Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The hidden Jew in my house

The impact of Jewish culture is powerful, even when it's unconscious.

My husband Bret is half Jewish. His father came across from Eastern Europe as a child refugee sometime during the First World War but by the time Bret was born in 1958 there was no sense of Judaism or Jewish culture in his father's life. The family was raised atheist and to the extent that there was a culture in the home it was his mother's Swedish culture.

And yet...

Today I have two very close friends who were raised as Jews in New York and Boston. And the similarities between these two men and my husband are striking - something I have only really begun to see and peel back although they have been my friends for years. They look similar (same height, similar curly hair), they have similar bright senses of humor and big laughs, they are really smart... etc. Now maybe you are thinking I have a type I like and whether friend or husband I am drawn to the same type of men. Maybe, but there's more.

There is a joy around food, drink and sharing that is palpable. "Let me order dishes to cover the table at the restaurant so you have the pleasure of many things to try and plenty of food. Let me order a red wine and a white wine to be sure everyone has what they want and there is more than enough. Let me cook all day long, many more dishes than we need - let me keep your glass filled." Bret is a delightful, gregarious entertainer and when I watch him with my two friends Mr D and Mr E I see his reflection in them and it's a deep cultural training.

Bret learned at his father's knee. His father cooked, his father entertained, he ordered food for guests in restaurants -- he trained Bret, and instilled him with his culture, irrespective of his religion. Sadly he died when Bret was a teenager so we could never talk with him about it with him but the older we get and the more we watch our kids reflect what we've modeled for them the more I can see Jewish culture in their behavior - very unlike the English control and precision I was raised with. I like it!

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