Monday, March 17, 2014

take me to church

You would think that after three thousand years, people would be used to us Jews by now. It has been my experience that, even in a civilized, blended, multicultural society such as ours, Jews are still misunderstood and viewed as a novelty. With the exception of the ultra-observant Orthodox, we dress and behave the same as everyone else. (If it's any consolation, most Orthodox Jews dismiss non-Orthodox Jews as non-Jews.) Some of our dietary restrictions (no pork, no shellfish, no mixing of meat and dairy) are no more prohibitive than the current crop of restrictions at any elementary school or daycare (no peanuts, no sugary snacks), although the majority of Jews eat what they want.

We celebrate holidays like July Fourth and Thanksgiving alongside non-Jews. For the most part, we don't celebrate Christmas or Easter, but we have no problem eating candy canes or Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs (except in daycare). Christians don't light a menorah or choke down matzo and we don't question nor care.

Some Jewish holidays feature traditional food, just like Christian holidays. The aforementioned matzo on Passover and potato latkes on Chanukah are the most well known. This past weekend commemorated the holiday of Purim, a celebration of triumph over another megalomaniacal asshole wanting to wipe out the Jews (so what else is new?), this time in ancient Persia. The traditional food for this holiday is hamantaschen, a triangular-shaped pastry with a variety of fruit fillings. Over the years, these baked treats have become more prevalent and have made their way into mainstream bakeries for year-round enjoyment. My wife and her family have been making and distributing them to friends and relations annually on Purim for years. For most of those years, I have brought a tray amply laden with home-baked hamantaschen to my current place of employment. This year was no exception.

I have worked at my current employer for seven years. So, for the past seven Purims, I have offered a sampling of hamantaschen to my co-workers. The few Jewish members of my department were, of course, unfazed. But my gentile co-workers marveled at the pile of goodies as though it was a spacecraft from another planet. One co-worker asked, as she daintily picked up one of the golden tarts for inspection, "Is there anything I should know?"

 "Well," I replied, "it won't convert you, if that's what you're afraid of."

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