Monday, September 14, 2015

tradition, tradition

Last night at sundown we welcomed the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the beginning of the High Holy Days. It's a beautiful time of year, and I look forward to it every fall that I've gotten to celebrate it, which is somewhere close to fifteen at this point. But it still doesn't feel like my own tradition.

Jason and I made the decision to raise any future children as Jews back when we joined an interfaith couples' support group before we got married. It's a choice that we're both still confident in, but it comes with inherent challenges. The challenges are perhaps more obvious for me as the daughter of a UCC minister, but the differences are actually not as significant as you might think when we hold shared beliefs in the importance of faith practices in our daily lives, the need for prayer, the importance of membership and contribution to one's community (and community of faith), the sacredness of the natural world, and the value in a life of charity, humility, kindness, justice, service, and truth.

What's hard, though, is that so many of the traditions of Judaism are practices that occur within the home, and I have no model to follow. Our small Jewish community in our hometown is loving and kind, but there are only five or six children in the congregation including our own, so there isn't a religious school I can count on to help to teach our daughters the ebb and flow of the religious year. Jason also grew up far away from extended family and mostly in towns and cities without a large Jewish population, and in a household that, though definitely Jewish, was mostly secular in its day-to-day life, so he has little to fall back on when it comes to tradition and religious family practices.

Some of my strongest connections to my religious identity come from my memories of traditions from childhood: setting up the creche piece by piece as we opened our Advent calendars, hymns that we always sang at certain times of the year, the simple supper before the somber Maundy Thursday service. Sometimes, the need to do this right or risk my daughters growing up without a sense of their religious identity feels like I'm standing on one foot, holding my other above a wineglass, like Jason did in our wedding ceremony, but I have to balance ever so carefully to keep it intact.

But this family is an interfaith one, and I know that's something to celebrate rather than tiptoe around. When Phoebe was blessed at my lovely little church, just like Lorelei was when she was a baby, my minister spoke about how lucky she would be to grow up in a family rich in tradition on both sides and with the benefit of two parents lovingly navigating a path towards faithfulness together. It sounded much more eloquent than it feels to live it, but we try to embrace it as a blessing and an opportunity. So we muddle through together and try to teach them what we can with the tools we have. And every year on Rosh Hashanah, we perform tashlich together, cast the worries and fears and wrongs from last year out into the water, and let the hope for better things to come wash over us anew.

1 comment:

  1. I can relate to this, so deeply. My memory is all non-Jewish traditions. We are quite isolated from other Jews. And here we are, trying to raise Jewish children with little to build from. A wise person once told me that, it doesn't matter what traditions we carry on, whatever it is that we do as a family will become the traditions our kids remember. Performing tashlich is sometime special that your girls will always remember.