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âWeâre not doing this!â Andy was visibly upset. âI wonât do it!â
It was a year into our relationship and we were in his car heading to his dadâs house in the middle of nowhere.
The topic that inspired this reaction was none other than kashrut, a set of Jewish dietary laws that I happen to follow. While I am not incredibly strict and will go out to non-kosher restaurants, I will only eat vegetarian, dairy and halakhically (by the law) approved fish.
Andy knew that I kept kosher from the very beginning of our relationship but because I still went out to restaurants, he never thought much about it. As we became more serious and talked about moving in together, he finally began to understand how dating a traditional Jew would affect him. I had explained to him that if we were to move in together, our kitchen, and everything in it, would need to be kashered.
Kashering is the rather intensive process of making a kitchen kosher and it was not up for negotiation. Andy was not particularly pleased when I explained to him what it would involve, and in particular, what he would have to sacrifice.
His protests were valid and I completely understood where he was coming from.
Food is a significant part of life and kashrut not only dictates the kind of food we can eat, but also its preparation, storage, separation of dishes, utensils and pretty much anything in the kitchen that touches food.
For a Catholic-raised atheist who is not Jewish and was not used to food restrictions, it was quite jarring for him to suddenly be told that he would have to abide by them.
Thankfully, a year later as we were preparing to move in together, we were able to talk it out and eventually, negotiations were made where we agreed to set up two âkitchensâ in our apartment.
We dubbed them: Kosher Kitchen and Catholic Corner.
Kosher KitchenÂ is the main kitchen in our home. It’s where the majority of the cooking is done. The dishes in our apartment are all his. We rekasheredÂ hisÂ dishes in a local mikveh so that they could becomeÂ ourÂ dishes. He even participated in reciting the prayers and dunking all of his utensils, pots, pans and well, pretty much everything kitchen related, into the mikveh pool.
“Can you kasher our kitchen every day?!” he had said incredulously as he watched me pour boiling water all over our counters, making them especially clean.
However, when he wants to avoid these situations, he always has the option of using his own kitchen space.
Catholic CornerÂ is a corner by our front window which has a convection oven and a hot plate. Andy has a separate set of pots, dishes and utensils and even a separate sponge at our shared sink for those times when he eats non-kosher food.
Originally, he had a separate fridge as well but I felt like that was overkill. As long he wrapped everything up and it was well contained within its packaging, there would not be a problem about cross contamination and in the two-and-a-half years that we have been living together, it has never been an issue for me.
It may seem unfair that Andy cannot cook non-kosher food in the main kitchen, but I am the one that does the majority of the cooking for both of us. I am also the one who brought my beliefs to the table from the very beginning.
Andy realizes how important my religious and cultural traditions are to me and since that fateful conversation in the car four years ago, he is my number one supporter and now practically an expert on kashrut.
Keeping kosher is not always easy but not because Andy isnât Jewish. Itâs because we have a fairly small kitchen and having two of everything means our space is extremely limited.
Thankfully, together, we make it work.
I think the Passover/Easter combination is more difficult than Hanukkah/Christmas. This is because Easter most always falls within Passover. Over the past few years, Sam has celebrated Easter with my family: joining us for mass, taking part in the Easter egg hunt, and sitting down with us for our giant ham dinner.
Two years ago, a few months into our relationship, I invited Sam over for Easter at my parentâs house. Not wanting to make a big fuss about his religion, I explained to my mom that Sam was Jewish. Mom told my sister, Michelle, who told my sister Carolyn, who told my brother Chris, and soon everyone knew that Sam was Jewish.
Sam and I attended Easter Sunday mass with the rest of the family. I spent the entire mass worrying about how uncomfortable Sam must have been. Later, he told me that he wasnât uncomfortable at all.Â He had gone with me to previous masses at my parish in New Jersey, which helped acclimate him to the flow of the mass.
After mass we had our annual Easter egg hunt. My siblings and I have a tendency to make a mess searching for eggs, whereas, Sam was being very careful looking for his egg behind books and under boxes. Upon finding his egg, he realized that he couldnât eat anything inside because the goodies werenât kosher for Passover.
Easter dinner came around and my sisters bombarded Sam with âWhy canât you eat ham on Easter?â and âAre peeps kosher for Passover?â Sam fielded these questions like a champ! We had brought some kosher for Passover wine, but it had slipped my mind to tell everyone that it was specifically for Sam. The wine was poured and by the time the wine reached Sam, all the kosher for Passover wine was gone. We sat down to our usual Easter ham, rolls, corn, and potatoes. Thankfully my uncle brought over a small lamb. I think the only thing Sam ate that night was lamb and a potato.
Round Two. Last year, my mom and I worked really hard to make the entire meal kosher for Passover. I explained to her all the dietary restrictions. For the month leading up to Easter, I received calls with âIs this kosher for Passover?â or âCan Sam have that?â My mother experimented with matzo meal and potato starch for the first time in cooking all the Easter dishes and desserts.
