Shabbat, Antisemitism, etc
Hi, my love. It’s very late here, but it’s not midnight yet. So it is still Sunday!
We can thank my best friend Dylan for the fact that this ttalk exists. Though I had promised myself I could have a slice of cherry pie if I finished, this delectable motivation was not enough to match my procrastination.
We’ve discussed him a bit before. He is a treasure of a human being who has been my best friend for (holy shit!) 15 years this year. We talk one-three times a week, at which point I clean my house.
(I mean it - I only clean my house while on the phone with Dylan.)
(When he’s busy our house is a mess, these are the facts.)
He is a 6’1 bundle of absolute joy: A delightful mix of wry Jewish humor, worldly perspective and infectious joie de vivre. And, as mentioned, he is the reason you’re reading taali talk this week. Poor José read the weird fever dream mess of a draft I had earlier today and gently suggested, at 6:01 pm, that I call Dylan.
(I did not oblige, and instead chose to whine and then fall asleep for an hour.)
Then I did call Dylan. And JJ was correct: Our house is now very clean, and look! this is in your inbox.
As Dylan and now you know, the cherry pie I will enjoy when I press “send” on this is not the first, second or third pie I baked this week. (We’ve established I have a postcard problem, at what point does one also have … a pie problem!?) (Probably now?!) I have no photos of the third pie because it was made for a glorious former student of mine yesterday morning in a feverish two hours and was fully eaten (except for two slices) in as much time.
Thankfully I do have photos of the other two.
The first pie was for my bobis at the coffee shop. It was also sour cherry, per their request.
The second pie was a rose and cardamom custard, one I’ve dreamt of making for a while. It was delicious and it was gorgeous.
I mean it when I say gorgeous. The recipe suggested using edible dried rose petals for decoration, but after literal *years* of searching for many other recipes, I had already decided these didn’t actually exist.
Then on Thursday I randomly stumbled upon them in a Lebanese market in Amsterdam Oost.
I held back my urge to kiss the shop owner on the mouth and instead shrieked, “Are those…”
And she interrupted, “petals of rose.”
My darling, I bought those petals of rose in a heartbeat. Little t was over the moon decorating with actual roses, and the pie looked pretty epic as a result if I may say so myself.
A triumph! To quote! Paul! Hollywood!
And the dried rose petals weren’t my only triumph this week, because this week I also finally got a good matzoh ball soup in the books.
Yes, you may have been here this time last year, when, for an absurd reason, I couldn’t find a turnip to save my stupid Jewish life.
(All through 2021, my love.)
(I searched and searched.)
(I put up photos of them for my Dutch followers, I had Google translate speak sentences to shop owners.)
(At some point I deliriously almost thought I succeeded, only to realize that I had bought a package of rare Italian beets.)
Nobody, it seemed, even knew what a turnip/raap was.
I couldn’t believe this. I felt the need to scream, from our quaint Dutch rooftop, that clearly nobody was having the right kind of matzoh ball soup. That their stock was missing a key umami base. That we needed to dis! cuss!
Instead I kept it moving, making subpar matzoh ball soup and focusing on, I don’t know, music and stuff.
And then, on Thursday, *right* after the rose petal triumph, as if some delicious Dutch culinary wormhole opened, I looked up and there … they were.
Just a pile of raap, like it was no. big. deal.
(I didn’t kiss anyone, but I did shriek even louder that time)
(My … effusive nature still doesn’t really make much sense to Dutch people)
(But I’m grateful that everyone gives me a wide berth to be my v taali self, even if they don’t love it.)
All of this led to a pretty epic Shabbat for our pod. Menu below, on the left side (the right side is all of the pies that my pod cuties wrote down they wanted me to bake after leafing through my pie cookbook at my request).
It was truly delicious, and I was so, so grateful for both our pod and for Shabbat this week.
(Especially so, in the light of the news this week.)
(But before we get into the whole mess that is this Antisemitic world we’re all in, it’s worth taking a second to stay with joy.)
(Shabbat being that joy.)
