Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ernie K-Doe didn't know Sheila

I've heard that there is some old adage about having a Jewish mother-in-law...I'm not sure what it says exactly, and I believe it has a bit of a negative connotation, kinda like that 60's song by Ernie K-Doe; but whoever said it first didn't know my mother-in-law.
I gotta give my Mother in law major props, because every year around the holidays she goes out of her way to make me feel a little more at home in my new family.
For example, she called my wife the other day to ask what we were doing on Christmas Day (no, not to ask us out for Chinese food and a movie), and hoped we could get together to spend the day with the family. My wife said it was because she didn't want me to feel down and out that day. Every year she sends a Christmas card specifically addressed to me. She wraps my holiday gifts in green and red paper and ribbon, and wishes me a Merry Christmas on Christmas Day either by phone or in person.
I think that says alot about my mother-in-law -- she's always made it very clear about her love for the Jewish faith and culture, and its rich traditions (she is in fact Conservative). But at the same time, her acknowledgement of my own background, upbringing and most of all feelings, shows that she isn't simply ignoring the fact that I'm not a "part of the Tribe" (as my wife's friends say) or hoping that I'll have a sudden attack of JCE (Judaic Conversion Epiphiny - check the PDR, I think it's listed under "neuro disorders" - just kidding ;-))
While I know she probably hopes that someday I will make the leap, for now, she seems content with letting me be who I am. The ironic thing is that I became disillusioned with organized religion early on because it came off as intolerant (is that irony? that's always a tricky one, isn't it?). But then again the raging paradox of religious tolerance is a topic for another time...for now, I'll just look forward to running downstairs on December 25th, wolfing down some potato latkes, filling up on gelt, and tearing into my Christmas present.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Today was Thanksgiving, and the family and I spent the morning in NYC enjoying the festivities of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from the midtown offices of my company. The announced crowd of 250 people at the parade viewing party enjoyed the view from the 16th floor overlooking Broadway, the floats, ballons and bands marching by. Food and drink were abundant, and the kids (all 100 of them) in attendance were treated to face painting, magicians, puppeteers and a visit from Santa Claus.
Ah yes, jolly ol' Saint Nick. My childhood image of holiday cheer has become a bone of contention in my adult life. Now that my kids are old enough to recognize him, the concept of Santa during the holidays has been challenging. Until this year, we've been able to avoid any direct contact with Kris Kringle, shuffling the kids through the mall past the mile-long line for pictures on Santa's lap. But this year, we came face-to-face with it.
Santa visited the 16th floor today with gifts for every child in attendance at the party (a special thanks again to my most generous boss). Hannah Montana has nothing on this guy. Kids were wall to wall in the hallway outside the elevator and as soon as the doors opened, my daughters - who knew of Santa only through tales from their Gentile friends at school and the occassional Dora holiday episode - screamed in delight like I've never heard before. Santa rolled his flatbed cart off the elevator and proceeded to call out the names of every child in attendance, presenting them with a gift. My oldest received Pediatrician Barbie; my youngest, a Cinderella dress up kit.
The kids were ecstatic. My oldest yelled out "Santa is so cool!" And as I looked at them I realized that they haven't yet drawn the definitive line of separation bewteen Hanukkah and Christmas, so I was content with enjoying their excitement. But this time of year also reminds me that my kids will never put out cookies and milk, never leave a note and a list by the fireplace, never hang a stocking with their name on it and rush downstairs fervently to tear open the goodies spilling out from the top.
However, that's okay - because those are my memories, and I'll always have them and hold them close; and I'll make new holiday memories with my kids that we'll define together, that they'll grow up to cherish. Maybe Hanukklaus would enjoy a refreshing seltzer and knish as he passes through this year.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back to school

My oldest daughter has a small collection of little plastic dreidels. Sometimes she randomly pulls them out of her toybox to play with them. Just the other day, she figured out how to spin one for the first time.
She was beaming - a grin from ear to ear, as was proud papa (of course, whenever your kid figures out how to do something, and you see that confidence brimming, you can't help but love it.) But then, the dreidel stopped spinning...and my problem started.
"Daddy - what letter is that?"
Look, I, like every other dad, wants to be the hero. We want our kids to believe we can do anything, and that we know anything. Broken toy? Daddy can fix it. How does a frog jump? I got it. Financial derivatives? No sweat. We need our kids to feel like they can always rely on us, and we'll come through. That's what we live for - call it ego if you want, but it's what every dad aspires to.
And I've fixed a TON of stuff to prove my worthinees of being called "Dad"; but it all came crashing down with one simple question related to a little plastic toy. I was forced to look my darling daughter straight in the eye and say those three words that can bring an image crashing to earth: "I don't know."
Look - those letters all look alike. I can't even say it may as well be Greek to me because I had the Greek alphabet drilled into me during pledging in college (different blog for a different time). I tried to recall last year's rousing game of dreidel with my highly enthusiastic father-in-law (whom I love dearly) - how does it go? Shin, put one in? But no dice...
I couldn't tell if she was confused (as in "wait a minute, that doesn't seem right. Daddy knows everything. Maybe I heard it wrong") or incredulously disappointed ("Wait a minute. Are you saying I've been fed a fallacy all 4 1/2 years of my life??? You mean you DON'T know anything? I've been had?!?!).
I tried to recover quickly. I followed up with "but it's okay. When you go to Hebrew school, you can teach me the letters!" hoping that empowering her with such a notion would take the sting off the cold harsh reality.
I'm not sure how that went over. She quickly moved on to the next thing that bounced itself into her mile-a-minute brain. But I wonder whether or not her image of me has been dashed, or even slightly tarnished.
I resolved at that point though to try to get my learn on with the Hebrew alphabet. So if anyone out there has any tips that helped them cheat their way through Hebrew school, I'm all ears.
Oh, and by the way, I think Vegas is missing the boat. I see dreidel tables right next to Pai-Gow Poker, and instead of chocolatey good gelt, their playing with Ben Franklins. Just a thought in case anyone is looking to take a gamble on the next big thing...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Canadian Bacon

