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Interfaith Purim

Interfaith Purim

I’m sorry for not being a more frequent blogger. I know there is a dearth of reading material and information out there on the Internet and that, without my little nuggets of wisdom, my millions (heh heh) of disappointed fans will have no choice but to play Lexulous, watch Glenn Beck, assuming that he has not yet left Fox, or actually get back to work.

I hope you managed to have a nice Purim without me.

My interfaith brood had a lovely holiday: we made hamantaschen (I’m proud to say I even made the apricot filling from scratch), then went to our temple’s Purimspiel and carnival. Joe and I volunteered together running the carnival’s bowling game while our kids, one dressed as Tzeitel from “Fiddler on the Roof" (a months-long obsession that is only now cooling, supplanted by "The Sound of Music") ran around with their friends and accumulated a treasure trove of cheap plastic prizes now strewn across our apartment floor.

With that said, I hereby hand over the reins to editor/poet/writer Hila Ratzabi, who wrote a nice piece about Purim and who, not having a blog (a Gen Y writer without a blog?!), has no good place to showcase it. As I’ve mentioned here before, Hila is at work editing an anthology of essays by women in interfaith relationships in which one partner is Jewish. I think she is still accepting submissions. Here’s her piece, titled "Perigee Purim: A Snapshot of Jewish Interfaith Life":


Shabbat Purim: a dining room table in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The hosts: a secular, atheist, Israeli-American Jewish poet, and her husband, a WASP musician. The guests: two Jewish women poets and their non-Jewish partners—a Hindu-American fiction writer and an atheist Baptist-raised Mexican-American scientist. We are joined by a male Jewish medical student and his Kenyan wife. We light makeshift Shabbat candles (leftover from Chanukah), chant an abridged Kiddush, and toss in some multigrain bread, which we all bless together.

This is not a Purim shpiel, but a synecdoche of contemporary Jewish community. We may feel like outsiders when we step into synagogue, but together we are the norm. At our Shabbat table we discuss writing, teaching, art, travel. We get into a spirited debate about race and poetry. We view portraits of cross-dressing Jews photographed for our host’s recent art project exploring gender roles in Judaism. We marvel at our motley Jewish group, laugh at ourselves.

On Saturday evening the Jewish-Mexican couple meets the Jewish-Hindu couple at a Chabad megillah reading and party. We dance together, drink l’chaims, listen to words of Torah. Some revelers at the party are dressed as Hindus, some as Mexicans. We grin, smirk, laugh, roll our eyes. We drink more l’chaims, contemplate the rabbi’s words: “Purim is knowing that you don’t know that you know.” Or something like that.

On Sunday Purim is not over yet. The Jewish-Mexican couple arrives in Riverdale to attend a Purim seudah. The host: a Jewish literary agent and writer, married to an Irish-Catholic-born convert to Judaism. The fellow guests: an ex-hasidic memoir author and her four-year-old son. We eat a plentiful vegetarian meal, talk about God and science. We eat hamentaschen and debate about whether Judaism can be redeemed from its sexist roots.

We are lively, curious, skeptical, and hopeful. We celebrate and question, learn and love. We are some people’s worst nightmare, the beginning of the end.

Or the beginning of the beginning. The space that God cleared to make a world. The big bang on the synagogue’s back door. The light reflected off the windows from a wild perigee moon. That dares to shine that big. That echoes the hum of prayers as we press ear to wall. We are sitting on the synagogue steps, or walking down the street at midnight, buzzed with words and wine, striding right past, sometimes so quickly—we might be missed.


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