
Over here at Kveller we know a thing or two about outrageous bar and bat mitzvahs. (Just last month we posted a video of bar mitzvah boy Sam Horowitz shaking his groove thing alongside paid dancers shaking their [well formed] groove things all in celebration of little Sam becoming a man.)
Now, the Reform movement is recognizing that there’s a problem with the American b’nai mitzvah. But it’s not the elaborate parties they’re taking aim at–those have been going on for quite some time (I recall swan ice sculptures at the Harvard Club and my own cousin who imported Olympic athletes to his fete). Read the rest of this entry →