Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shabbat and an intro to Black Hats

I guess should explain how I am and am not Jewish. Both my maternal grandparents are Jews from Russia. Since Jewishness is inherited maternally, that makes me Jewish. However, somewhere after the holocaust my grandparents stopped praticing Judaism. The details of why are conflicting within the family and I always get the feeling this topic is a black hole from which discussion never exits. My mom and her sisters were apparently raised mostly Christian, however there were some Jewish holidays celebrated and I know that my grandmother went to temple with her friends, quietly without my grandfather's knowledge. Neither my sister nor I were raised Jewish.

My mom's sister married a Jewish man and they moved with cousin Marnina to Israel in 1980. Both my other cousins and their children were born there. So there we have it.

I wasn't sure what to expect from meeting them all at Shabbat dinner considering they are all some flavor of orthodox and I knew my middle cousin was married to a black hat (ultra orthodox).

So here they are:

Starting with the lovely lady in orange, Ayelet, she is Cousin Avi's wife. She is orignally from Tunisia. Cousin Marnina told me after dinner that it was the first time she had hear Ayelet speak English. And it was clear, well-formed English too!

Right of Ayelet is Cousin Avi. Last time I saw him he was in diapers. Now he is 27, married with two kids; one on either side. Avi has been studying for the past 9 years to be a rabbi. Next year is his big year. Apparently I will be going back to Israel next year if all goes well for him.

Right of Avi is Cousin Marnina, who as we all know now was the organizer of the trip.

Right of Marnina, Uncle David. I had only met Uncle David once when I was very young. To my surprise (or maybe not) his personality was much like my Dad's: very outgoing, dead-pan humor, sarcastic and an unnerving ability to talk to anyone about anything!

The black hat next to Uncle is David (thats dahVEED) who is Cousin Shoshi's husband. He is holding his oldest. David is originally from Albania but has been in Israel for 17 years. David and I talked alot with a mixture of his broken English and my broken Hebrew. He made me Turkish coffee and asked alot of questions about my life in the US. Then he asked me which of travel mates I intended to marry: Galina or HEU Tara. Good thing he wears a black coat, it helped to hide the Turkish coffe that came propelling out of nose when I started to laugh.

In front of David is cousin Shoshi holding her youngest. Shoshi surprised me with her accent free, easy speak English as if she hadn't spent all of her life in Israel. She is quiet and eerily calm, I suppose it comes with motherhood, or perhaps from working with disabled children. Maybe both!

And one of these people is not like the others. Right, there I am with my fair skin, blonde hair and green eyes looking like the tourist in my own family portrait! lol

Next to me is Aunt Rivkah, my mom's sister. In many ways she reminded me of my mom; same mannerisms, same facial structure, same sweet nature and even some of the same health issues!

Shabbat dinner was a table crammed to capacity with delicious food, dozens of prayers and rituals, and extremely warm people. After dinner was over Uncle David, David and Avi gave me a prayer book with English translation then they started singing. It takes pratice and G-d given talent to harmonize the way these three do, lucky I was sitting in the middle of them. I followed along pretty well in the Hebrew book until they started the fast-speak, then Avi had to look over and point out where they were every couple of lines. They smiled and said things in Hebrew, I'm sure they meant it nice :)

Since there is no driving on Shabbat, we walked from the aunt's back to the cousin's. It was a great 20 minutes of walking and talking. It was kind of refreshing to see the other people of Be'er Sheva doing the same.

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Anonymous Jason said...

Wow, talk about a vacation.
It must have been very exciting to see all of these relatives in one place. I'm happy for ya! Great photos and commentary :)

1:02 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Jason, it was surreal! :)

6:35 AM

Blogger JC said...

I always thoguht the hats and curly dreadlock sideburns were cool whenever we walking the street of NYC and happened upon a good Deli...they seems to go hand in hand. Black Hat Orthodox and Good Food... but that was not a scientific study by any means, and I don't know that I would just follow (stalk) someone in a black hat just to find good food...but I just sayin'

That really is special that you have someone who lives in a different culture, there is so much to learn and appreciate from theirs and your own that you may take for granted....

1:20 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Yes, JC, you are right, I learned alot about the country, culture and people!

(Oh, I've never been to a bad Jewish deli in NYC :)

7:00 AM

Blogger Michael said...

Sounds like you've got a good family, po b'aretz.

My own Israeli cousins are a mix of secular, traditional, religious Zionist, and Black Hat. It's hard to keep track of, when we want to visit any of them.

What's funny is, both of our extended families here seem pretty typical for Israel.

(And there are no bad Jewish delis in NYC!)

2:55 PM

Blogger Jim said...

It does seem fairly typical from what Ive seen. Michael. They are all great people, I am so glad we had a chance to reconnect!

10:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a very pleasant experience. My experience with religious Jews has always been positive - they just get such bad press

7:31 AM


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