Joyce MacGregor is currently working as a middle school secretary but uses her Culinary Arts degree in the catering field. She lives in Natick, Mass., with her two teenage children, her husband of 20 years, two dogs and two cats.
It's About Feeling
MacGregor is not one of your typical Jewish names. Certainly a three hundred and sixty degree ride from my maiden name of Weinberg. One name conjures up visions of skirt clad men herding sheep over the craggy rock edged hills, the other of two men eating a corned beef sandwich and a piece of pastry in a deli. Both names instantly attach an identity and history to the person wearing them.
I am a 41-year-old mother of a 15-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. I have been married for almost 18 years to my high school sweetheart. We had a passionate and challenging six-year courtship in which my parents desperately tried to break us apart because of our religious differences. He wasn't Jewish. They always said how much easier it would have been if they just didn't like him so much. The details are for another story but the end result is a son-in-law that I think they like better then they like me.
So we got married in a country club by a justice of the peace with a pseudo chuppah (wedding canopy) made of flowers, a few Jewish prayers and a breaking of the glass for good luck. It was sweet, and short, and we didn't offend anyone. A few years later we had our son.
We had our son's bris (covenant of circumcision ceremony) at my parents' home, complete with my grandfather listening via phone from Delray Beach, Florida. The mohel (ritual circumciser) did his thing and then we ate smoked fish and kugel and discussed whether or not the pain my baby felt was really eased by a Manischewitz-soaked gauze pad. My husband's family got through this ritual with a better understanding of the capacity of the Jew to be able to eat no matter what has just taken place on their kitchen table. I felt somehow connected in time to something very old, and my parents were beaming.
Three years later we had our daughter named by a rabbi, followed by a big party under a tent in our back yard. It was a beautiful summer day and once again we were following Jewish tradition, even if a fairly new one.
My husband and I had had minimal discussion about what religion we would raise our children. It just seemed a natural thing for them to be Jewish. He easily fit in with my relatives and couldn't help but feel whatever that Jewish voodoo thing is that makes eating at a Jewish table part nourishment, part entertainment, part family counseling, part medical diagnoses, and mostly warm and loving. And boy, did we laugh.
So here we are, the MacGregors do Jewish. Now, we do not go to temple other then the High Holidays, we don't keep a kosher home, we don't observe Shabbat (the Sabbath). The list of do nots may qualify us to some as not really<.i/> Jewish. Which brings me to the title of this story, we feel our Jewishness.
When I am cooking for the New Year and using my grandmother's recipe for kreplach or on Passover when I use her recipe for matzah stuffing, I feel connected to our family tradition. I feel my Jewishness when I watch the news and see the killing in Israel. I feel the pride of being Jewish when I see the humanitarian aid we as Jews continue to give to those in need. I feel a connection to the woman I meet in the store and we get to talking about stuff and find out that we both went to the same Jewish summer camp and isn't it too bad our kids didn't want to go. I feel an obligation as a Jew not to turn away from another Holocaust movie because as much as I don't want to see the horror again, we can never forget. I feel the sting of anti-Semitism when someone doesn't know I'm Jewish because my name is a false mirror, and they spew some ignorant comment. I laugh as only a Jew, (or someone married to one) can when I watch my family just be themselves. We are a funny people even when we don't mean to be, and our humor is such a gift to the world.
So, I don't think I'm alone here. There are plenty of Reillys and Sullivans and O'Learys who have a menorah on the shelf, some chopped liver in the fridge, and a deep meaningful connection and feeling to their Jewish heritage. It is stuck to us like the chicken fat in our veins, and as sweet to us as the apple dipped in honey. It will be passed to our children as best we know how and continue to be a source of comfort and sadness as we live our lives as part of today's Jewish people.
Hebrew for "fit" (as in, "fit for consumption"), the Jewish dietary laws. Hebrew word for an unleavened bread, traditionally eaten during the holiday of Passover. Reform synagogues are often called "temple." "The Temple" refers to either the First Temple, built by King Solomon in 957 BCE in Jerusalem, or the Second Temple, which replaced the First Temple and stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem from 516 BCE to 70 CE. Yiddish word for a savory or sweet pudding made from either noodles, potatoes or matzah. Hebrew for "circumciser" (Yiddish term is "moyel"), the person who performs a ritual circumcision. The feminine form is "mohelet." Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. Hebrew for "covenant," often referring to the ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old ("brit milah" - "covenant of circumcision"). It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit."