Five Questions, Five Minutes
Compiled by Audrey Shore, JTS / Columbia
You've already read the title, so you know the deal! We here at KOACH dish out five questions, and in five minutes or less you can shed some light on a variety of topics vis-a-vis your honest responses.
Shira Futterman, University of Maryland:
We have a special kiddush cup. You pour wine into a central cup, and then it (magically) pours that wine into six smaller cups. Everyone gets some of the blessed wine, and it's very sweet. My family is a little bit more observant than I am, but I'd say we have about the same level of Jewish knowledge. My parents know more in some areas, but I know more in others.
Aliza Slosberg, Barnard College:
Every year on the first night of Passover, we have a family-only seder, and then on the second night we have friends over. At first I thought that the family-only idea was dumb, but after experiencing it, I found it to be very meaningful and special.
Shira Gold, Rider University:
My family is about the same or a little less observant and knowledgeable than I am. We have a tradition on Rosh Hashanah of walking together to my Zayda’s shul for tashlikh (casting away of sins).
Shari Goldman Gottlieb, Yale:
On Hanukkah we listen to a tape we've listened to since my brother and I were little. We sing the brakhot with the tape while we each light our own hanukkiah. My family is less observant and less Jewishly knowledgeable than am I.
Ita Paskind, Columbia / Jewish Theological Seminary
My father is more knowledgeable (he's a rabbi), but my mom and siblings are slightly less knowledgeable than I am. We don’t really have a unique ritual.
Ilana Clay, entering Rutgers:
My mom and dad have the same amount of Jewish knowledge and observance as I do, but my brother has less.
Sheridan Gayer, Columbia / Jewish Theological Seminary:
Yes, we do have a unique ritual. Although halakhah dictates that the brakhah for motzi (blessing over bread) is to be led by a member of the table who is post-bar/bat mitzvah age, my 8 year old brother does it. The reason is primarily because it is the first prayer he learned, but also to ensure he will return to the table with a desire to wash after dancing around the living room during Shalom Aleikhem. My family is less observant than I am. They are always striving to learn more, and we often hold discussions about our newly acquired knowledge, but the breakdown of "who knows what" varies depending on the topic.
Jessica Starr, Union College:
I don't believe my family has a special ritual, especially because my parents are divorced. My father, since moving out of the house, is a bit more observant than I am. He keeps separate plates and silverware for meat and milk, along with going to shul weekly. With Ramah in my life for upwards of 9 years, I feel that I am a bit more observant than the rest of my family, though. They seem to think that I am more Jewishly knowledgeable than they are because of Ramah, but my father has been reading and studying through classes at our shul to learn more. He's somewhat isolated though from the non-Jewish world; the majority of his friends are Jewish, he lives in a town where there are many Jewish people, and our shul plays a major role in his life. Perhaps the best way of breaking down my answer is to say that he is more Jewishly knowledgeable about the history of Judaism and the stories in the Torah, but I am more Jewishly knowledgeable about contemporary Judaism.
Steven Rose, Northeastern University:
I don't recall any rituals out of the ordinary. My family has the same level of observance as I have. I was brought up modern Orthodox, and I try to be like that as much as possible. When I'm at school, though, I usually find myself with the Conservative community because of the way the atmosphere is there. My family and I are very Jewishly knowledgeable: I have a comprehensive "Hebrew School" background; my mother has two masters in "Hebrew something;" and my father is a rabbi.
Jeremy Fine, University of Illinois:
On Passover, my family becomes very religious for some reason! I am more religious than my family, in the sense that I am more active in the community. I am also more knowledgeable, as I attended a private Jewish school from kindergarten to twelfth grade.
Alexis Wolfson, University of Florida:
Every Hanukkah, my family and I light the candles each night together. This holiday is one of the few times we set aside to be together. My family is by far less observant than I am; I observe most of the laws as interpreted by Conservative Judaism. However, my family does not have the time or motivation. Since I plan on studying to be a rabbi, I would say that my family is considerably less knowledgeable then I am. Their knowledge consists mostly of general Jewish traditions for Shabbat and holidays.
Christina (Chaya) Oliver, Honors College of Florida Atlantic University:
Because I converted to Judaism, my family does not have any Jewish rituals, but my grandmother made me a beautiful tallit for the one year anniversary of my conversion / bat mitzvah. (She is very supportive of my decision) Now, every time I wear it I think of her, and I just know that it will be passed down through the generations -- l'dor v'dor – beginning a new tradition. For the same reason, I am the most observant and Jewishly knowledgeable member of my family, but I have been teaching them as they each wish to learn.
Scott Lipson, Rutgers Graduate School:
We have a family dinner the second night of Pesach; not a seder, but a dinner. We tried to have a seder once, right after I came back from Nativ, but it didn't work out.
Shiphra Habibian, Columbia / Jewish Theological Seminary:
My Mom says the same personal prayer after she lights the Shabbat candles every Friday night that I say also when I am away from home. My parents are less observant than I am. They do not keep kosher or go to synagogue for any day other than the high holidays. My parents are also less Jewishly knowledgeable than I am, especially my mom.
Harriet Lerman, University of Wisconsin at Madison:
We have a Hanukkah potluck every year, and invite all our friends even if they're not Jewish. My family has about the same level of observance and knowledge as I have.
Andy Gryll, Emory:
We do not have an outstanding family ritual, except meals together and shared family recipes. I am more observant than the majority of my family, as well as more knowledgeable.
Daniel Broniatowski, New England Conservatory of Music:
We don't have a special ritual, but we have become more observant in the last ten years, have been observing Shabbat in more ritualistic ways.
Lauren Smith, University of Florida:
We don't really have anything that stands out a unique ritual. My family celebrates the main holidays, and gets together for holiday meals. They are significantly less observant than I am, and I am also more Jewishly knowledgeable.
Ruthy Alazraki, Lake Forest College:
We always play Hebrew music at Shabbat dinner. Our meal doesn't really start, even after doing the blessings, until we are all around the table and the music is on. It's part of the celebration! More or less, my family is at the same level of observance that I am, but I'm more Jewishly knowledgeable than they are.
Benjamin O'Glasser, University of Chicago:
My cousin introduced the practice of doing havdallah (candle-lit ceremony marking the end of Shabbat) with a high-proof liquor, usually whiskey. When you extinguish the candle at the end of havdallah, the alcohol starts to burn (do this in a metal or ceramic plate!) and slowly goes out. My family is less observant than I am. In some subjects, they do have more Jewish knowledge than I have, but in most, less.
Note from the Editor, Audrey Shore:
According to this month's Five Questions, Five Minutes, 90% of our respondents are either at the same level of observance or more Jewishly observant than their families, and 50% claim to be more Jewishly knowledgeable. Do you think this reflects a changing trend in Jewish education? Do you think this reflects a small respondent pool, and that it's not indicative of the Conservative community at large? Tell us what you think! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your ideas with our listserv!