April: Quiet, Rebirth, Reassment: Recipes

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The beginning of April saw Passover fill that first week. Passover is the Jewish holiday commmemorating the Jews escape from slavery in Egypt. Part of the observation is forgoing all bread in favor of unleavened bread: matzo. When it came time to run, there wasn’t time to bake the bread, and so they took it as it was.

With kids being picky eaters, it can be difficult to suddenly simply remove a staple from their diets such as bread. It’s not just bread. It’s cereal, oatmeal, muffins, bagels, and I could spend hours listing all the ways they claim that I’m torturing them.

This year we tried two new recipes. Continue reading

Reflections on Living an Interfaith Life

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​​We’re more than halfway through Passover, and everyone is tired of matzo. Can’t we have pizza for dinner? Dinner rolls with our chicken? Pasta? Pleeeeeease. 

We have always been an interfaith family. We didn’t attend religious services but we observed and celebrated all of the major holidays of both Catholicism and Judaism. That was how I was raised Jewish – following the traditions, participating in the observances, eating the holiday food. We’ve always had a Christmas tree in my married life. We are so blended that when I converted to Catholicism, my daughter assumed that my husband was the Jewish one since we’re both faiths and I was Catholic.

People blend their interfaith families in a myriad of ways. For me, I try to find a way to blend without overshadowing or ignoring either. I also don’t usually like to combine them. For example, I don’t like Jewish related ornaments on Christmas trees. I think that keeping the holiday traditions distinctive is better for our kids to appreciate both equally. We still celebrate Chanukah on Christmas if it falls that way. We will light the Chanukah candles and decorate the tree on the same day if timing demands it.

If we were spending Easter with my mother-in-law, I would not object to the kids eating bread or her special Peeps bunny cake. They deserved their special time with their grandmother during her special holiday.

I dread looking at the calendar to see when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall because my son’s birthday is in October and there’s a chance I will have to choose between fasting and praying and celebrating my son’s birthday. (My son wins every time. One thing about both the Jewish and Catholic faiths is that family is a priority.)

This year, Passover began right in the middle of the Triduum. From Holy Thursday through Easter, I spend about 11 and a half  hours at church between the prayer services, parish dinner, masses, and the Easter Vigil. It is exhausting, but I love it. Right before that, my son was in the hospital, and our oven wasn’t working.

I did not even mention Passover until after Easter dinner*. Yes, we missed the first three nights, but Monday morning, bright and early, we were a bread free house. I realize it’s not kosher, but it’s kosher style, and they still get the dietary restrictions as well as the stories and the celebration of freedom from Egyptian slavery. They also love latkes, which I make more during the abundance of potatoes for Passover than for Chanukah. This year I made fried chicken tenders using crushed matzo in place of the bread crumbs. I had never done that before and it was well received. I believe we have a new tradition.

After the huge windstorm we had yesterday, we’ve had no power since about 12:30am, and won’t be getting it back until later tonight, or so I’m told. That means we will probably need to eat out, which means I probably won’t restrict their food choices. I can always make the matzo lasagna tomorrow night. Obviously, grocery shopping is also postponed.

The most important aspect of sharing a house with multiple religions is respect. Our two faiths are equal in importance and in worth. They are valued with the same respect and reverence. My time at church is important to me, and my family understands and accepts that. My time making latkes is also valuable and important to me.

We light Yartzeit candles for my parents and now for my mother-in-law, who wasn’t Jewish. I know she wouldn’t mind. We also have mass said for her.

I would love to hear from any readers who juggle this very issue of interfaith or multi-faith within your families. I think we do a good job, but it’s good to give acknowledgment to others who are doing a good job as well as getting ideas on other things we can do differently or better.

I hope your Easter is a blessed one and Chag Sameach for your Passover.

What other holidays do you celebrate (they don’t necessarily have to be at this time of the year)?

[*My husband jiggled the heating element for the oven, and so we were able to have turkey dinner for Easter.]

Blending the Holidays

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​In talking about how we balance an interfaith family, I’ve mentioned how I like to keep Christmas and Chanukah as their own holidays. Usually, the calendar cooperates by keeping them separate. The same goes for Passover and Easter. Usually, I can juggle Passover’s restrictions with Easter’s celebrations. When we would go to my mother-in-law’s for Easter, I tried to allow my kids to enjoy Grandma’s holiday her way without making our Jewish traditions …, well, restrictive.

For a long while, I bought all the new kosher for Passover cereal, pancakes, muffins, and the rest. It cost a fortune and we usually had several boxes of things leftover. By the time the next Passover rolled around again, they had passed their expiration dates.

This year, all I bought was a large box of matzo, Temp-Tee cream cheese, matzo ball soup mix, potato pancake mix, and macaroons. Oh, and gefilte fish.

The blending of the two holidays has been a bit more complicated since my baptism. I try to give both their significant place in our family.

Both promise death from life.

In our Exodus from Egypt, we began with the Ten Plagues, the angel of death and the first born. After forty years of wandering in the desert, we found new life over the Jordan in Canaan.

Easter begins with forty days in the desert, death by crucifixion, and life everlasting.

The kids see matzo and bunnies, chocolate and latkes. They get more latkes during Passover than Chanukah.

