Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cinco de Mayo

Beernut's class is having a fiesta in honour of Cinco de Mayo next week. They seem to be taking a page from some Reform temples that observe Jewish holidays on the closest Friday because Cinco de Mayo is being celebrated on Quatro de Mayo. Who knows.

Anyway, this morning Beernut asks, "do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo?"

And that is what it all comes down to for him. Is this particular holiday one of ours or one of theirs? And if it is not one of ours, is it OK for me to participate?

A few weeks ago, we had a similar problem with Easter. Beernut's classroom teacher, who has made a genuine effort to be inclusive, sent the following email:

The kids are making bunny ears and bunny bags for an egg hunt on Thurs. All we do is look for plastic eggs to put in our bunny bag and then come in and eat bunny cookies and juice while wearing bunny ears we made. Our spring festivities take place on Thurs. from 10:35-11:15. I realize our theme is around spring bunnies but if you would not like Ben to participate then I can send him to do work in another classroom during that time. Please let me know.

I can tell one thing. Making my kid stay inside to do work while the other kids are doing a fun activity that includes chocolate isn't going to instill a positive Jewish identity in him, now is it?

So I write back a sweet note and of course, allowed him to participate.

The day after the Easter Egg Hunt, Beernut proclaims Easter a "wonderful holiday!" I inquire and he responds, "I love Easter because that is when the Easter bunny gives us chocolate and spreads Easter joy to all the boys and girls."

I thought I was going to throw up.

And then my little Beernut continues, "so why can't Jews celebrate Easter? Jews like bunnies and Jews like chocolate."

That is a good questions, Beernut -- if Easter was only about bunnies and chocolate. And so I had to try and explain to my 5 year-old Jewish kid what Easter was really all about. (Yet one more thing I didn't learn in Rabbinical school.)

So I wrote the following to my dad:

Is there any point in trying to educate the schools that this is not a universal practice but really is tied to a religion? And if it is to truly celebrate spring, why is it not done in close proximately to the equinox??

Or is this just my problem since he’s not at a day school?

To which he wisely responded:
One of the reasons to send our children to a public school is to acquaint them with the world around them. Being acquainted with the secular aspects of both winter and spring seasons that coincide with Christmas and Easter are part of cultural literacy.

Your children live their Judaism at home, in shul, with family, with friends, etc.

I am reminded of the time the guys and I went into a drug store on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Osborne to get some candy on the way home from Pacoima Jr. High. The man behind the counter asked, "Are you looking forward to a visit from the Easter Bunny?" Without a moment's hesitation, I responded, "No, but I do expect John the Matzah Man!" Your kids will likely be as comfortable with their Judaism.

We do live in a multi-cultural society...and we do live as a minority in a a society that is colored by its Christian majority.

Some Jews try to insulate our kids from this reality by sending them to Jewish day schools, but that only puts off the inevitable. Or, we can make aliyah...and then be a minority THERE as Reform Jews!

Shver tzu zein a Yid!!

And you know what? He's right! It is hard to be a Jew.

And you know what else? I wouldn't have it any other way!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Get a move on...

Time for my annual heath kick! Last year at this time, I decided to run a marathon. I finished it and feel as though I really accomplished something great. And yet, the exercise regimen didn't take. Not only have I not run a step since crossing the finish line last October, I haven't gone for a walk or hit the gym. Needless to say, the fat that I left back along that 26.2 mile course has finally caught up with me. Seems you can't quite outrun your body's natural proclivity without fierce diligence.

Attempted to stay on the right path with a healthy breakfast from a nearby heath restaurant. No more than two hours had passed when my hunger returned with a vengeance. Had a healthy snack. An hour later -- ravenous. I'm not feeling so positive about this healthy stuff right now.

And trying to figure out how to squeeze in time for a walk or some other 30 minutes of cardio this week is giving me such a tension headache that I feel like chucking the whole thing.