Just pure, pure joy. I believe the story goes that when we were very young, my parents decided they wanted to find ways to incorporate Jewish traditions into the home, but didn’t really have many to reference. My childhood rabbi, a legend named Rabbi Kenter (he deserves a whole taalitalk to himself), suggested that perhaps they could start with a weekly Shabbat practice.
That’s where the tradition started. Dinner, candles, Shalom Aleichem, I (gratefully) don’t have any memories that don’t include Shabbat.
A moment of respite and beauty. My parents were very casual, but also pretty firm about it: Despite my extremely rebellious teen years, right up until the day I left for college I was home every Friday night for Shabbat.
When José came into the picture, he asked why I didn’t do this at my house even though my parents did. I honestly didn’t have an answer for why I didn’t practice, beyond the fact that I could feel how deeply Antisemitic most of my closest friends were (good news! None of them are in my life anymore!) and felt embarrassed to “impose” my customs and traditions on others.
So we started, tentatively, to do it together. We got candles, my dad got us an antique Kiddush cup. At some point I learned how to bake challah.
Over the years Shabbat has become a sacred and beautiful part of our home. As touring artists, there is a massive danger that time becomes fluid and slack. Shabbat reminds us, every week, that we are here. It centers us, lifts our voices in song just like the beautiful Friday nights of my childhood.
I also just adore that we have a weekly ritual that not only encourages us to enjoy our family and good food but also actively requires that we rest. You invite your favorites over, you plan a meal. And then on Saturday you more or less turn off your phone and devices, put work on hold.
But it does feel pretty painful to, as a Jewish person, just expect at this point that there may be something horrific you’re coming back to when you do pick that phone up. And this week it happened again.
(You probably haven’t heard about it.)
(It’s fine, as fine as it can be.)
(Everyone from the synagogue is safe, now.)
(But there were four hostages taken this week in Colleyville, Texas.)
So yesterday and today were pretty much a wash for me. I was sent this really great infographic that helps explain it much better than I ever could - You can click through for the full 8 page doozy if you’re looking for further info.
It’s exhausting. Exhausting to live the dual reality of the joy my Jewish culture brings me alongside the pain, fear, and constant lack of safety that its public facing identity brings. It feels counter productive and frustrating to have to keep explaining this reality.
(In the end you sort of stop.)
(And then when, for example, someone thinks that Jews run the world to the extent that taking a rabbi hostage will achieve his goal, you sort of look around and think, “Surely now they’ll believe us?”)
(Synagogues keep having terrorists of all walks of life walk into them. “Surely .. now?)
And there isn’t even a debate from the people around you, just a whole lot of silence.
The reality we end up with is that very few people care. And that’s the best case scenario.
The real case is closer to the truth… that most people, at best, distrust us. Consider us a nuisance. A whiny, nebbishy nuisance.
And then there’s the worst case: That people actively hate us. That people are waiting, ready, to target us. And that when, like yesterday, something horrific happens, people will celebrate or only use it to further Islamophobia and push their hateful interests.
And all of this is the reality when I light the candles in my home with José.
All of this is the reality when I braid the challot every week.
All of this is the reality when I publicly claim my Judaism, as much by choice as by necessity.
I’m grateful that everyone is safe.
I’m not grateful that my current reality means I am, if not desensitized, coming to expect a near traumatic or traumatic event in a synagogue every year.
Every week my dad goes to synagogue and every week could be the week.
And I love us.
And I am proud of us.
And I don’t know that there’s a point to saying any of this.
But I have to. I can’t not. I’m glad I took down all of my social media posts attempting to get a handle on it, choosing instead to wait for this beautiful space we have together every week to parse it through more thoroughly. Lucky to have you here, to live through the ups and the downs of it every week with me.
Thank you. Who knows - maybe that is the real torch to keep holding for my ancestors, the reason our music sounds so mournful to the outside ear but so joyous to ours. You live your life and hope for a better one with each minute. Until then you keep baking challah, loving your family, those around you, wishing for a more peaceful world. And you maintain your absolute mountain peak joy at seeing a turnip for your matzoh ball soup stock. Someday I’ll make it for you and you, too, will know the beauty of the raap.
Sending you infinite love until then,
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