During the Easter egg hunt, Sam had remembered some of the hiding places from the previous year and that was where he started looking. Once he found his egg, there were kosher for Passover macaroons inside!
My brother and father picked up some really good kosher for Passover wine which sparked some good conversations about keeping kosher. Dinner was served and my father said the prayers and then offered for Sam to say his blessing. Sam said the motzi in Hebrew and English. My dear old grandfather (who is hard of hearing) blurted out with âThatâs not Catholic!â It was at this moment that we told my grandfather that Sam wasnât Catholic. My dad responded with, âYes, but everything he just said, you also believe in!â Since then Sam and my grandfather have had many conversations on religion, and have come to the conclusion that there is always more to talk about.
Looking back on last year, I think, making the entire meal kosher for Passover was too stressful for my mother. For Easter, a week ago, I provided the main course and desserts and gave my mom some specific sides to make.
Easter mass was very comfortable sitting alongside Sam and my family. After Mass, Sam even went up to the priest to talk to him. We have been meeting with this priest to plan our wedding ceremony, so he is getting to know Sam and I very well.
The infamous Easter egg hunt came around and after much searching Sam found his egg taped under the lampshade in replace of the light bulb! After an enjoyable egg hunt, dinner was served. Both my father and Sam said the blessing over the meal and everyone left pleasantly full. It took us three years, but I think we have finally found a routine in balancing Easter and Passover!
By Sam Goodman
Wonât you help to sing /Â These songs of freedom?
Weâre currently in the middle of one of the most widely-observed Jewish holidays, Passover.Â One of the Shalosh Regalim, or three pilgrimage festivals (literally âthree legsâ), in ancient times Jews throughout the land of Israel would gather and make sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt, and is one of the few holidays mentioned in the Torah.Â In modern times, it is observed by abstaining from the consumption of items with leavening (e.g. bread, cake, beer), and with a festive meal on the first two evenings, which is called a seder.
When I was growing up, we would have the first night seder with extended family.Â Between grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and my nuclear family, there would be about fifteen of us crowded around the table, hearing Poppop recite the story of the Hebrewsâ exodus from Egypt.Â It was always fun running around with the cousins, searching for the afikomen, and staying up way past our normal bedtimes.Â We still meet at my uncleâs place every year on the first night, and although lately weâve had a couple faces missing from the table due to cousins living abroad, or away at college, usually at some point we would Skype them in.Â Also, as some of the older cousins have become involved in serious relationships, there have been new guests at the table â including, for the past three years, Anne.
The second night seder had a very different tone than the first night while I was growing up. My two sisters and I would each get to invite one friend, and beyond these three friends, it would just be our nuclear family at the table.Â We lived in an area that had very few Jews, so most of our school friends had never been to a seder before.Â At the beginning of this seder, we would start by explaining the symbols on the table â the matzah, different items on the seder plate, Elijahâs cup, etc.Â Diana, my youngest sister, would start the explanation; Stacey, the middle child, would add things that Diana had forgotten, and provide additional layers of meaning behind the symbols; and I would continue with the things both sisters had left out.
This year, we invited Anneâs parents and siblings to our second-night seder.Â As an added twist, my Dad had asked me a few weeks ago if I could lead our seder.Â My father, an accountant, was a *bit* exhausted by the night of the second seder, which fell this year on April 15th.Â After a few weeks of reviewing the haggadah and the Passover story, I had committed as much as I could to memory, and felt prepared for what was to come.
Anne and I arrived at my parentsâ house around 5:30, about half an hour before the seder was to begin.Â I wanted some time to settle in, and do some last-minute reviewing of my notes and the biblical Exodus story.Â Thanks to some heavy traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway, I ended up having quite a bit of extra time â Anneâs brother Chris showed up around 6:15, and her parents and two youngest siblings didnât arrive until nearly 7PM.Â After some brief greetings, we sat down at the table, and the sederÂ began.
We began with my retelling the story of the Exodus, beginning with Josephâs trials and tribulations, culminating in the arrival of the Hebrews in the Promised Land, and hitting all the major high points along the way.Â Unfortunately, due to my nerves, I ended up hitting many of the minor points as well, resulting in a retelling that felt as long as Cecil B DeMilleâs epic film.Â In reality it was probably only 15 minutes, but it felt much longer. At least nobody could say I missed anything important!
After my retelling was complete, we began reading from the haggadah.Â After the first cup of wine, my nerves (finally!) began to ease up.Â We went popcorn-style around the table, each person reading a paragraph.Â As we reached the Four Questions, we broke our order and had Theresa, Anneâs youngest sibling, read them.Â We continued along, with Anneâs parents and siblings asking questions as we went. What foods do we âdipâ, as mentioned in the Four Questions?Â Whatâs the egg for? Why is the shank bone, rather than another part of the lamb, used to symbolize Passover offering? Is that really a lambâs shank bone, or just a chicken bone? When do we drink more wine?Â In some cases, the answers were literally on the next page of the haggadah, but I was able to field most other questions without significantly affecting the flow of the service.
