The landscape of our holiday table is changing. Not every guest has celebrated with apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah or had cold cuts on Break-the-Fast or read from the Haggadah while eating matzah. Whether as a new member of our family or an invited guest, many of us are sharing our Jewish holiday dinners with faces less likely to resemble the pictures of Bubbe and Zayde in our Bar/Bat Mitzvah albums!
For the older generation, ok, most of us Baby Boomers, intermarriage changes what many of us had instilled upon us. It’s why we spent so much time in BBGs and AZA, we were told, forced, encouraged (pick one) to marry a Jew. We could all give at least three reasons that were hammered into us.
But the world is changing and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it, well actually, there is and it consists of two choices:
- Resist with a frown or
- Relent with a smile.
Resisting with a frown mirrors a Scrooge looking character and only pisses off the relative who is accompanying the non-Jew and enforces your distain and inner disappointment that one of your own could go outside of Judaism while reinforcing your anger at all that money spent on religious school and summer camp. Didn’t they learn anything?
And then there is the welcoming smile, whether real or painted on, to embrace a new personality with hopes he/she is a kind and loving person who will make your loved one a better person and complete them. This posture gets you a warming look of “thank you” from your loved one that conveys deep appreciation and understanding of what a “cool” person you are.
Liking those choices? Doesn’t really matter because this world moves further and further away from the one we grew up in. We had no idea that “those-were-the-good-old-days!” All we wanted to do was grow up and be our own person, not go into dad’s business or profession, we just wanted to show “them”—the regulars sitting around the holiday table—that “I’m not the schmendrick you said I was! We all wanted to do it “my way.” And whether we succeeded or not, now we sit at the holiday table in judgment of the potential schmendricks we are sitting across from! Oy vey!
Which leads me to this important question: Was there a gravy boat on your mother’s or bubbe’s holiday table? I know the answer won’t solve world peace but its importance gave insight into our cultural differences at a recent family dinner that included a non-Jew and a converted Jew. The younger Jewish kids at the table looked as confused with the question as did the previous mentioned people but the age groups of 40, 50 and 60 and up fully understood the significance. And now you ask, “What might the implication of “why wasn’t there gravy on our holiday table” have to do with anything?”
Well, here were some of the responses of why we didn’t have a gravy boat:
-“Gravy doesn’t go with brisket.”
-“You don’t put gravy on roasted potatoes!”
-“Roasted chicken and gravy don’t mix!”
-“Gravy on Passover sounds sacrilegious!”
-Non-Jew child yelled out, “We have gravy on Thanksgiving!”
-“I just can’t see gravy on the table on Rosh Hashanah, it’s not Jewish!”
At which point the non-Jew yelled out and laughed, “It’s not Jewish! What does that even mean? How can a food, besides pork, not be Jewish?”
At the next point all those who had a knowing, stopped, let their mouths drop open and began to nod and talk all at once believing they had the answers!
I threw my hands up and had to yell out over all the chatter! “Yes, it is sacrilegious! It is not Jewish but why? How do you make gravy? What are the ingredients?”
That’s when the elders understood the significance to gravy on a Jewish table, especially during a holiday:
Milk, butter, flour.
I do not keep Kosher, growing up we did not keep Kosher but I do believe my Bubbe kept us deeply embedded in Kosher style habits: No butter on the table at a Jewish holiday dinner, regardless of how yummy the challah was, no butter for matzah on Passover. And of course, no gravy on Passover because of the flour!
NO MIXING MILK/BUTTER AND MEAT!!
That’s when the nitty gritty of no gravy on Jewish holidays was understood! It was an enlightening moment of how we deconstructed a funny question that proved to have historical and religious ramifications. AND gave some knowledge and insight into the cultural and passed down traditions for our non-Jewish guests.
And it all landed in Bubbe’s lap, our sage of forever wisdom and Jewish ritual that we still continue to honor and teach to our children and those new faces that join our table for our precious Jewish holidays.
I wish you all a Peaceful, Healthy, Happy and Prosperous New Year filled with Love and Delicious celebrations and hope the schmendricks at the 5777 Rosh Hashanah table will carry on our rich traditions of no gravy at the holiday table!..Shanah Tovah!….Sandy
As a Baby Boomer Bubbe who still feels 18 but has four grand kids to prove this is the 21 Century, Sandra writes to leave a legacy for the next generations. Her belief that these precious kids need to know their cultural and family’s past in order for them to live their future is all the muse she needs!
She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Cross Cultural studies, has written a family history, personal memoir and is completing her first novel.
Her grandmother’s journey to America and life is her source for her deep belief and love for Judaism.