The Great Divide

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.

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. 



  1. I think you have already shown that you can. You can teach them a lot in the cornfield and then, when you come back to visit, you'll be able to show them.

    But, damn, that Easter bunny is hard to compete with.

  2. I don't have any specific answers or solutions. But I do know that although they may not understand it or live it in a way that you do, they will know that their mom is Jewish. And what they will know is your pure and true to you identity. Your journey over your life to figure out what being Jewish means to you will spill over to them. Maybe not now when the chocolates and the bunnies are so alluring, but definitely when they are older.

    They cannot avoid it, even if they tried - and they are lucky to have such a thoughtful mom.

    PS We may not be in the cornfield out west here but I miss people not knowing what a mezzuzah is. Not so multicultural once you get out of the big smoke...

  3. Being from a strictly (but not a strict) Christian background, that Easter bunny is a huge competitor.

    I think that as your kids get older, you can share your history - your trip to Israel included - and you might be surprised at where they run with that. You never know...

  4. I grew up in a small town and we were the only Armenian family around. My family didn't really teach me a lot of Armenian traditions & I was quite happy about that. Now, I'm married to a non-Armenian man and I want to teach my kids about my heritage and they actually want to learn about it too but I don't even now it so I feel like a fraud. Keep doing competing with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus because one day, your kids will pass it on to their kids. And I need to talk to Nadine to brush up on all things Armo :)

  5. I agree with Sandra.
    As long as they have you to guide the way, I'm sure they will get more into it as they get older.

    we do both holidays, and it's a bit crazy when they fall on the same day.
    tomorrow we have a small seder with just us.
    (I was at Nortown today with sharpened elbows fighting for the last bit of gefelte fish ;)
    tomorrow we go to friends who don't have family in the city and its a big group of mixed families.
    Super fun, especially for the kids.
    the following day its easter with my family.
    (kosher ham & chocolate eggs ;)
    its all a bit conflicting really, but still one of my favourite times of the year.

    as long as you are all together, that's what's most important.
    maybe next year you can spend the holiday with your family instead..

    happy passover

  6. Its not a contest, but if it were, you would win.
    You are their mother and that matters more than anything else.
    I did see quite a kickass selection of passover games and candy at forest hill shoppers. am headed back tomorrow to clean them out of bunnies. happy to pick all that up too if you'd like ;0

  7. You begin with what I would say is arguably a cornerstone to every religion's main traditions: you get together and eat.

    The way you choose to do that will shape your children's memories of growing up, of holidays and family, of storytelling and their senses.

    You will tell them the stories of their heritage and your time in Israel. They may choose to go themselves. They will - yes - be alright.

    As for you, make the traditions that make sense to you. Create what you do not see around you. I do not mean separating your dishes, but why not your own mezzuza? Why not, as we do with my friend who moved far form her home and sabbath traditions, make Friday night your family's own night? In the summer my friend does Shabbat on The Beach. Those of us who do not know all the words to the blessing are nevertheless blessed to be there, together. Challah or bageuette, in an environment without traditional trappings, she has made her own.

    And? We get together and eat.


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