Wednesday, October 5, 2011

To Jew Or Not To Jew


When I first moved to LA over 10 years ago I was faced with a big question when the high holidays came around. Would I participate? Now that I was on my own, did I want to? My whole life it wasn't an option to not celebrate Jewish holidays. I was with my family and that is what we did. At twenty three though I wasn't a child anymore, and had to decide for myself what being jewish meant to me exactly. With a lot of thought and some guilt tossed in I suppose, I decided I wasn't ready to stop caring about traditions. What I did realize though is that I wasn't sure how religious I felt.

Traditions were what was important to me (and still is) but how I am "supposed" to feel about G-d and following very specific rules in order to be accepted never resinated with me. My connection lies with being part of a lineage that has sung the same songs and eaten the same festive meals year after year. Holidays have rituals and I like the meaning behind them but I don't always believe that because a book said "it" happened that it is so. I still like the stories though, and I love keeping something going and finding new ways as well.

My husband is not Jewish. He felt very strongly when we first met that we could run into problems down the line if we didn't map out how we would raise our kids one day. We went to speak with someone about it and together we agreed that religion was for adults and traditions are for children. It made perfect sense. The things I look back on in my childhood during holiday time were the festivities, the music and the food. So when we had our daughter that is how we decided to do it. For the most part it has worked, but every Jewish holiday that comes around I feel the responsibility to keep it going. With Christian holidays everyone celebrates them, schools are closed and families are together. It's not that easy when it comes to Jewish holidays, it's up to me if we do anything. I have started my own traditions here with friends and the same group of us usually gather at my house. This week is Rosh Hashanah, the new year, and with all of us being sick I wasn't so sure I wanted to do anything. In the end I am glad as always I made the effort. The togetherness feels good, and making challah with my daughter makes me think of my grandmother making bread with her mother. She also beheaded her own chickens and swung them around the kitchen, but traditions need not go that far for me to feel connected to the past.

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