Families shopping for kosher l’Pesach food items. Couples marrying under a chupah, signing a ketubah, breaking a glass.
Some recent stories in American newspapers.
But none of the above are Jewish.
As we wring our hands about Jewish continuity, asking who will carry on Jewish traditions, the answer appears more and more to be: gentiles.
In this country, as in many parts of Eastern and Western Europe — most notably in Poland and Germany, where the post-Holocaust generations of the people who made their homelands largely judenrein embrace all things Jewish — it’s in to be Jewish. And that is never more evident than this time of year.
Witness freedom-oriented model seders under the auspices of various labor and civil rights organizations, as well as the non-Jewish colleagues and neighbors you see eagerly munching matzah.
Kosher-for-Passover food, all 30,000 items of it, is a $2.5 billion-$3 billion industry in the United States, and a large part of the sales are to non-Jews.
This trend is partly nostalgia, partly romance — Judaism, for lack of a better word, seems sexy. And warm. And exotic. And substantive. If Jews are still around 3,300 years after we marched out of slavery in Egypt, after the centuries of assorted persecutions, after missionaries’ well-meaning but misguided attempts to tempt us to accept other beliefs, it’s clear that Jewish tradition is life-affirming, life-sustaining, and Passover is a celebration of all that.
Experts say that’s why people raised in other faiths or no faith at all take on the trappings of Judaism, if not actually converting to Judaism.
Hence, bar and bat mitzvah parties for non-Jewish teens. And non-Jewish parents like actress Sandra Bullock asking mohelim to perform a bris on their newborn sons. And non-Jews – take Madonna. Please! – studying Kabbalah.
The Washington Post ran a recent story about a Christian couple getting married with all the Jewish trappings, including a ketubah (marriage contract). Followed by a pig roast marriage feast.
“My mom and my grandparents had never heard of a ketubah … After we explained it they thought it was really cool,” said the chason …. er, groom. “We love the spirit of it.”
Two online ketubah suppliers say the demand for “non-Jewish” ketubot rises each year.
This week the Jewish community will mark the Festival of Freedom with seders in our home and synagogues; and hundreds of Christian seders will be hosted at the same time in their homes and churches.
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