In “Crash Course,” an article in Tablet Magazine, Patrick Huguenin describes his efforts to become an expert in Passover dietary laws in time to prepare a dish for his Jewish friend’s Seder (ritual Passover meal). Huguenin, who describes himself as an “agnostic Christian,” throws himself head-first into researching the details and techniques of preparing kosher-for-Passover chopped liver, a classic Ashkenazi Jewish food.
After two “trial” batches of chopped liver, during which Hugenin stresses about everything from chicken fat ratios to finding the perfect snacks to “dunk” with, he discovers the biggest shock of all: Matt, his Jewish friend doesn’t really care about keeping kosher for Passover.
“You know,” said Matt as he noshed, “we’re not that strict, and it’s not even sundown yet. You could have served this pate on toast.”
At JOI, when we talk about the ritual and cultural markers that can distance “insiders” from “outsiders,” we’re often referring to marks of observance or adherence to Jewish tradition. “Crash Course” reveals another aspect of “insider” Jewish life: the fact that many Jews choose not to observe all traditions and uncouple their ritual observance from their sense of Jewish identity.
For those attending a ritual event for this first time, this can come as quite a shock, especially when, like Huguenin, they go to great lengths to observe the tradition themselves out of respect for friends or relatives.
This theme was echoed this week on The Mothers Circle Preparing for Passover Blog (a parallel also noted by Julie Weiner on her blog “In the Mix”). Mothers Circle blogger, Christine, describes her frustration and amusement at the combined influences of secularized Easter events and insistence on Jewish identity that she observes through her husband’s family.
I’ve always wanted to attend a “real” Seder—one where somebody knows what we’re supposed to do when; where nobody says, “This is stupid” or otherwise makes snarky remarks. I’m eager to see what it would be like. My husband, however, is reluctant to spend $70 “and wait two hours before we can eat.”
I will attempt to stand firm: You can’t just say you want to have your daughters be Jewish. You need to do things to make it happen.
If you are a Jewish person who is involving a friend or relative of another religious background in your Jewish life, whether by inviting them to an event or raising children with them, here are some thoughts you can keep in mind to help them feel oriented and supported:
- Reflect on your relationship with Jewish observance and identity. If you want your children to be raised Jewish, explain why and what that means to you.
- Communicate your beliefs and expectations. No one can read your mind! If you don’t expect guests to bring kosher food to your Seder, tell them! If Easter egg hunts were part of your Jewish childhood, explain this to your partner and talk together about the context.
- Listen. What are Jewish experiences like for your non-Jewish friends and family? What do they enjoy? What questions do they have? What frustrates them? How can you support them?
To all of our readers: Have a wonderful Passover!
No comments yet.