Wednesday, September 27, 2006

2nd Bat Mitzvah

I had a bat mitzvah 10 years ago. Ten years ago, the Jewish community accepted me as a woman.Tthere were speeches and I learned to lead an entire service in addition to chanting from the torah (the holy scroll). I particuarly remember one speech in which someone I quite respected reminded me to remember always, always, that 'home' is more often about people than about places. And this advice has been immesurably useful in places all over the world. Home has always been about people, and i'm lucky, therefore, to have many homes.

Each home of course has different people which make it warm, and safe, and hospitable. I have found myself now, in a home that is inhabited by some of the most diverse people I have ever encountered. And each one of them has rendered this place home.

The Jewish holidays started this past weekend. This is not usually a big deal for me. I have certainly spent many a high holiday traveling in various parts of the world, but feeling slightly settled (as my school routine and classes dictates that I must) I also felt a little homesick. Sometimes, of course, it is a blessing to be living so far removed from the home in which my family and many of my closest, and oldest friends live. Sometimes its a blessing, but other times its nice to be close. These holidays would have been one of those times. But, instead of dwelling, i chose, instead, to bring the holidays home to Australia.

And this is where i encountered numerous problems. Holidays for me mean food and lots of it. But the brisket cut of beef is a hard one to come by in this little city. And Kosher, sweet, red wine (Maniscewitz) is impossible to find. Durkees French Fried Onions are no where to be found, and even toasted wheat germ need to be substituted. And right when I could have given up with half my ingredients evading me, people swooped in and made Australia home. Some spent far too much of their own time helping me secure a brisket cut by googling the cut of meat, determining which part of the cow i was looking for, and then calling around until we found it. Some came with me to retrieve the brisket. Some brought me milk when I ran out and couldn't leave the house because too many things were cooking. My roommates let me monopolize every appliance in the kitchen for an entire day. Some people helped me carry the food from apartment to car, and others from car to venue for eating. Some people brough serving spoons when we were short, others helped me roll the matzah balls out of sheer curiosity. Mostly people arrived to eat with wine, appetizers, and chocolates. Someone brought me flowers, and still far more people simply brought themselves and enjoyed.

My community accepted me as a woman over 10 years ago, but they pre-empted themselves. Though they told me I was officially a Jewish woman on that day, what they really did was acknowledge a confidence in me, a confidence that one day, in the midst of a home I had created for myself by surrounding myself with loving people, I would in fact be a woman. I would be capable of securing all the ingredients, and all the help I needed to purchase, prepare, and serve a holiday meal for 25 friends. Above reading from the holy book, or leading a congregation in weekly prayer, above struggling to make sense of a d'var torah, comes the simple act of inviting others into your home and serving them well. 10 years ago I was a child who proved I had the dedication, the resourcefulness, and the motivation to accomplish big tasks; on Sunday night, I was a woman.


At 4:59 AM, Blogger Dad said...

Deal Jo,
I LOVED your thoughts on Jewish Womanhood! But, who says that handed down recipes are not holy text? Regardless of whether you think they are divine or mundane, what do you think Torah is?
And, as much as I agree with your vision of "home," as your predecessor, Dorothy, in OZ realized in an obverse way, and as much as I am thrilled that you have filled your life with wonderful people, wherever your two feet have taken you, for me, these Jewish Holidays were missing an important ingredient - you, you do very far, far away.

Love you always,


At 4:59 AM, Blogger Dad said...

oops! typo: do should be so!


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