Friday, September 24, 2004

Jewish like me

Having grown up in New York City, I've always had a sweet spot in my heart for Jewish holidays. As a public school student, we'd always get the major Jewish holidays off - Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and I even think we got a day off for Passover, although I may be wrong on that one. As a second grader, I didn't much understand why we were getting those days off, but heck, you don't have to tell a 7 year old twice that they get to spend the day eating cereal, watching cartoons, and trying to convince Gus, the slightly slow kid who lives on the 4th floor with his mother and grandmother, to tie his shoes together and toss them up on the phone lines outside; a bit wicked, I know. It wasn't until I was in junior high school that I began to develop an understanding for these holy days. I probably know more about the Jewish holidays than one would have predicted back in 1975, when my mom gave birth to me in a country hospital, off an ill-paved road in Chon Ju, South Korea. It was with wonder and amusement that I learned during my freshman year at the University of MI that not every school child grows up with these extra days of frolic.

To my Jewish friends out there, Happy Belated New Year. Yom Kippur begins today at sundown. Yom Kippur is a beautiful holiday, one that I think more religions should adopt. Regardless of whether you are religious, or spiritual, or nothing at all, I think the insight found in the practice of reflection, meditation, atonement, and fasting can help us cultivate our capacity for empathy and kindness.

While I don't get the day off anymore, the holiday still affects my life in a pretty profound way. The subways were remarkable empty today (as they were last Thursday & Friday during Rosh Hashanah). I'm sure tomorrow while I drive around Queens & Manhattan, I will get to witness dozens of families traveling to and from synagogue and other family gatherings, all by foot. It's nice, even as a non-Jewish person, to include these shifts in daily routine into my life. It's a reminder that we all live lives of quiet birth and renewal and passage. While we can't be apart of every aspect of every life on this earth, we can, at a minimum, acknowledge that wonders and celebrations are lived outside of our own.

And while we are on the topic of birth, celebration, and renewal, please include a quiet prayer or moment of reflection for my friend LB and her husband SB as they prepare to welcome their first child into the world (4 weeks early!) I can't wait to meet you BB, my little honorary nephew!

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