Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stumbling Block

The Jewish Project

Today is Tishri 12, 5770 according to the Jewish calendar.

As my bloggy friend Barbara pointed out, last Sunday was Yom Kippur, a day of celebration at the end of the ten days of Awe which start with the Jewish New Year, Rosh ha-Shanah.

I must admit, the only thing my family did that day was attend church which was awesome since Marilyn Hickey was the guest speaker…but I digress.

I did, however, observe the ten days of Awe for myself. Since I haven’t learned all the in’s and out’s of these days, mine was rather simplistic in nature. I used each day as a time of reflection, self-examination, much repentance and prayer. I will admit, by the eighth day I was convinced I wouldn’t survive anymore self-examination! But, it was worth it and Yom Kippur was a very special day for me personally. Next year, my goal is to make it a family event!

Okay, on to today’s topic.

The first stumbling block

As Jewishness is passed down through the mother, I was so proud at the start of this project to announce to my children that they are Jewish and we as a family (with Daddy in agreement) are going to return to our roots.

What is the scripture? Pride cometh before a fall?

Off to the library we went in search of Jewish children’s books. I found a wonderful book called What makes me a Jew? By Adam Woog

With anticipation I checked it out and took it home ignoring the fact that my son kept trying to put it back on the library shelf. The next morning, we sat down to read the first chapter. My son (who adores reading) hemmed and hawed over the whole thing. “Mom, please don’t make us read this book.” “Can we read Clifford instead?”

Trying to keep the event a happy one, we stopped for the day.

The next day, we sat down AGAIN to read the book. Bug, AGAIN, griped and complained until we turned the page and found a picture of a group of school children standing over the Torah, reading it with a Yud.

Ecstatic, Bug yells out, “Mom, those kids are reading toilet paper!”

And, now it’s cool to be a Jew. You get to read toilet paper.

Hysterically laughing and greatly humbled, we returned the book to the library and I’m currently looking for different avenues to try with the kids.

Any suggestions?

In the mean time, I have some studying to do as next week is Sukkot.


Monday, September 28, 2009

The Jewish Project

Dark hair. Dark eyes. Large rounded head, big bushy eyebrows and an angular nose.

These are my features.

Not embarrassing features in anyway. In fact, I love them. But, growing up, they were just enough to keep me from fitting the mold of the “soft, delicate, small-featured, bright-eyed” American girl.

The problem – my features weren’t blatant enough to explain my ethnicity either so I wasn’t able to celebrate my differences, only endure the status of outcast.

Let me guess, you did a double take on the pictures and asked “ethnic”? Yes, we are.

My family is from the farm country outside Belgrade in the old Republic of Yugoslavia. I grew up understanding we are Slovenian, however by location of our village we are technically Serbian. But, all that aside, we are also Jewish. Sephardim Baltic Jews to be exact.

The two villages my family members come from began immigrating to the States in the early 1900’s around the time of WWI. They settled in Illinois. The relocation continued for 30 years, but after Hitler’s regime was in full swing, not too much else could be found about my family.

And, although I could write volumes about the above paragraph, I must digress back to my original point.

I was not raised Jewish. In fact, my Slovenian family was strict Roman Catholic. As far as I can tell through research, many Jews in the Balkans converted to Catholicism in order to make a living, raise a family, and avoid anti-Semitic behavior.

This leads me to The Jewish Project.

Now that I’m older, have a family of my own and have learned to tame my eyebrows, I’m ready to celebrate my differences. I come from an extremely rich heritage, and want to be able to pass it onto my children.

So, here’s the project. I’m going to learn and blog about what it means to be Jewish. And, I mean everything: the language, the feasts of the Lord, the history, the future according to the word of God, and even a trip to Israel.

I invite you to join me on this adventure and remember, I know nothing!!! I’m starting from scratch here, so please throw grace my way if I mess up.

Let the adventure begin!