Sophia is sick, oozing and/or hacking clear mucus products from at least two orifices. She has applied a home remedy of her own device, which involves multiple Band-Aids taping her toes together and palms painted bright turquoise. I know I'm feeling much better.
Commenter B on the last post pointed out that Jewish Grandma might have been providing not an Easter basket, but Mishloach Minot -- a gift of food for Purim. And I would have agreed, if I thought that said Grandma knew about the tradition (and if the basket had not been in the shape of an egg and contained a large chocolate bunny as well as Reese's peanut butter eggs). Oh, and it was also presented at Easter dinner with not-Jewish Great Grandma. Dinner, in case you were wondering, was Chinese takeout. This was Manhattan, people.
Which neatly illustrates my point: our family -- or more precisely, Sean's side of the family -- is a mishmash of religions and traditions. Sean's mother's side of the family is Jewish, all of the Reform variety, many of the atheist variety, and generally of the minimally observant variety. That is, we have a Passover seder, but I have yet to hear a word of Hebrew spoken. Though there is Manischewitz.
And then Sean's father's side of the family was Russian Orthodox (immigrants, y'see) except that his uncle is now regularly attending Catholic services. Uncle's girlfriend, is, I think, Jewish. Maybe. I'm not sure. Sean grew up celebrating Easter, Passover, Christmas, Chanukah, attending some Hebrew school but not church.
Meanwhile, I was brought up Presbyterian, a sometimes-regular churchgoer, even a youth group leader before sin/the devil/utter indifference/awareness of total hypocrisy on the part of my elders kicked in. I am not now a Christian. I've played around with paganism, and while I find celebrating earth holidays meaningful and restorative (equinox, anyone?) and love the fragments of British Isles holidays (Samhain!) that survive, I can't get with the whole pray-to-goddess thing.
Here's what I long for, in addition to a belief system that lines up with mine: tradition. Ritual. A group of like-minded people to engage in same with. A sense of belonging to something ancient yet thoroughly alive. I loved going to one church in Norfolk on Christmas eve, a three-hundred-year-old stone building rendered more majestic by the candlelight and echoing with the King James "And it came to pass in those days..." No matter that I don't think Jesus was the messiah -- I just love that story of a baby born humbly, long ago.
And I want Sophia to have all those things too -- a community, a framework to mark the year and the stages of life, a sense of comfort and belonging. Not the God-will-fix-everything-for- you-if-you-just-ask-nice false comfort that inevitably brings disillusionment, but a we're-all-in -this-together comfort. Life goes on, for someone, somewhere. The essence of the universe is unfathomable, but have a little brisket.
I had the good fortune to come to Philadelphia, epicenter of the Jewish Reconstruction movement, and to meet a woman whose husband was a rabbi in that tradition. The more I learn, the more perfect a fit Reconstruction Judaism seems. But I have a lot to learn. I haven't even managed to get us to the synagogue yet -- we've been out of town for the past three Saturdays, and then some obligations upcoming. (Obviously that sort of thing would have to change, no?)
I want to know more about Judaism (in general -- not limiting myself to any particular movement). I've done some basic reading, but get overwhelmed at the library and the bookstore. And I am afraid I've exhausted Sean as a resource. Here is what I'd love to know:
-Are there any books about Judaism or Jewish life that would be especially useful or helpful or moving?
-Any especially good books for little children?
-If you're Jewish: What traditions do you observe? What are you passing on to your children, and what are you changing?
-Have you converted (to any religion)? What has your experience been?
-Do you have a really good tzimmis recipe?