This Friday is Good Friday. For my husband’s family, I think it is simply the gateway to Easter, as they are not Catholic and do not go to church or really celebrate Easter until dinner on Sunday. And by celebrate, I mean, we get together and eat.
But Friday is also the first Passover Seder. For my family, it is simply the gateway to Passover, as we are not religious and we do not stay kosher or go to synagogue or really celebrate Passover except for dinner on one of the first nights. And by celebrate, I mean, we get together and eat.
Easter and Passover often intersect, but not usually by beginning on the very same weekend. For the past 13 years, me and Chris, and then me and Chris and the girls, have spent the Passover Seder with my family, and gone to the cornfield for Easter with Chris’ family. This year, we can’t really do both. So this year, we are not going to be with my family for the Passover Seder.
I have written before of my struggle to maintain a Jewish identity, and what maintaining a Jewish identity even means to me. I have written before of honouring the past and of eroding traditions and the hope of beginning new ones. I have written before of our choice to move to the cornfield and the many ways it will impact our family.
But here I am, once more, struggling with it all.
Not being with my extended family does not mean that I cannot prepare a Passover Seder for my immediate family. I can; I will. We will eat whatever traditional foods I can find the ingredients to prepare (it would have been impossible had my mother not brought matzo meal with her on her last visit to us.), and we will read a simple version of The Haggadah, and of course, I have my bag o’plagues - always the highlight of the Seder.
But a humble storm of locusts cannot compete with the Easter Bunny. Chocolate-dipped matzos – were I even to find them here, which I won’t – cannot compete with cream-filled chocolate goodies. And finding the afikoman for a loonie reward doesn’t hold a candle to an easter egg hunt yielding stickers and toys and enough candy to fill a little tummy to bursting.
It’s not a competition. I know it’s not. But as I’ve taken my children away from every cultural essence of being a Jew that I could have possibly provided for them, I still feel woefully inadequate. Easter – and Christmas, and Christianity in general – they will be exposed to, in spades. But I have removed all possibility of peripheral, atmospheric Judaism seeping into their life. They won’t drive past synagogues or homes with mezzuzas on their doors; they won’t see Orthodox Jews walking down the street in traditional garb or hear Yiddish or Hebrew being spoken at the table next to us at the dairy-only restaurant. They won’t even know why there is a dairy-only restaurant.
I was not raised with much religion, but I was raised with much tradition, much culture, much understanding of who I was and what it meant to be Jewish. And when I really wanted to know what it meant to be Jewish, I went to Israel and lived among people that had fought for the right to be free and Jewish, and then I really found out what it means. And one day I’ll write about the answer, which will surprise you.
But for today, I will try to decide if I a can only be Jewish among Jews; if I can raise children that value the traditions from both sides of their family; if I can make the blood of a lamb as important as the chocolate treats of a bunny. And if I can stop myself from feeling a traitor, a failure, if I can’t.