My Jewish identity has always felt a little complicated. While most of the people I know who feel this way grew up in most Christian towns where Yiddish isn’t common — the closest thing to a good bagel comes from Starbucks — the My reasons are somewhat different. I grew up in a Jewish environment on the Upper West Side of New York, just a mile from the Holy Land of Zabar. However, somehow I always feel like I’m not quite
In middle age in NYC, almost every kid I know went to Hebrew school and could recite all their Hanukkah prayers , and have their parents throw them lavish bars and bar mitzvahs they turn around . On the other hand, I grew up relatively unfaithful, attending with admiration the banquets of my classmates entering Jewish women, and sometimes even going to church. (Only at Christmas, just because my mom loves music, but still.)
I’m technically Jewish because my father’s parents were Jewish, but on my mom’s side (according to followers of matrilineal lineage, that “important” people), things started to get weird; my maternal grandmother was born to a Russian-Jewish father and a non-Jewish Italian mother, and grew up in a Catholic orphanage after both parents died. She largely passed away as a pagan for most of her life, even marrying a textbook white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Growing up, my mom was closer to the WASP side in her upbringing, and my atheist dad still made the occasional “Oy vey is mir ” fly. Every Yom Kippur, we go to the house of our closest family and friends to break a fast that wasn’t actually maintained the day before, and I’m always in awe of the delicious food that covers every available surface.
I used to be a little bit unhappy with the idea that I was under-judaism, but these days, I’m starting to embrace the idea that I don’t have to be four – Jewish percent grandparents in order to make Judaism- And spirituality more generally – has a place in my life. Lately, like many Jews before me, I’ve been doing this with food. When I moved to Austin last September, I left most of the Jewish community in New York, but on this Yom Kippur, I am determined to break the fast with my friends, even if they are not Jewish. (Actually, it would be better if they weren’t Jewish; I know what it means to me when friends include me in their religious or cultural celebrations, there’s really nothing better than introducing someone What’s more fun to give their first kugel?)
My vision is to prepare my first breakfast myself in my own apartment, of course, it has nothing to do with the chef I actually know now asking for it myself. I picture myself as a cold, calm, humorous goddess of the house – half Nora Ephron, half Laurie Colwyn – ready to greet her guests at the door with a premium bottle in hand of natural wines, imploring them to make themselves at home with heartbreakingly arranged furniture, lighting a Byredo candle, and heading into the kitchen to “check tzimmes.”
I told myself I would make a non-traditional menu of my favorite kosher food, picked from various holidays – baked Bread, matzo soup, and my own bread directed by Semitic angel Claire Saffitz for the first time on YouTube – I imagine the food is so delicious that everyone Converted on the spot at my dining table. (Just kidding: To quote one of my favorite non-traditional Jews, Charlotte York-Goldenblatt from Sex and the City, ” Being a Jew is better than jewelry.”)
As you can imagine, my vision quickly collapsed. Ten minutes before my guests arrived, I was sweating profusely trying to prepare three entrees at the same time, my makeup was scalded from the frying oil of the scones, my hands were bleeding in three places and grating in the box Failed attempts to cut the onion on the cooker separate. If I only had to weave challah six times, dayenu.