On Monday night we went to a Seder hosted by our friends unodelman
. I really enjoyed the evening, and I was surprised at how well the kids held up. (Alex did miss school the next day because of excessive sleepiness, but I consider that a small price to pay.)
We were thrilled to be invited. Two years ago our church held a Seder, and Michael and I have both been disappointed that there hasn't been one at the church since. At the same time, I had some ambivalent feelings about whether we, uh, deserved
to be invited. I hasten to say that those feelings have absolutely nothing to do with lynsaurus
and their family members who were present; everyone was incredibly warm and welcoming.
Here's the thing:
I was raised in a mainline Protestant, liberal Christian tradition. I was baptized when I was a toddler. I went to church every week. But I also
, when I was a kid, felt a strong sense of connection and affinity for Judaism. At that time in my life, I thought of myself as ethnically "half Jewish." My father was raised in a nonreligious household, but his
father was Jewish, the son of immigrant garment workers who lived on the Lower East Side in New York. My father identified as ethnically Jewish. And in Boston in the 1940s and 1950s, other people also identified my father as Jewish.
So I grew up with an interest in Jewish things. I sometimes went to temple with kcobweb
on Friday nights, if I was sleeping over. She tried to teach me a little Hebrew; I can still write my name, but that's about all I ever learned. I read extensively in the children's/YA genre of "heroic Jewish children hide from Nazis." At that time, in the late 70s and early 80s, mainline Protestant churches like mine took a very respectful and interested attitude toward Judaism - not in the skeevy "Jews for Jesus" sense, but in a belief that we had a strong shared heritage and that their history was our history. We sometimes held a Seder at church out of just that sense of shared heritage.
As I grew older, I started to see things in a more complicated light. I realized that by Jewish law, not only was I not "half Jewish," but I wasn't Jewish at all - and neither was my father. Judaism passes through the maternal line. I realized that even if my Jewish ethnic heritage came from my mother's side, my baptism and churchgoing would have made me really
not-Jewish. And eventually I came to understand that the idea that Christians and Jews share a substantial common heritage and history, and have significant religious commonalities, is a belief that is much more common and more strongly held among Christians than among Jews. I started to consider my childhood, um, Jewphilia, in the light of cultural appropriation. And I felt awkward.
I'm not a Christian now, but (of course) a Unitarian-Universalist. And UUs have a long tradition of glomming happily onto other people's beliefs and practices and rituals. (Sometimes this is approached thoughtfully and respectfully. Other times, not.) When we found out that there wasn't going to be a Seder at church this year, Michael and I briefly discussed whether it would be okay to have a Seder in our home, for just our family.
We decided that it wouldn't. The thing is, I really like Passover. I love the story and the rituals. I think every
religion should have a major holiday focused on oppression and liberation (and wine). But Judaism is not an evangelical, O-hai-let's-share-the-good-news-with-
everyone-and-get-them-to-be-like-us religion. Passover is for Jews, not for everyone who thinks Passover is cool. So it was awesome that our friends invited us to share their Seder. It was deeply meaningful to us. But I think that makes us "lucky people who got to share in their tradition," not "people who also have a right to this tradition."