Does anyone know if shlepping counts as exercise? I've got an entire library to pack up in the next four days and I'd really love to get exercise points for getting everything boxed up and into my car!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Frume Sarah the Writer?

It's true. I was asked today to submit an 850 word essay about my upcoming DC trip to the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. The editor asked that I craft an article about the DC rally from a first-person experience. She would like a reflection of the experience, the challenges, the highs and lows of the journey and rally -- in other words, a really long Frume Sarah blog entry!

How thrilling! How exciting! I finally get to realize one of my fantasies -- to be an essayist. E. B. White. Anna Quindlen. Frume Sarah.

OK, not exactly. But for one brief moment, I can pretend, can't I?


A true liberation as we move past the matzah and eggs of Pesach and towards the blintzes of Shavuot. I feel as if a weight has been lifted. The children seem no worse for the wear after their self-imposed hunger strike. Apparently Beernut tried to convince his teachers at school that Pesach ended on Monday night and that "my Mommy must have forgotten and packed me a Passover lunch, but it's OK if you give me pizza for lunch today." Luckily, the staff has enough experience with 5 year olds to know not to trust their judgement in such matters.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Why is this room different from all other rooms?

Second night seder at Mile Square Banquet Facilities.

I hadn't been to this place since December 15, 1988. Almost twenty years ago and I really do remember it like it was yesterday. The Fountain Valley High School Troubadours were singing at the local Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce Holiday Lunch. [Guess I don't remember it as well as I thought.]

Anyway, there I was in my turquoise blue choir dress and black jazz shoes, belting out "Mary Had A Baby" when I saw him. What was my dad doing at my choir show in the middle of a work day? And what was that he was holding? Ithaca? Is that an Ithaca College pamphlet in his hand? today the day I'm supposed to hear from Ithaca? Oh my God! This must only mean one thing!!

Everyone has their "Say Anything" moment and this was mine. OK so it wasn't exactly like in the movies. John Cusack wasn't there holding the boom box over his head. But having my dad triumphantly waving the Ithaca info over his head was the next best thing.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Return of FS

I haven't really gone anywhere but I've returned after 13 days of silence.

I think it was John Lennon who said something about life happening while you're making other plans.

I've been meaning to write...really! But then life keeps getting in the way.

Anyway, would it surprise you to know that Pesach starts one week from tonight and Frume Sarah hasn't even begun the process of changing out her kitchen?

It's the same damn story every year. I think I have a mental block to this chag. I mean, it isn't as though Pesach sneaks up on me. In fact, a few days before Purim, I am already getting that sinking feeling inside. "It's just four weeks away...just four weeks away..." I simply despise this holiday.

It's not the don't start writing in about how much you love the seder and how great Passover is because you love the seder, blah, blah, blah. Uh...hello? Passover is waaaaaaaaaaaaay more than the seder -- all three of them! (The Frume Sarah Family Seder on night one, the Congretional Seder on night two, & the PC Family Seder on the Saturday night during Pesach) If it was just about the seder...I'd freakin' love this holiday! Are you kidding me? Frume Sarah is all about rites and rituals. The Seder is like the epitome of Bibliodrama. Sign me up!

It's the food. I just can't deal with the pesadike food. And now that I have kids (one of whom is even pickier than I ever was!), it is even more complicated. There are just so many restrictions and I have trouble figuring out what to make and I don't like most of it and so on and so on.

You know...I could eat whatever I wanted in the house and no one would be the wiser. If keeping Pesach to such an extent is such a burden, I could just chuck the whole thing.

And yet...

Generations of oppression and forty years in the desert. Does my discomfort really compare to those of our ancestors? It's a small price to pay for freedom, this yearly commemoration.

So while I complain bitterly, and belive-you-me I do complain bitterly, I feel a deep sense of gratitude that I can enjoy my religion and customs free from the bondage and enslavement of generations past. Each grumble is matched by a silent prayer of gratitude to the Freedom Fighter, who brought me out of slavery to a place of redemption.