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.