Jewish Holidays – Diaspora Style (Published by The Times of Israel)

Growing up in Israel, Friday nights and holidays were always spent around my grandmother’s table. In the tiny Jewish nation, family is never too far away and it is understood that holidays are spent together.  In the vastness of America, families including my own, are typically scattered over several states.  The Jewish calendar can be tough with holidays often falling on weekdays, making Jewish holiday travel a logistical nightmare.  I envy Christmas, not only for its decorating opportunities, but for its predictability:  On December 25th everything shuts down so that families can be together. Raising my family in America, with my extended family spread out, our friends have become our family and together we have created holiday traditions — diaspora style.

When we moved to Pittsburgh from the New York Metropolitan area, we were not sure what to expect.  In retrospect, we expected nothing socially for ourselves as we were so focused on helping our kids acclimate.  But just as love can come when you least expect it, we “fell” into the arms of the most amazing group of friends. And it’s because of these friends that we wholeheartedly consider Pittsburgh our home.

So when the Jewish holidays roll around each year, and inconveniently fall on weekdays, we are not only prepared, but ecstatic to commence preparations.  Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesach are the ones we typically celebrate together, with several core families, many kids and lots of new additions each time.  Sometimes we host and sometimes we schlep our potluck contribution to our friends’ homes in an ever-rotating circle of food and fun.

We have grown to love each other’s kids, kugels and briskets.  We know who makes the best egg salad, who drinks white, who drinks red and who drinks the most…  We know the guys are going to end up in the basement acting life fraternity boys, and we love it because they are together and celebrating.  And when our kids misbehave (they’re all teenagers, need I elaborate?) we support each other and laugh it off.

Break-the-Fast 5775 took place in our home last night and I had every intention of taking pictures to include in this blog (which I composed in my head at Temple — feeling both repentant and blessed).  But with a wine glass in one hand and a bagel in the other, I was too busy laughing to think about my phone.  Isn’t that a blessing in and of itself?!

Don’t get me wrong — I do miss my family, especially on holidays.  I miss our traditions and vocal debates. I even miss my mother’s usual reminder to “speak in English” because not everyone understands Hebrew. I especially miss the inevitable regression of maturity that my siblings and I exhibit, sending our kids into fits of laughter.  I can’t always spend the holidays with the family I was born into, but I feel blessed to have friends that have become like family. This blog entry is dedicated to our wonderful extended family in Pittsburgh — you all know who you are. May you have a sweet year filled with family, laughter and love. Thanks to you Pittsburgh is no longer our home-away-from-home.  It’s just home.


2 Replies to “Jewish Holidays – Diaspora Style (Published by The Times of Israel)”

  1. Being an; old, white, Catholic, conservative, married to a liberal, African American, Baptist… my background is not exactly steeped in Jewish tradition. I am learning though. What I have always understood and cherish are Family, Friends and sincere Faith, all of which Erris displays and shares in writing. These things are universal to mankind and are in our DNA. They are what bind and define us as humans.

    When someone writes from the heart and their words universally trigger warm and welcome memories in the mind of the reader, it’s a winner. It can induce one positive increment in life’s movement toward good.

    With life’s final outcome and legacy for each of us influenced by the sum of incremental movements each day toward good or bad, Erris does her part in nudging her readers in a positive direction by throwing these packets out into the ether and having some of them stick.

    Thanks for sharing… oh and please don’t mind or correct my grammar. It will ruin the good feeling buzz.

  2. Erris your blogs about family and traditions are my favorite to read. I find myself either laughing or crying- sometimes both at the same time! I can always envision what you are writing about as if I were there. I am usually sad at the end that I wasnt-notice I said usually. Love you and your way of making everyone feel so welcomed into your life! God Bless your entire family.

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