Corporate Peon: A Jew & a Catholic Walk Into City Hall...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A Jew & a Catholic Walk Into City Hall...

I'm the odd product of a fairly devout Catholic mother and a fairly lax Jewish father. They were married in a time when no member of the church would perform a mixed-faith marriage. I was raised Catholic, though never subjected to the likes of Sunday school, catechism classes, or baptism, as that was where dad drew the line. We always celebrated Christmas in my house - a tree, midnight mass, homage to the baby Jesus...and Hanukkah was something foreign, something other people celebrated.

Every few years, my paternal grandmother - a shrew by any other name - would spend the holidays with us. This woman taxed my mother (and my father, and my sister - I think I was too young to really bear the brunt) like no other, but she did bring something magical with her. When she visited over Hanukkah, we'd bring out the tarnished menorah and the book of prayers, and my father would intone words I had never heard before, words in a language I knew nothing of. Dreidels would appear, along with gelt. We'd read stories from the blue book of prayers, and as I grew older, I learned the songs on whatever instrument I played at that time. I didn't understand them, but they meant something.

Grandma's presence brought out aspects of my father that I never knew existed. Who was this man, who spoke Hebrew and remembered prayers and songs from so long ago? Dad hasn't been to temple/synagogue in 30 years, if not longer.

There's a beautiful framed picture at my parents' house, of my grandfather, in black-and-white, a sweet man by all tales, at his bar mitzvah. It must have been taken around 1930 (they did have cameras then, right? I'd hate to have figured the dates wrong.).

So by birth, I'm half Jewish. However, Hanukkah - for me - has always been a somewhat superficial holiday, one without much understanding or tradition. Though I don't officially or formally celebrate it, I've lit a candle tonight and devoted some time to prayer. I need it. We need it.

Happy Hanukkah.

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