I love bacon. There...I've said it. I LOVE BACON! And sausage. And ham. It's one of those personal preferences that I've learned to supress. Growing up, boy, there was nothing better than Sunday morning at Mina's house. Eggs, bacon, a little ham steak, pork roll... However, since the summer of 2001 - when my better half and I moved in together - I've tamped down my taste for breakfast meats. It wasn't a request on her part - I offered to do it out of respect for the kosher home she wanted to create, and the lifestyle she wanted to lead for ourselves and eventually our kids. After all, she was far more important to me than a Taylor ham, egg and cheese on an onion bagel with salt, pepper and ketchup (
But this past weekend, I fell off the wagon big time. I spent four glorious days in Niagara Falls (the Canadian side), with seven of "the guys." Forget that I imbibed like I was doing a New York Times review of the Complete Home Bartender's Guide ( Six hours in the Hard Rock sports book? Bush league! Two hours of sleep a night? Ha! Nope - where I really went off the deep end was with the pork products. I BURIED myself in "the other white meat" at every meal. I didn't set out to. In fact, it never even crossed my mind. But there I was, Saturday morning, seated around a table with my mates at a Perkins across the street from the Hard Rock, assessing my options. Veggie omelette? French toast? Silver dollar pancakes? Nope - the kid is going for the big dog - three eggs, side of bacon, side of ham, extra grease. And it went from there - jambalaya at lunch; prosciutto at dinner, etc, etc, ending with a solid sausage souffle Monday morning in Grand Island, NY before heading to the airport. I actually started to get the sweats (some suggested it was due to the gin and tonics, but I'm not buying it.)
I'm not really sure what happened - it was all such a blur. But I'm certain that as soon as I stepped in the house Monday evening with my pores oozing with pork, she knew. (My better half has an incredible inate anti-kosher olfactory sense - she can smell surf and turf on my a mile away.) If she knew, she didn't say anything, just kinda shrugged it off. She's cool like that though, and I think that for all my faults, she appreciates the effort I make to do the right thing - but at the same time, she kinda gets it that when the boys go north of the border, as a wife, you gotta give 'em a pass.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Triple-A Holiday

Holidays are big for Jews - and I mean volume-wise. It seems that every other week is a holiday of some sort. Tonight, the family and I hopped on over to our synagogue for Simchat Torah. Now I consulted my trusty "Jewish Book of Why" (a must-have reference guide for anyone needing quick info -- to get the lowdown. Overall, good stuff, until of course my kids melted down faster than the carmel covering on the candied apples they got their hands on after the service. If Jewish holidays were baseball, Simchat Torah seems like its the Toledo Mudhens - by that I mean a really good time, but not quite the same level of significance as the Yankees (read: Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur). The one thing Jews have over Gentiles is holidays - boy, when I was growing up, you had to wait months - Winter was Christmas, then you had to wait four months for Easter, had to wait eight months for Christmas again (unless you count things like Lent which would be the Tidewater Tides of Christian holidays, but promosing not to touch the $2.50 beers). But these past few weeks have had an average of a holiday and a quarter per week, so it's been a virtual smorgasbord of celebrations; but that's one thing I admire about Judaism - it doesn't seem like you much to get a little party going...

Monday, October 20, 2008


Welcome to my blog. First things first: some background. I was given an "assignment" to start my own blog. I thought for days about what I would be interested in blogging about. I ultimately landed on the topic of being in an interfaith marriage, not because I have this grand egocentric vision that my insight could help others who've found themselves at a similar intersection between their faith and their heart. Nope - I simply think it would be kinda humorous. I don't know how I ended up here - but here I am, each day trying to understand how Judaism works. And in spite of my best efforts, and having lived in a kosher home for well over six years, I still use the wrong dishes at the wrong times, still miss the dates for holidays, still don't understand a word anyone says when I go to Synagogue. But it's all worth it because, in the end, my wife compromised for love. She always wanted to marry a Jew, and somehow or another, she chose me. So for that, I will spend the rest of my life trying to get better at it all because, if nothing else, I owe her that. So anyways, in the end, I hope that anyone who reads this will find it at least mildly amusing. And now, on with the show...