Friday, July 22, 2005

anyone have a good challah recipe?

I've been trying to muster up the strength to write a happy or funny post, but somehow it doesn't seem right today. I still have to tell you about adventures at my inlaws' house, and I also thought I'd tell you about my Best Job Ever at the movie theater.

I'll have to save those tales for another time, and instead tell you about the day I was sure I wanted to have children with Josh.

The hubs and I met in our junior year of college, and as I've mentioned before, we did not and do not share the same faith. When we first began dating, this certainly did not feature prominently in my mind, but it wasn't long before I had thoughts about marrying him. These thoughts seemed ridiculous at the time, considering we struggled over the first 9 months of our relationship with his desire NOT to have a girlfriend. Good times that I'll share with you later.

He was very up-front with his desire to have a Jewish family, and although I was fairly devoted to my Catholic faith, this never seemed like a problem to me. I want my children to have faith, but the particular faith wasn't as important as them having something. We had long conversations about what we wanted and what we believed in for our future families. We both agreed that choosing one religion to avoid confusion was the better option for us, although we were open to introducing some teachings from other faiths.

This presents some problems, I admit. First, because I am not Jewish, my children will have to be converted at birth, or at a bris. Second and most important, I am at a disadvantage in teaching my children about Judaism since I didn't grow up with it. I can play an Easter bunny fairly easily, but I have yet to master baking challah for Shabbat. I voiced these concerns openly, purchased books like "The Idiots Guide to Judaism" and "Jewish as a Second Language," but I still worried.

After we graduated, and it became clear that this relationship was long-term, my inlaws offered us a trip as a graduation present. We would go to Israel for 2 weeks with them, and then continue on our own to Switzerland, Italy and France. Having never been outside of the Americas, I was ecstatic. We cancelled plans for summer jobs, and took off a few days after graduation.

Israel was a magical place for me. I was a history major, and never before had I seen so much history in one place. We toured passages underground along the western wall, visited archeological digs of ancient cities, walked along paths I had imagined from stories in the Bible. We traveled to Jordan and visited Petra, the rose city, saw the oldest temple in the world, visited the site where people believe that Jesus died on the cross. Interestingly enough, it was in Israel that I had my greatest doubts about Christianity. I don't doubt the messages, but I do doubt the stories. In one church on the spot some believe to be the tomb where Jesus rose from the dead, several Christian religions compete for space. It is a cacophony of services going on at once, with hundreds of believers lining up in different corners or nooks to touch what each claim to be a relic. Some hold a splinter from the cross, some the slab on which he was laid, some a rock from the tomb. It was a strikingly powerful place with many beliefs intertwined in one dark incense filled space.

We also ate fantastic food, floated in the Dead Sea, saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, visited several museums and concerts. It was such an amazing trip.

One of the museums we visited was the Holocaust Museum. Now, I know that many have been to DC's Holocaust Museum, as have I, and found it powerful and moving. But powerful cannot begin to explain Jerusalem's museum. It is heartwrenching. Heartbreaking. So terrible and haunting as it recalls the lives of those who experienced this tragedy. In a Hall of Names, the names and photographs of 3.2 million people line the walls. In a sort of labyrinth like garden representing a map of the world, the names of towns with Holocaust victims loom above you. In the Children's memorial, candles are reflected infinitely through mirrors, representing the souls of those children who perished in camps.

It was the most painful site I have ever seen. The images will stay with me for the rest of my life, I suppose. I reached for Josh's hand as we stared at the candle flames reflected around us and said "we have to have lots of Jewish babies."

My response was perhaps my very simple and naive response to so much sadness and loss in one place, but I still believe this. This world needs more children that will be raised to believe that tolerance and kindness are the most important values.

On days like today, I feel such rage at the atrocities being committed around the world to people of all faiths, colors and orientations. I spent my university and law school years working with human rights groups on discrete projects in foreign countries. I wrote papers detailing abuses in an effort to prevent them from happening again. And in the two years since I left school, I have let this passion of mine fall by the wayside. I have done pro bono work with New York's 9/11 Fund and helped women with uncontested divorces, all meaningful work certainly, but I think it is time for me to find other far-reaching projects as well. I cannot, for the present time, ignore my very real responsibilities, such as supporting our little family while my husband is in school, but I can take some time to offer services to my favorite NGOs.

We left Israel after just 2 and a half weeks, and the rest of my trip was magical and memorable in a different way. Sadly, many of the things I saw in Jordan and Israel have been destroyed so I won't be able to share these things with any children we do have. But I feel immeasurably grateful for that wonderful trip. It ended up being a far greater gift than just a plane ticket.


Ninotchka said...

What a moving post, Nathalia!

Do you know that I've always wanted to travel to Israel? My sister went on a high school program and I was set to go. I took 3 years of Hebrew and as my teacher's best and only non-Jewish student, she took me in and invited me to Sedar's and other dinners as her house. She loved to show off this little Catholic girl who spoke Hebrew fluently.

When it came time to go, things were very bad in Israel and quite frankly my parents didn't have the money to send me. I was crushed.

Sadly, I've lost a lot of the language but not the fond memories of my studies and insights into it and the Jewish religion. :)

Yankee T said...

This is an amazing post.

Phantom Scribbler said...

You're my hero. Seriously.

I could send you a challah recipe, but given your work schedule, maybe I should just send you the names of some good bakeries in your town...

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Very nice post, thanks for the read.

Honey Bunny said...

wow. this is such a moving post! i commend you wanting to have a jewish family, even though you were raised catholic. i was raised catholic, but believe that whatever religion you choose to practice, it should be a personal journey for everyone. i've strayed fromt he catholic church, but i would never tell anyone that their faith is wrong or not the "right" one. if you know what i mean.

sorry i can't help with the challah recipe, but here's one for stuffed mushrooms i just made ;)

Jill said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. I understand how you feel about wanting to raise your children with a foundation of faith, and it's great that you and your husband worked those issues out.

Chris said...

That was beautiful and mmmmm challah, but I don't bake bread so no recipe to share.

I dream of traveling to isreal, such history. My husband has been there as says that you can't help but feel spiritual. And he is not a religious man by any strecth of the imagination.

halloweenlover said...

thanks everyone! It is such a spiritual place, chris, that is a good way of describing it. It feels special for some reason, but I found it hard to put that into words.

I would definitely recommend a trip to everyone, but not until it calms down, which will hopefully be soonnnnn.

PS- you made me crack up. Maybe you could start a challah baking business? I'll be your first customer.

Nino- you took Hebrew? What ever possessed you to do that?

liz said...

Beautiful post.

Running2Ks said...

It is a moving post. Religion creates a lot of external--and internal--conflict. My husband and I were so lax in religion, it didn't matter that we came from different backgrounds. It was just a given the kids would be Jewish (whatever Mom is, and all that Jewish law). And I was the one who moved us to go to church--with the caveat that the girls and I wouldn't convert (and they could choose later). Of course, we celebrate both holidays (I was raised with both). Everyone has to find their own balance.

On a different note, if you ever are in Amsterdam, the Anne Frank museum is also moving and very real.

As for challah, I am one un-helpful Jew. The only time I ever made it I burned it to a crisp ;)

BTW, enjoying your blog and I'll be linking to you.

purple_kangaroo said...

There is a recipe for Challah dough in my bread machine recipe book. I haven't tried it yet, but I've been meaning to. If you'd like the recipe, I can send it to you.

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