Thursday, November 18, 2010

We Made It!

Alright then. Here we be. Finally, a home on the interwebz for a number of wandering souls just trying to find their places.

I've wanted to start a "life blog," for lack of a better phrase, ever since I was still wasting away in the seemingly never ending pit of hell society calls high school. Instead of taking to a public forum, I started a locked LiveJournal that, mark my words, will never see the light of day. Years later, I now find myself typing up a welcome post to an as-yet unknown public blog.

The posts below me discuss with the idea that we as Jews do not need to explain ourselves for anything whatsoever, because we are who we are. This is all very well and good, but there are those of us out there who don't have it so easy in that department.

I come from a heavily multicultural family. The United Nations ain't got nothing on me. My extended family members, for the most part, are not Red Sea Pedestrians. Some hail from the Islands, Africa, Ireland and more. (My parents are not converts; my extended family has almost completely intermarried. It's very complicated and I will spare you the particulars of my family tree.) They celebrate Christmas with tinsel, eggnog and a succulent Yule ham. If I ever felt the need to rebel, all I would need to do is take a trip over to my cousins and try a bit of grilled lobster, lightly buttered.

This leads to an interesting situation. My immediate family are almost the only observant Jews in the entire extended clan, with the exception of two of my second cousins who are not the most favorably disposed people on earth. Because we don't eat McDonald's hamburgers or drive on Saturdays, we are sort of... hopeless freaks.

Some of the men in my family who have chosen to marry non-Jewish women joke in front of us about their bar mitzvah experiences as if to say, "Load of good that did me." Awkward. To them, our Jewishness is not alright. It is archaic, outdated and just plain ridiculous.

But for the most part, we all keep the peace. We know we're sometimes an inconvenience. Family get-togethers need to be rescheduled for Sundays instead of Saturdays and since we choose not to frequent certain eating establishments, kosher takeout can be a bit expensive.

Thus far, I am the only person I have ever heard of who has eaten a kosher chicken and side dishes from Brach's for Christmas dinner with their half-black cousins. I certainly hope the fabulous gifts we brought made up for the fact that they couldn't enjoy their traditional succulent pig on account of us.

I seem to have acquired a taste for the bizarre because of my family situation, or perhaps I always had a propensity for the unusual. I have never known anything different than a hodgepodge of people in my family.

Ultimately, I do indeed need to explain myself. And to my own family, at that. From the ignorant questions I receive from family members who think that because I don't shop on Saturdays, I will shave my head when I get hitched someday to the simple questions about which brand of ice cream I can eat, I need to explain myself. I need to explain my lifestyle to my own flesh and blood, some of whom choose not to abide by the laws of Judaism and some of whom were never commanded by G-d to abide by these laws in the first place.

I would not have my life any different. I've met people from every race and religion, and they are all my kin. I actually think I'm heading out into the world with a huge advantage over my fellow Modern Orthodox counterparts because of the variety of people with whom I've come into contact. Time will tell.

So to Daniel, I say, indeed, I need to explain myself. And to Aliza, I say, being Jewish is not only "not alright" in some parts of the world, but it is also "not alright" according to certain members of my own family.

And so we wander on.


  1. Joanna,

    You're clearly a "glass is half full" kind of gal. And why shouldn't you be? You value your family members' diversity and recognize that you wouldn't be who you are without them. I am not sure you necessarily need to explain yourself (that's your call) but you can most definitely benefit all of us by doing so.

    It's pretty amazing that your nuclear family has managed to protect their lifestyle while quite obviously keeping an open mind to others. It's a rarity nowadays to succeed at both. There's so much to be proud of in that.


    P.S. Your saucy and fresh writing style makes for a delightful read.

  2. HI JOANNA! I have read all 5 posts on this thing so far (phew! lots of work :p) and I can already say I'm a pretty big fan. Here's the comment you tried to drag out of me earlier on facebook :p


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