Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Treif

My mother has always had a very "fuck the establishment" attitude toward life. I admire it, but I didn't inherit it. I'm definitely pretty afraid of authority. Not my mom. Nope. She fought like crazy with her superiors at work (especially the men, which they all were), and she was vocally opposed to group think of any kind, including organized religion. 

Before I was born, she was briefly married to an orthodox Jewish man and this did not help matters. She studied for her medical school exams in the back of a gender segregated synagogue, thereby experiencing one of many WTF moments about religion. I asked to go to Hebrew school because I wanted a bat mitzvah in Manhattan with mini-hot dogs, inflatable guitars, a D.J., and monogrammed boxer shorts like all my loaded private school friends. Needless to say, this request was met with a resounding "no," followed by a long soliloquy on materialism and the separatist carnage wreaked by religion since the dawn of mankind. It was kind of heavy for a twelve year old to digest, but I did my best.

Indeed, my mother was totally opposed to the idea of religious education but was fine with me partying all night long in Greenwich Village at 16 and letting my 22 year-old-not-Jewish boyfriend sleep in my bedroom at will. Go figure. Both her parents had died by the time she was 11, so she didn't have a whole lot of parental modelling. She was always looking for feedback. Occasionally she'd ask jokingly but earnestly, "do you think I'm a neglectful mother?" And I'd reassure her with a hug and a promise not to do hard drugs, get pregnant, or otherwise permanently fuck up my life. I'm not claiming any of this was good or bad, necessarily. But it was my mother's style of parenting, so there you have it.

Anyway, we were the bacon-eating kind of Jews. The neurotic, secular, Marxist kind in the tradition of Woody Allen whose allegiance to Judaism came primarily in the form of knowing the difference between a bagel and bread with a hole in it, and spending decades and a small fortune in psychoanalysis. The kind who would buy shawarma from an Arab street meat vendor in Washington Heights on Yom Kippur (the holy day of atonement when you're supposed to be fasting) and eat it standing up on the corner of 168th and Broadway. Whatever, that street meat was totally Halal. (Halal, Kosher. Same dif. Ask anyone. Well, anyone who isn't Christian). Yeah, we should have been starving ourselves, but at least we weren't eating something treif.

Treif is the Yiddish word for food that violates the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut--foods that are not kosher, i.e., inherently forbidden or rendered such due to inappropriate preparation (e.g. pork, shellfish, mixed dairy/meat, etc.). And this brings me to the inspiration for this entire blog post: The Christmas Pig. This little stuffed pig, all dressed for Christmas, is probably as treif as it gets. Paige has accepted that Santa hates us and won't come down the chimney of our Jewish wood stove, but Isaac is still coming to terms with our family's isolation from the rest of non-New York City America. In a rare gesture of sisterly comfort, Paige has been reassuring him that they'll get eight times the crap their Christian friends get. This is technically bullshit, but whatever fries your latke (see prior post titled, "We Don't Do Jesus"). I'm thinking of buying this pig and making it one of their Hanukkah presents this year. I believe in gifts with meaning, and this pig has it in spades. It's like a little novelty reminder that will silently oink at them: "you are different," (or, as our people like to say, "chosen"). And that's OK.




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