Once upon a time, there lived a little Jewish girl from the Midwest who lived in a house on a hill. She had Jewish neighbors and Jewish friends. Her family mostly socialized with other Jewish families. She went to Jewish preschool, Jewish summer camps, and as a pre teen she went to Bar and Bat Mitzvahs on every weekend. Then she went to college and joined a Jewish sorority and eventually married a nice Jewish boy who was also from the midwest. They settled down in Arizona and here’s where their story starts to change.
In suburban AZ, unlike where they grew up, there are not Jewish clusters where families live and go to school. It is very spread out. The Jewish kids are the minority in most classes in the schools, and there are no school days off for Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur. Most people here have never heard of Jewish sleepaway camp and don’t understand why you would send your child away (even though you explain all of the many, many benefits).
Ok, so by now, you have figured out that this story is about little old sheltered me. My kids did go to Jewish preschools and we belong to a Temple, but we are not the majority here in AZ. We have friends and neighbors who have never heard of our traditions before. There are churches on every corner. We get Merry Christmased by workers in every store during the holidays. The kids draw Easter bunnies in school.
As I spread my wings into phase two of my life, I’m learning about other cultures. Having Carlotta living in our home is fascinating to her and to us. Our adorable German speaking Austrian au pair now exercises at the Jewish Community Center. She loves to ask about our religion. And we in turn ask about her culture.
Mostly I just make an idiot of myself. I do not really understand where her country is. I showed her some stuff I got from Ikea, and said hey, it was made in your country! She explained she doesn’t live in Sweden. I have actually been to Austria, in law school. I just can’t find it on the map. Our Sound of Music chats ended right away when she told me no one watches it in Austria. Only in America.
But on the flip side, she is so curious about America. We took her to a Greek restaurant and she had never had Greek food before. Try to explain what spanikopita is to someone who has never seen it before. It’s very hard. We took her to CPK and she asked what’s good here? That’s a hard one. I feel like people were born knowing what they like at CPK. I never knew someone who didn’t know the menu by heart. And when I ordered pizza online, she said “Only In America”. I was confused and she said, its only here that we order our pizza over the Internet and have it delivered. In her country, people walk to go get pizza.
She has never heard of kickball, and she calls strip malls, stripper malls. I tease her about her German Facebook where she gets “freunde” requests. Lauren can now speak German, and it’s such an angry language. Its funny to hear my little Jewish girl name the colors in German.
Tonight we had a full sedar for the Addams Family cast. Only a few of the cast are Jewish, but most came out to support us as we celebrate a holiday based on family. In Syracuse tonight at The Crowne Plaza, the Addams Family was my family. They were so excited to learn about Passover, and sang our Hebrew songs and read from the Hebrew prayer books.
Jeremy’s mom, the Rabbi, wrote a Broadway style sedar and the songs were so much fun to add to the traditional service. Our sedar started after the 730 show ended at 10 pm and it was still going at 1 am.
I am learning about the culture of life on the road. It is so spontaneous and different from anything I’ve ever experienced. I even got up and spoke on the bus from Philly to Syracuse today, presenting a bus gift to the cast (I gave them all blow pops, which I called the mom version of donuts, to symbolize the action I got at home.) I got a round of applause.
And so, that little girl on the hill came down to the real world to try some new stuff. New people, new friends, new cultures, new ways of life. I think we can all make the world a better place if we expand our horizons and learn to respect each other’s traditions and religions. I hope I will continue to grow and to continue to learn about new cultures. Also, I hope, one day, to figure out where Austria is located in relation to Sweden.