The Rabbinowitz Mishpacha
Let me introduce you to the Rabbinowitzes, our family’s incarnation of Peaster (that’s Passover and Easter, for those of you unfamiliar with Christmukah). This family, which one might mistakenly believe is gracing an Easter wreath, is in fact our latest mixed-marriage holiday compromise.
If you look closely at Mr. Rabbinowitz (J.’s spelling), you’ll see that J. has kindly adorned him with a kippah. The family is grimacing slightly because 8 days of matzah is awfully constipating. Hopefully that 40 years of wandering in the desert kept things moving, if you know what I mean.
I married not only a woman, but a non-Jew to boot. Thank goodness she’s a mensch, or the family would never accept her. To be fair, I’m a lapsed Jew myself. It’s been years since I voluntarily attended synagogue, and I can’t quite recall why my pre-psychologist aspiration was to become a rabbi.
Yet my traditions are important to me, especially those associated with food. I bake a mean challah, which none of my friends seem able to replicate despite my sharing the recipe. And J. has graciously accommodated my traditions. She does a better job than me of braiding my perfectly kneaded challahs, and even made matzah balls that were floaters on her first attempt, which is quite a feat even for many Jews. And of course we hold an annual Easter egg hunt. Thank goodness high-quality chocolate crosses all cultural boundaries.
Christmukah took a little more finagling. I was horrified when J. first wanted to hang Christmas lights, initially insisting on blue and white, the colours of my people, on our Hanukah bushes. Then came the Christmas tree, which I’ll admit is very pretty all lit up. It is adorned with a motley collection of dog ornaments and nary a religious symbol except for a lovely blue Magen David. I have also convinced J. to give me a gift each of the 8 days of Hanukah, a tradition that we never followed when I was a child but which I’ve insisted on as an adult. (I reciprocate in kind, don’t worry.) Also, out of respect for J.’s tradition, we buy gifts for under the tree. Don’t confuse us for materialistic, however: most of these gifts are small, cheap, and predictable, like the annual dog pajamas.
There are a few issues that we’ve failed to resolve, however, and I doubt we ever will. As a Ukrainian, J. does not understand how Jews could put tomato sauce on our ground-beef-filled cabbage rolls, whereas I choke down hers, which are stuffed with rice and bacon. (Okay, I love the bacon part–I told you I’m a bad Jew–I just know they’d be better with tomato sauce.) And J.’s first experience with gefilte fish was quite traumatic. The thought of chopped liver, even spread generously on my perfect challah, is enough to make her gag. Don’t even mention my childhood favourite, boiled tongue.
Despite our differences, J. and I have managed to respect and even embrace each other’s traditions. And who am I to complain about two sets of gifts every December and the magical discovery of a basket of sweets every Easter?