Being a mother–not the work of it specifically, but the thinking I have done over and over about who I want to be as a mother and who I want my daughter, in all the complexity of her life, to have the chance to be as a girl and later as a woman, has provided many things. Mothering, I think, is not the only thread that has led me to this place, but it has helped create a certain stark clarity. It has offered me significant incentive/opportunity to grow further into being myself. Among other things I am less, and less assimilated as a Jew. I am not going to write, right here, about what I think assimilation means or how I ended up that way. Nor will I get into rankings of how assimilated I am or am not, or was or was not as a younger person and how that stacks up against other versions of assimilation. (But I’d say, as shorthand, that I think that in the US, many? most? Jewish families assimilated or pushed to do so, in the years following the Holocaust– for many obvious reasons. Some were more intentional than others, some were more successful than others at the self-erasure that is what assimilation is, but it happened very widely.)
Simply put, less assimilated mostly means that more of my mind is on our Jewish way of doing things; the way I was raised as a Jew; the way my father and mother were raised, what other Jews– younger and older are doing. Which means less of my mind is on passing within a culture (Christian) not my own. It’s not an angry or defiant thing; it just is. My daughter attends a school where things are opposite of her life at home; she is in the majority as a Latina and vastly in the minority as a Jew. Lately, I can see before my eyes, that she is claiming a stronger and stronger understanding of herself as a young person of color, and a stronger and stronger understanding and love of herself as a Jewish girl. Cool, very, very cool.
All that is (350 words worth of ) background for just this; Christmas is almost upon us and for most of 25 years– I have been a working person at Christmas time. This year I am not. Unexpectedly, I feel a great burden lifted. There is, for me, no office Christmas party to navigate, clear the calendar for, dress up for, bring traditional food to… There is no office party that goes by the name of “Holiday” party, but is really a Christmas party. I am not explaining to anyone that no, Hanukah is not “our Christmas”– it just happens to fall at the same time of year and if we followed a Jewish calendar we’d have our big office party after breaking fast for Yom Kippur, or maybe at Simchat Torah. I am not anyone’s secret Santa.
I feel– well — stunningly free in some way. We are not free of the shopping part–still caught in that for reasons of advertising that seeps in and snares us and for love. Family, including my partner’s family are Christmas-celebrating Christians as are friends we love very much. And even the shopping, though objectionable for many reasons, is a totally different thing. I buy birthday presents for people when it isn’t my birthday– but I’m not expected to pretend that it is my birthday party too. I am just enjoying being Jewish at this time. Including Hanukah– which as I said, is not our version of Christmas. Here is what we are rockin’ out to. Mornings. Evenings. My beautiful oldest nephew, I., a tall Jewish boy with a full teen life, called to tell us to find this and listen. I’m trying to figure out how to get this on my Ipod. I know many of you will have found this already, but go ahead, enjoy these beautiful Jewish young men from Yeshiva University. Their humor, imagination, Jewishness, beautiful voices and rocking rhythm. And when you do, think of us– we’re probably listening and dancing around the house.