Monday, August 15, 2011

Non-Halachik (Following Torah Law) Jewish Culture, Society

I don't know why the Table writer,  Allison Hoffman, finds it so peculiar that the secular Russian (FSU) immigrants to the United States consider themselves strongly Jewish as they eat shellfish on the TV reality show, Russian Dolls.  I grew up in a similar world of strong Jewish identity far removed from Halacha, Torah Jewish Law.

Most of my grandparents and half of my great-grandparents left a pre-Soviet Union "Russia" early in the Twentieth Century.  Most of them remained strongly in the Torah observant camp, keeping kashrut, Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays, but my American-born parents shed those restrictions completely while never hiding their Jewish identity.

In the world I was raised you didn't have to eat Levi's Rye Bread to be Jewish.  You could be Jewish eating shrimp in the local Chinese restaurant.

It seemed that most of my friends in the amazingly homogeneous post-WWII veterans garden apartment development Bell Park Gardens, Bayside, NY, were the same.  Over 90% of the residents were Jewish and I never saw a succah, but we didn't have Christmas trees either, except for the very small number of Christian neighbors.

In many of the refrigerators you'd find kosher meat next to the bacon.  Why kosher meat?  It taste better, or better quality we were told.

The mostly Orthodox teachers in the Conservative Hebrew School of Oakland Jewish Center were instructed not to confront or condemn us for our forbidden life-style and overwhelming ignorance.  When we had parties a few of us would be sent with money to a nearby supermarket to buy candies and treats.  Then the teachers would go through the bags sorting traif from kosher, serve us the kosher and then go back to the supermarket to return the forbidden.  We were aware of this but hadn't a clue as to criteria.  This was in the late1950's and early 1960's.  I graduated the five year Hebrew School in 1962, the year my family moved to Great Neck.

No doubt that here in Israel on our very Arab-oriented satellite tv package, I'll never get to see Russian Dolls, but I may understand some of it better than the Tablet writer.

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