Tuesday, July 04, 2006

No Sleep til Brooklyn!

Take the F train to Avenue P. That was our trip for one year - give or take. Tuesday nights after work. But first, there was the initial meeting with the Rabbi we were to study with for that coming year. Adrian and I. One of my brothers took to calling me "Little Yentl - on the train to Brooklyn" and he did mean it lovingly. But after that first meeting, which was after a disaster of a missed real first meeting (oy vey), I was not feeling the love. Well, you know that the end result was and is that I eventually convinced a Bet Din (Jewish Court of Law) that I was a sincere convert (the fact that one of the "rabbis" seemed to be sleeping, well if nobody's asking, I'm not telling). It was a cold day in November. I don't remember the date on the American calendar exactly - the 19th perhaps? But I remember it on the Hebrew calendar as the 25th of Chesvan. Jewish Calendar. We celebrated by going out for pizza at a Kosher Pizzeria and taking the F train back home. To celebrate further, we bought a Kiddish cup to use for Friday night Shabbat blessing of the wine and Shabbat candlesticks to use when welcoming in the Sabbath. Devil in the details, funny I remember them all. It was a grayish sort of cold late fall day - those really short days of November.

Oddly, any giving birth for me - to myself as a Jew and to both of my beautiful children, has taken place at this time of year; always a magical time for us.

I was the one who sprung the question to Adrian - no, not that one. The I want to convert, what do you think question. It meant so much to him. It meant so much to me. You see, here's the thing about being Jewish (and I speak from both sides of the coin) it ain't easy. No, not in the every day sense, it's part of my fiber now, but in the societal sense. You see, Adrian did not know he was Jewish for maybe the first ten years of his life. He grew up in communist Romania and practicing one's religion wasn't high on the list of Things To Do. His father told him at that time and explained what some of the repercussions of being Jewish had been. A lot to take in for a boy not yet bar mitzvah. This was before Adrian was going to begin a journey to a new land - America via Italy first. He envisioned the streets to have cowboys roaming them and landed at JFK in March to a blizzard. Welcome.

That's just a little background. He has lost much of his family to the Holocaust - grandparents, uncles, many others - gone. His mother survived along with her sister and a cousin. Their parents and brother didn't fare as well. So for me, it was never a question of what our identity as a family would be - Jewish. I feel it deep within me.

It became even more poignant and important when years later as Tali (my daughter and then about three years old) was being bathed by her grandmother and she tried scrubbing her arm, asking "Grandma, why won't this come off your arm?". The numbers from Auschwitz. Luckily I had made my mind up long before this occurred. My children are Jews, we are a Jewish family. We are extremely proud of the heritage implied by that.

I may not be as observant a Jew as my Rabbi would have liked, but I'm as sincere a Jew as you'll meet.

Oh, now before I forget, head on over to that kvetch, Doug's place, and see, coincidentally who his Wednesday guest is...Waking Ambrose

22 comments:

brian said...

Good Wednesday morning GQ,

Stopping here first before WA. Very moving post, I can *feel* your love and sincerity for your family and religion. I am blessed to know you and count you as a friend.

neva said...

Beautiful post, Gina... i truly admire the way you honor your faith, your family, and yourself... this is a big part of what drew me to you in the first place. the fact that you also make me consistantly laugh my a** off is just an added plus!

thanks for being my NBFF!! can't wait until the time we're RROBFF's (really really *old* best friends forever)! xoxox

G said...

Thanks kids.

Brian you had it backwards - you were supposed to come here from WA! Ha. That makes sense though because in Hebrew you read from right to left. Perfect.

Neva: NBFF - thank you. RROBFF - I hope you mean old as in long time gone as I was just having the age discussion this very am with Tali. I told her I might consider myself old at 121 - her original estimate for me was 50 and then because I probably wouldn't have wrinkles by then (according to her)- 60. :)

Joel said...

Amazing post that forces me to use a cliche I really, really hate but I can't think of another way of saying...thank you for sharing. I mean that in the most positive way. Damn you for making me utter those words.

cj said...

Neva is quite right this was a very beautiful post. I admire the way that you are embracing history, tradition, and faith - it seems many run away from it, or don't acknowledge its exiestance. I was raised to believe that it is a parents job to give their children roots and wings, such fortunate children to have deep and meaningful roots.

I was fortunate enough in my life to have traveled and seen eastern europe. I spent time living in Russia and have made a visit to Poland and the Czech Republic with another group. I could read all the books about the horrors of WW2 but had I not seen the prision camps, and even the city of St.Petersberg, Russia - I would not have ever truly grasped the horror.

brian said...