This year sees a lot of compromises. My church has a community dinner on Holy Thursday to commemorate the Last Supper, held before the Mass of the Last Supper of the Lord, the first day of the Triduum. It’s always lasagna. We will join my church and share the Holy Thursday meal with the other parishioners before Mass in spite of it being Passover.

I don’t know how it translates religiously, but in according both holidays proper observances, I think it brings the long held traditions to my kids. I never went to temple (kids weren’t really allowed), but I remember Seders and presents lined up for Chanukah. Lighting candles. Somewhere I still have my childhood Haggadah, dogeared and torn in places; colored and drawn on, and every year, read from cover to cover.

I remember Elijah’s wine glass sitting on our radiator with the front door open to let him in. This was unusual for my mother – her doors were always closed and locked, but not on Passover. There’s always a space for Elijah.

And by the same token, there’s always a space for learning, understanding, and sharing our traditions with each other.

Happy Pesach

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Passover begins at sundown this evening. Some years there are conflicts. We travel to my mother-in-law’s more often than not for Easter or right before Easter when the kids are on recess, and so we’ll only observe Passover for part of the eight days. Even after my baptism, we continue to celebrate.

This year Easter was early and we aren’t able to travel to Grandma’s for recess because my oldest son is in school and working two and a half jobs so timing didn’t work out for visiting.

However, we will be home for the entirety of Passover.

To be truthful, I hadn’t really decided to celebrate/observe until I was in the grocery store shopping. I was supposed to get a roasting chicken and potato pancake mix for tonight’s dinner, but I could feel the D-A (depression/anxiety) clueing me in that it was going to be difficult to me for this holiday.

While I want to do Passover (even if we don’t usually do a seder), I could not feel the cooking.

I looked through my wallet and found the raincheck for chicken tenders. I heard the lightbulb click in my head; over my head.

Fake it.

No roast chicken, no standing over a stove frying latkes (we eat more latkes during Passover than during Chanukah), and that’s it. Fake it.

Chicken tenders, frozen potato pancakes, can of cranberry sauce, matzoh. Lunch – gefilte fish.

I can do this.

My point is simply that there are ways to get around those pokes that depression uses to try and bring you to lethargy and apathy. It isn’t a fail safe. There will be depressive moments. There will be times when you have to ask for family for more patience and support, but when it’s important, try. That’s all you can ask yourself.

I wanted to celebrate Passover. It’s important to me to continue these traditions, for my kids to understand their Exodus from Egypt. Even before the Eucharist, I’ve always talked about Passover in the present.

Why do we celebrate Passover, I’ve been asked. We were slave, and we’re leaving Egypt. We’re escaping. We’re crossing the Red Sea. We carry the matzoh with us. It’s happening in the past, the future, and now. it is within and without time.

History and heritage are important.

So is dinner.

Food is the lifeblood of culture and family.

Sometimes depression gets the best of me, but it can never win because I keep fighting, I keep moving forward, I keep keeping on.

I fake it unhtil I don’t have to anymore, and then I fake it again, but I keep going.

Happy Pesach.

Passover

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Friday is Good Friday. It is also the first night of Passover.

When I decided to go ahead and follow my conscience to be baptized and to become Christian and join the Catholic Church, I made the commitment to continuing to observe many of the Jewish customs that I had grown up with. Not to make too fine a point of it, but my kids are still Jewish, and for me my Catholicism is a very organic and logical extension of my own Jewishness.

This was my third observed Lent, my first after my baptism. I’ve had no problem abstaining from meat on Fridays and giving up something. For two years, it was Diet Coke and this year it was the McDonald’s Breakfast Burrito. The burrito holds a place in both my stomach and my heart as an amazing breakfast food as well as a fond memory of my first teaching job.

As a kid, Passover wasn’t terribly easy, but it also wasn’t terribly hard. We gave up bread, pasta, rice, certain vegetables and that meant that we truly gave them up. Nowadays you can practically eat anything and it’s kosher for Passover; even cake, and sandwich rolls. When my kids were really little, I bought the cereal (the box was tastier) and the potato chips without corn syrup. They hated all of it, so we went back to buying nothing but matzo and potato pancake mix.

This year, though we’ll be traveling to my mother-in-law’s, and it’s Holy Week, and Easter is Sunday, which isn’t usually a problem since I’ve abstained from chocolate and cake and anything not allowed.

But this year, I just don’t feel it.

I didn’t feel Rosh Hashanah, probably because the kids had school and I let them go.

I did observe Yom Kippur, but Chanukah was forgotten most of the week with everyone’s crazy afterschool schedules and my son’s work. We don’t do eight presents because that gets too expensive, but we do always get dreidls, gelt and potato pancakes. Except this year, I didn’t make any.

I’m not depressed; it’s not that, but I’m not feeling it.

I feel the importance of Passover; of the Exodus, but the joy of the Exodus is blended and jumbled with the joy of the Resurrection, and the latter seems more important even though it’s not a competition.

I feel guilty. It’s more than I don’t wanna also, but it both feels wrong to observe and wrong to ignore. I need to sort out a compromise for myself that is both emotionally satisfying and religiously authentic.

The customs and traditions were always important to me, and I don’t want to lose or forget that part of myself. It may take some time until I find the balance that I’m looking for.