My maternal grandfather was raised Jewish. There is a funny story about how my grandfather took my grandmother out to dinner on one of their first dates and he warned her to not let his aunt know that they had eaten any foods that weren’t kosher. When my grandmother met his aunt she proudly announced that they had eaten a delectable appetizer of shrimp – which, by the way, isn’t kosher – and my poor grandfather just hung his head and waited for his aunt to read him the riot act.
Although he doesn’t consider himself Jewish anymore as far as religion goes, my grandfather is culturally Jewish. Both my uncles had Bar Mitzvahs and matzo ball soup is common fare at my grandparents’ house, but as far as their religion goes they are Christian. It’s an interesting combination when the Christmas decorations come out and there’s a menorah right alongside the nativity scene.
I know the very moment that I decided that I wanted to share some of this culture with my own children. My son was a newborn and my grandparents were visiting. My son was cooing and gurgling like newborns do, and my grandfather leaned down and started singing a Yiddish song about a rabbi and a hat to him that I had never heard before. My son quieted while my grandfather sang, and it was such a lovely moment that I distinctly remember tears coming to my eyes.
There is only so much I can teach my kids about the Jewish culture because I was never exposed to it too much. We’re a Christian family so we celebrate Christmas, but I would love for my kids to know about how people in our family’s past celebrated Hanukkah. The problem is that at my kids’ tender ages I don’t think they realize that anybody believes anything differently than what they learn in Sunday school. Does bringing other religious beliefs into the mix at such tender ages confuse them, or broaden their horizons?
I’m not saying we’re going to convert to Judaism. I’m saying that I want my children to have a connection to our ancestors that might otherwise be forgotten if I don’t make an effort to keep it alive. Then again, maybe I’m just full of mishegoss to think that I can mingle the family traditions of the two faiths during the holiday season.