A few weeks ago I attended a relatively small invitation-only gathering at the Upper West Side’s Congregation B’nai Jeshurun to discuss “Jewish identity, who is a Jew, membership in the Jewish community and outreach, in Israel and the Diaspora.”
As you might imagine, that was a lot to pack into a four-hour meeting. (And next month, we’ll reconvene to resolve the Israel-Arab conflict, or at least the Israel-Palestine conflict, ha ha.)
Since the conversation was off the record, not to mention a bit all over the place, I didn’t blog about it at the time. However, one thing that really struck me: how several high-profile participants, including one who has been quite outspoken about recognizing patrilineal descent, preceded their comments with “I’m not a big proponent of outreach, but…”
Despite all the buzz about Chrismukkah a few Decembers ago, no one has yet, as far as I know, proposed Eastover or Passter (or would that be Eastach or Pester?). Since I’m no fan of mixing religious holidays, I think that’s a good thing.
Ah, the telltale signs marking the arrival of Passover and Easter.
The matzah and other kosher-for-Passover foods (if matzah counts as food) piled high in the supermarket. The drugstore aisles devoted to pastel-colored candy, egg-dying equipment, stuffed bunnies, baskets and synthetic grass.
As we all know by now, this weekend’s tragic shooting rampage in Arizona has not only stirred up much partisan finger-pointing about inflammatory rhetoric but highlighted yet again the utter wackiness of our gun-crazy culture (hold your angry comments NRA supporters: I’m unabashedly liberal on gun control and see no reason any civilian, much less a schizophrenic, should have access to a semiautomatic rifle).
But the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who identifies as Jewish but is not Jewish according to the traditional “matrilineal descent” definition, is also shining a spotlight on the “who is a Jew” debate. Giffords, 40, is the daughter of a Jewish father and Christian Scientist mother who raised her in both traditions; according to JTA, for the past decade (following her first visit to Israel) she has identified exclusively as Jewish, and she belongs to a Reform congregation.
While visions of “The Polar Express” danced in their heads, my children had their first Christmas tree-decorating experience this Sunday – just a few hours after Hebrew school.
We were at another family’s Christmas party; so ensconced in Jewish life am I these days that I hadn’t realized until we got to their apartment — Christmas songs playing on the stereo and a fragrant evergreen awaiting the children’s trimming — that this was, in fact, a Christmas party.
While I doubt he cares about my blog missives, and while there is of course something noble about sticking to your opinions even when they are no longer fashionable, Cohen, who is a professor at Hebrew Union College and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive, seems to be increasingly out of step with the non-Orthodox American Jewish community.
I know Chanukah has caught many people by surprise this year, what with arriving LESS THAN A WEEK after Thanksgiving! However, my kids have been preparing for over a month, by playing with dreidels (we have a zillion lying around the house), counting down the days and of course perfecting their gift wish lists.
Witnessing their excitement and joy in the holiday has been really heartwarming. Nonetheless, I’m still struggling a bit to overcome my inner Grinch by tonight: I’ve been feeling a bit overburdened by Chanukah’s various demands, particularly with the holiday arriving at such a busy time of year. In addition to attending two Chanukah events this week at our temple, we’re hosting a family gathering on Saturday night, and I’m visiting both girls’ classes in my annual role as Jewish Ambassador/Chanukah Lady. (My mom used to do this when I was little, so it’s a family tradition.)