Posts Tagged ‘jewish’
My weekends are often spent catching up on sleep, running errands and socializing with friends. This weekend, I decided to change it up a bit.
Following a wonderful Shabbat pot luck dinner with friends, I woke up early and headed up north to cottage country. I was thrilled to be among great friends, the peace of the wilderness and it was an added bonus that we celebrated Tu Bishvat together. On Shabbat we ate 15 species of fruit and grains that had different levels of edibility (edible skin, edible pit, inedible skin, inedible pit) which acts as a metaphor for different personality types and we blessed four cups of wine representative of the seasons. I was inaccessible via phone, there was no Facebook activity and we were treated with 20+ centimetres of snow. While I often complain that I have chosen to settle in such a climate, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to wear snowpants, sled down the driveway and catch snowflakes on my tongue. It helped that I was among young children and toddlers.
Seasons are important. They force us into different clothing, they encourage us to participate in exciting activities and they help instill an appreciation for our surroundings and our religious observances and celebrations.
Last weekend I traveled to Boston for my cousin’s wedding. From my research I discovered that Boston is a beautiful walking city and in the fall it has even been described as “heaven on earth”. In addition to exploring the natural beauty, I was looking forward to discovering Jewish Boston. While we have the Bathurst Street strip in Toronto, I was excited to engage in something new.
This is what I found:
The Brookline neighbourhood in Boston proved to be rich in Jewish culture and I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure. In addition to the sites and sounds of Jewish life, particularly on a Friday afternoon. This was my favourite:
So, in sum, Boston had what to offer AND it lived up to its beautiful reputation…
Yesterday I was asked a question that has since stirred quite a bit of reflection about my sense of my own Jewish identity. The question was: “what is your first Jewish memory?” My first instinct was to scan my mental data bank for childhood images of Shabbos candles, a seder, first day of Jewish day school etc. Within seconds though I realized that something about my search for an answer didn’t feel right. It hit me that what was presenting the challenge was the assumption that subtly underlay the question; that is, the notion that one’s experience and/or memory of experience can be parsed out into categories and then labeled Jewish or non Jewish. The logical corollary of the question is that there is ‘non’ Jewish memory. At first glance, the question might seem straight forward enough. But when I had to actually answer it, it inevitably brought up the more fundamental and difficult question about what is Jewish? and what does being Jewish mean to me? What quickly became clear, which I now realize is a prominent theme in the blogs that I have written, is the idea that for me being Jewish is not something that I experience as separate and distinct from other aspects of my life or identity. It informs my sensibilities and world view, and as such, is one of the central lenses through which I experience the world.
So, in the end, I was unable to answer the question. For even if I thought broader, beyond looking for memories of obvious Jewish rituals, where would I stop broadening my reach? What about memories of my parents or Bubbie speaking to me in Yiddishisms? Does language fall within the realm of ‘Jewish’? What about the fond memories of my Bubbie’s food, recipes from the shtetle? Does food fall within what we consider Jewish? What about hearing talk about the ‘war’ and ‘Europe’ (code for the Holocaust)? When does history and politics count as Jewish? What about memories of earliest friendships, when all my friends were Jewish, and my neighborhood was Jewish? When does the social count as Jewish? For me anyways, the answer is that it is all Jewish.