Finally, it was time to eat the main meal.Â Anne had prepared eggplant dip, chopped liver, and potatoes, and my mom cooked up some beef brisket, chicken, and fruit kugel.Â Everything tasted delicious, though it certainly helped that we were having a very late dinner.Â Unfortunately, we werenât able to go through the post-meal portion of the seder due to a confluence of the delayed start time and Anneâs youngest siblingsâ bedtimes (the following day was a school day, after all).
Iâm certainly in no rush to lead my next seder, a responsibility I hope continues to be held by my healthy father and grandfather for many years.Â However, it was a lot of fun studying the details of the seder and the Passover holiday while preparing to lead it.Â Also, Iâm extremely grateful that Anneâs family is open to learning about the customs and holidays of my faith.Â While we certainly differ on quite a few theological matters, I appreciate that Anneâs parents are willing to join my family for holiday celebrations.Â It displays both a confidence in their beliefs and an acceptance of my ability to practice my faith.
On a completely unrelated note, I listened to this song on repeat while writing this blog.
I went to Congregation Rodeph Shalomâs Purim celebration this year. (Or last year, by the Hebrew calendar.)
The shul went all out. The theme was âA Night in Persia,â and congregants came dressed in robes, bedecked themselves in scarves and beads, and happily buzzed around the room. Our cantor and one of our rabbis, both female, dressed as Women of the Wall; the other rabbis, both male, wore police costumes, looking like the Village Peopleâs second string. And of course there was drinking. Lots of drinking.
I didn’t dress up. I didn’t schmooze. And I didn’t drink.
When I told a friend about it the next day, she laughed. âIâd expect nothing less of a Reform Jew,â she said, âto know the âright wayâ to do something and then do the opposite,â playing on the Reform movementâs ideal of informed practice, by which individual congregants educate themselves regarding traditions and then deciding which to follow and to what degree. I laughed, too. In my experience, there are few things Jews enjoy more than knowing what they should do, even when theyâre doing the opposite.
For instance, I donât keep kosher. Now, I am not sitting here with a wad of bacon in my mouth, drooling grease onto the keyboard. I donât even particularly like pork. But I still havenât been able to bring myself to quit it altogether. It isn’t that I havenât thought about it; I have. I didn’t grow up kosher, though, and, more importantly, while I respect halakhah, I have little patience for the way it can devolve into tedium. Consider this recipe for pretzel challah, shared by The Shiksa in the Kitchen. Great recipe. But the real treat is in the comments: If you scroll down, youâll find two halakhically-minded women arguing over whether or not one can say motzi over pretzel challah for Shabbat, since the bread is boiled rather than baked. It reminds me of the joke about the Jew on the desert island who built two synagogues. Why two? âNu, one I pray in, the other I wonât set foot in.â
I recently stopped eating pork, though, quietly, assuming it would slip past Shannonâs radar. Of course it didn’t. âYou stopped eating pork?â she asked me at a fair we attended a few weeks ago. She just knew. âDoes that mean I canât make it anymore?â I hesitated. âIâll eat it if you cook it,â I said, âbut otherwise, no.â I paused, waiting for an argument to start. Food and foodways are such personal things; they evoke strong responses. âI donât think I could give up pork,â Shannon said. âPork and sauerkraut on New Yearsâ, mmm!â (A Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.) And that was it. Shannon accepted the new paradigm.
I think Shannon is so accepting of such sudden changes on my part because she knows how important Judaism is to me, and because of how we’ve learned to accommodate one another. Several years ago I read Barbara Kingsolverâs book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which she recounts her familyâs sustainable lifestyle. Kingsolverâs clan attempted to reduce their carbon footprint by eating locally, permitting themselves only one âluxuryâ item, such as coffee or tea. When a family friend visits and asks for bananas, the Kingsolvers explain their philosophy to her. The scene stuck with me for years, and it wasn’t until I converted to Judaism that I realized why: Kingsolver and her family lived their lives as if they mattered, as if individual choices have meaning and consequence. Thatâs what Judaism has done for me. I think Shannon knows that.
In last weekâs parsha, Lekh Lâkha, God tells Abraham (then Abram) to decamp for Canaan. âLekh lâkhaâ is usually translated as âGo forth,â but it literally means âGo to (or for) you.â Thus âGo forth from your native land might be read as, âGo, for you, from your native land.â âGo,â God tells Abraham, âand I will make of you a great nation, / And I will bless you; / I will make your name great, / And you shall be a blessing.â (Breishit / Genesis 12:1-3.)
Shannon and I, like Sarah and Abraham, are journeying, heading from the safety of the ânative landsâ of singlehood to the unknown territories of marriage. We find security in our knowledge of one another, even in Shannonâs ability to intuit on my part a change in my attitude towards kashrut. We head forth together, as individuals, but also âfor us,â as a couple. And that shall be a blessing.
This is one of those small details that are important (at least to the brides đ
In this video, we talk about what to feed our guests plus we feature a special guest.
For all of you who have had a Jewish wedding, or are planning one, what did you decide to feed your guests and why? Just wanna know!
Peace & Love,