Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Getting My Jewish On. Happy New Year & Stuff.

It's that time of year again. That brief period of the High Holidays when I get my Jewish on.  The only time of year that I step inside a synagogue, and each year, inevitably  I vow that I will make more of an effort to attend at least occasional Shabbat services. The annual blowing of the shofar awakens my inner Jew and leads me to research temples and Sunday school programs for the boys.  There is something about hearing the familiar Hebrew prayers (which, admittedly might as well be said in Chinese, Arabic or Latin from what I understand of them), joining in the melodies, which vary only slightly from region to region, and sharing in the traditions passed down from generation to generation, that make me long to embrace "my people."

I was raised Jewish to a certain extent. I attended Sunday school, although I never took Hebrew lessons and I missed out on the whole Bat Mitzvah thing, I ate challah occasionally, went to a Passover sedar annually and suffered the injustice of Hanukkah in a Christmas community.  After my parents split I began to celebrate Christmas with my father, and eventually I married a non-practicing Lutheran who has no interest in organized religion.  My children attended a Jewish preschool in Berkeley, California which gave me access to a solid Jewish community, until we moved on and the boys started school in a predominately Asian  community. With no teachers singing "Shabbat Shalom" and educating them about "tzedakah" it became harder for me to expose my children to their Jewish heritage. I have made a few attempts here and there, taking the boys to a disastrous picnic-style sedar at the local JCC, and lighting the menorah at Hanukkah, but it has been half-hearted.

And yet here we are again, at the Jewish High Holidays. The time of apples and honey, reflection and remembrance. There is something so beautiful about these traditions, I am drawn back year after year, to mumble the prayers I don't fully understand with strangers whom I somehow belong to. Once again I sit here on the New Year, and tentatively embrace the rich traditions of my heritage, longing to know it
more fully, fantasizing about sharing it with my boys.

I did not realize until yesterday that Rosh Hashanah is this week. I have not made arrangements to miss work and attend services with the kids. My husband is traveling and to be honest, taking the boys on my own sounds less than appealing, yet I found myself frantically researching the options last night, trying to find some way to mark the important day. So tomorrow I will take my boys to a community I do not know. I will attend their family "sing-along" service and join them in their evening meal. It won't be easy. Julian won't sit still, Evan won't like the food, Zack will want to know where all his friends are. But we will be there together, just as we were last year, acknowledging that Sunday school or not, we come from something, we are a part of something. We are Jews.

L'Shanah Tovah!


  1. I love this. I can feel your discourse and frustration. For someone who lives SURROUNDED by Jewish-ness, it can get claustraphobic in here sometimes.
    Technically (not that anyone cares) your kids are Jews because your mom is Jew and you are Jew - dontcha love that according to the Jews, the father absolutely does not matter? (gotta love feminism)
    That means that when your boys are older, they can do a Birthright trip or something (free trips to Israel with tours and hotels and the whole nine yards) for any Jewish teen/early twenty-something. No religious anything required, no synagogue, nothing - just a free trip. Not bad, eh?

  2. Here I am, your friendly local Blogger Jew, come to support your neshama - that's the little spark of Jewishness inside you (literally your Jewish soul) that keeps fluttering despite you moving away from observance. I was raised with nothing, no knowledge, no Bat Mitzvah, no prayers, pretty much no God, by Holocaust Survivor parents. At some point the call of my little Jewish soul was too strong and I walked into a class, had people write out the prayers for me, and started belonging to the community that my heart said I belonged to. It can be done, even in the smallest way. L'Shanah Tovah!

  3. Shanah tovah to you, too! You are a mensch!