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Patrilineals And Passover

Patrilineals And Passover

One of the fun things about writing a blog is balancing the dueling pressure between Must Post Often and Must Say Something Compelling.

Generally I try to err on the Say Something Compelling, or At Least Moderately Interesting side. However, sometimes that, particularly when combined with competing demands on my time and brain, means being a completely delinquent blogger. For which, I apologize. I’m going to try to be a bit better in the coming weeks.

One thing you might have missed in the vast time in which I didn’t blog here: I highly recommend David A.M. Wilensky’s thoughtful op-ed on being a patrilineal Jew and his difficult decision, as he became more active in a Conservative congregation, to undergo an official conversion. Wilensky, who is the editor of New Voices, the national Jewish student magazine, makes a strong pitch to the Conservative movement to begin recognizing patrilineal descent, accepting children with a gentile mother and Jewish father:

When reality, reason and the changing worldview of the Jews in the pews have called, the Conservative movement has managed to trot out new Halacha that changes the previously unchangeable.

It is time for them to do that again; 1983 was a long time ago. We are growing up, we are starting families and, yes, some of us would like to join your synagogues.

The Rabbinical Assembly of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism should accept patrilineal descent: I am Exhibit A! It is hemorrhaging members, while bolstering barriers to entry. There are others out there who are like me: We crave the combination of progressive thinking and traditional ritual life that can be found, in many places, only in Conservative congregations.

Wilensky’s story, along with his role in Jewish journalism, reminded me of J Editor Sue Fishkoff’s great essay, "My Family Tree Is Loaded With Tinsel," a few months ago, which probably didn’t get the attention it deserved because it came amid a flood of Jews & Christmas commentary. Like Wilensky, Fishkoff, grew up patrilineal and had a halachic conversion as an adult; I would argue that, had the Reform movement not recognized patrilineal descent, and had their families been rejected when they were growing up, neither would have grown up to be the knowledgeable and active members of the Jewish community they are now.

On another note, here’s the scoop on Passover in In The Mix-ville:

My family participated in two very informal and nontraditional seders. (Because, as those who read the comments to my blog know, I push a “pro-intermarriage, radical, secular, anti-Orthodox agenda” that is all about “having Jews assimilate” and making “Orthodox Judaism obsolete.”)

The first seder I threw together at the last minute just for Joe and the kids, and the second night we went to a cousin’s home on Long Island — where 8-year-old Ellie had a blast directing a short play (well, really a staged reading) she’d written about the exodus from Egypt.

It’s been fun in recent years to develop some of our own family traditions for the seder and to let the kids have some planning input. We use the Haggadah Ellie and I made together two years ago (although I think next year, we’ll update it with more sophisticated language and artwork and give 5-year-old Sophie more of a role), play the Shalom Sesame “Les Matza-rables” video when it’s time to hide the afikomen and play the G-dcast “Four Sons” video. We also play Louis Armstrong’s version of “Go Down Moses,” and Dafna Israel-Kotok’s version of “Dayenu.”

This year we added a seder plate that Sophie made in Hebrew school and also started a tradition, which I heard about from Eden Village Camp Director Yoni Stadlin and the girls insisted we do, called the “decoy afikomen”: in addition to hiding the afikomen, we also wrap thin books and other non-matzah items, hiding them in more obvious spots.

I must confess that, because the kids love searching for hidden things (they’re also avid berry-pickers) and because we didn’t want to cut ourselves off from our apartment-building community, we also attended the annual Easter egg hunt in our apartment-complex’s garden: which basically consisted of my kids gathering even more candy than they did at Halloween, and us amassing an annoying collection of plastic eggs (which were immediately scattered around the living room floor and then accidentally stepped on).

No doubt, some commenters here will criticize me for allowing the kids to join in the egg-stravaganza, but, do rest assured, it wasn’t exactly an Easter mass or even an Easter dinner. There weren’t even any bunnies. And I did draw the line at decorating our own eggs at home, something Sophie wanted to do. (I was actually relieved when she got to decorate an egg at her after-school program, since it took some of the pressure off me.)

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