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Connecting to millennia of practice and stories

I grew up with a strong Jewish identity, but almost nothing to back it up. In my family, we celebrated Chanukah and Passover, and we would go to synagogue for Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. Then, we’d spend Christmas and Easter with my dad’s family. Some years, I’d light my Chanukah menorah next to my grandmother’s Christmas tree. We ate some traditional Ashkenazi foods, but we also had crab feasts every summer, and our Passover seder was mostly about getting through the text so we could hurry up and eat. I dealt with casual antisemitism throughout my childhood, and the feeling of being an outsider during Christian holidays, but I didn’t have the support behind my Jewish identity to have that feeling of belonging anywhere.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I wanted something different for her. I wanted her to understand her Judaism, not just as something that made her different, but as something that made her belong. So, I did what came most naturally to me: I researched, and I studied, and I learned everything I could. I realized that, despite having sat through 28 seders in my life, I still didn’t know what Passover was all about. So, I rewrote our family’s haggadah that year, which mostly consisted of reading two dozen haggadot and copying the best parts of each (I captioned it: “Shamelessly plagiarized from over 20 sources!”), and then I rewrote it again four years later. 

When the pandemic hit, my oldest child was in 2nd grade. We already homeschooled everything except Religious school, but even there, the transition to virtual did not work well. So I went back to my research, and we tried to cobble together Hebrew School at Home. We tried workbooks, activity kits, Pinterest projects, and anything I could assemble. Eventually, when we figured out what worked best for us, I actually found myself surprised: the most important thing wasn’t activities for the kids. It was educating the adults. When my husband and I knew enough to answer questions, the kids picked it up better, and it almost didn’t matter if we had a pre-planned activity or not (although those definitely helped).

I don’t expect to ever be shomer shabbos (strict Shabbat observant), but, to be honest, I didn’t ever expect to be where I am now. We’ve switched out turkey bacon for pork, although we’ll still order treyf (non-kosher meat) with dim sum. We light candles every single Friday, although we don’t turn off our electronics. It’s an imperfect, messy system, but it works for us, and it’s evolving with our family. My kids look forward to “the next Jewish day” with delight, and somehow we have Jewish moments nearly every day. Being Jewish is no longer something we do occasionally at synagogue or Sunday School; it’s part of our everyday life, and it’s become that without ever being an imposition. My biggest hope is to share that feeling with you, too.

Our Story: Our Story
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