Do you want a poem? I've some ideas, but I am not sure if they are too personal.

neva said...

thanks to botox/restelyne and the rest of the "age-inhibiting" cosmetic aids at our disposal, we *will* be RROBFF at 121, will *not* have a single wrinkle between us, and will *definitely* look fabulous in our muu-muus. however, we may want to hire someone else to clean the tree-house. (just sayin'...)

allow me to echo joel's comment (not the "thank you for sharing" part, tho', thank you for sharing!) but the "damn you for making me utter..." this regarding Tali's 50/60 comment:

lol. seriously, i'm rotflamo (and i don't even know what the hell that means!) xoxo

Jodes said...

hello, came by way of doug at waking....

Kyahgirl said...

G-that was so interesting and insightful. I have never considered 'converting' just because I didn't have something to convert to. I just know I wanted to quit being a Catholic! Still looking for a place to rest my spiritual head.
I really enjoyed reading about your journey and your family. The part about Adrian's losses to the holocaust just broke my heart.

Kyahgirl said...

p.s. was thrilled to see your svelte lamplike self over at WA today :-)

G said...

Joel - Thank you for sharing!

cj: So nicely put and you're so right, books can only communicate so much ~ good for you for seeking out more.

Neva: And what with a plastic surgeon in the family...Wasn't that a foregone conclusion - no cleaning for us! The kid just cracks me up solely by not intending to do just that.

Jodes ~ welcome, any friend of Doug's... :)

Kyah: But that converter link at Doug's is a very good start!

PS: Kyach - she wouldn't be there without you and it's so much fun to smile back at our budding blog friendship.

~ good girl ~ said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
~ good girl ~ said...

G, that was something. My knowledge of the holocaust is limited to books and movies and I can imagine that a good 80% more has gone unsaid.

I suppose religion is this way. It's personal, tied in to our experiences and those close to us. My family isn't particularly religious. They just like following customs, better yet if it involves copious amounts of eating and drinking after. I believe in a God, some higher being. I'm not entirely sure abt denominations except that different people need different ways to understand. I'm glad you found one that spoke an inner language that resonates for you.

GG

P/S Whatever religion I end up suscribing to upon my last breath, you'll still find my family and I at the buffet queue. Hopefully there're no calories where we're going xo

G said...

Now that will be the religion we all can embrace - NO CALORIES! Thanks for stopping by GG - well said and always love seeing your cute little ponytail girl!

Tan Lucy Pez said...

Delightful. I enjoyed that very much.

G said...

Thanks TLP - so glad you stopped back - you Pezes get up early in Pennsylvania!

neva said...

you did a great job today, gina (if that's who you really are...)

seriously, this was a lovely post, and your guest spot at doug's was brilliant! (hey, i just thought of something... since you're the letter "g"... does that mean you did a "g-spot"? no *wonder* it was so good!)

xoxox

G said...

Did I not tell you this was a family sight?! Okay, it's late, we're the only birds up dishing - secret weapon baby!

Thanks Puppytoes - if that's who you are - see you tomorrow. Did you send Doug an e-mail for next week?

Miz BoheMia said...

My dear G, you definitely have an amazing way with words.

Back in SF we have two very, very dear friends... Dr. E and his wife B, who are both New York Jews. We love them deeply and see them as spiritual family. Between all the laughter we shared, we shared many a somber moment and conversation as well. But many times it was something as simple as "Well, my mother's mother, the only survivor of the Holocaust from the family, did such and such thing" and the conversation would veer off into perhaps something hilarious. But that one little tidbit, that dark past of the Holocaust, so present in so many memories, always killed me. It is so very different to read about it in a history book and then to hear someone you love so much have it as a reality, a dark part of his history that was definitely not of his choosing.

This post brought all that back... and seeing that you are witty and funny and spunky I say you make a perfect Jew in my eyes! You actually remind me so much of my beloved friends for all those reasons and to that I add your wisdom to boot! Beautiful post my dear Gina! You make the culture and the faith proud!

Doug said...

Oh, shame on me!

Great job yeserday on that other site. That clown was lucky to get you,

G said...

It's so true MizB. I really would like to get Eva's stories from her life down in print for they will be the most important for my children and future generations to read. Thank you for your beautiful words - they mean so much.

Doug - Shame? My jewish guilt works! Oh and when you mentioned "that clown", I thought you were referring to my husband ~ don't think I don't remind him every day :)

weirsdo said...

I'm really glad I made my way back to this. It is beautifully written. Obviously Judaism has been a wonderful bond in your family. If you read any essays in DIFFICULT FREEDOM, I hope you will let me know what you think. I believe some of the things Levinas says about what Judaism means will resonate with your experience. He is Lithuanian originally, and also lost a lot of family in the Holocaust.