How to Act Jewish to Raise a Jewish Child

Good morning! On today’s episode of “The Pretend Jew,” our heroine waivers on hosting the Hanukkah open house in her home because her Christmas tree is still up. And who doesn’t love her confused expression every time she’s in synagogue (she doesn’t speak Hebrew!) and has no idea when to sit down! And here’s your hostess … Deanna!

Yes, that would be me. “The Pretend Jew,” I like to call myself in conversation. Raised Reform, don’t speak Hebrew, dropped out during my early adult life, oblivious to many intricate traditions that others seem to know innately.

Yet I’m also responsible for raising our son Jewishly. Dillon, now 9, clearly identifies as a Jew. How did that happen? (Read the full story on Interfaith Family)

I wrote that piece last year as a guest writer for Interfaith Family, but was reminded of it over the past week during Passover.  Holidays are a wonderful time to extend and perpetuate traditions. 

Our seder ended up being 22 people, Jewish and not-Jewish, from Russia to Brazil, from 5 months to age 60+–Whenever someone Jewish says they have no place to go, or another shares they’ve never been to a seder, I can’t help myself but to extend an invitation.

This year Dillon and I burned bread together the day before Passover began–my son’s idea–a tradition done as a symbol of fully clearing our house of Hometz (contraband flour and like items, although I emphasize the word “symbol” considering what remained in our cabinets!), made tzimmes (a traditional sweet potato, carrot and prune dish), and added a new “keeper,” chocolate matzo brittle. 

Mostly I like creating and building the traditions and tastes of our respective cultures.  I love coating bananas in cinnamon and powdered sugar, sauteeing them in butter, because that’s what Dillon’s Brazilian grandma made for breakfast.  We all wear white on New Year’s Eve, another Brazilian custom, and only found out afterward that, lo and behold, it’s a Jewish custom too, for Yom Kippur. 

What customs do you share in your family?  How do you blend the traditions of two cultures in an intercultural family?