By J. Kott-Wolle
Oil on Canvas, 24x30, painted 2018
Original photograph taken - 2018
One of my dearest friends is Orthodox and she recently made a pithy remark to me that religious Jews never get to go on vacation – ‘they just have to keep kosher somewhere else.’ That is not something I struggle with but in the summer of 2018 my oldest child had returned home from a ‘gap year’ spent in Jerusalem. After nine months in Israel, Henry had discovered a newfound interest in becoming a little more religiously observant. He was keeping the Sabbath and following Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws). I was both thrilled and threatened.
I was thrilled because when it comes to Judaism the trend is usually for each successive generation to observe less than their parents’ generation. It was so gratifying to know that my son’s connection to his Judaism defied the recent Pew Study findings. He was not on track to lose precious connections to our heritage (at least not now). These new observances were like a giant ‘Jewish mom victory’ for me – the ‘torch’ was passed to the next generation!
But I would be dishonest if I didn’t acknowledge that I felt threatened by it as well. Was our son on his way to becoming a ‘baal tshuva’ (a secular Jew who becomes Ultra-Orthodox)? Would he stop eating in my house because it wasn’t kosher enough? Was he judging our lax observances? Does he think that we are hypocrites? Are we hypocrites?? Will he go on vacation with us still? Henry was home from Israel for a week and we immediately went to our annual cottage rental in Union Pier, Michigan. We were trying to regain our equilibrium as a family now that kashrut and the Sabbath were part of the equation (at least for him). Thankfully the local supermarket in neighboring New Buffalo had a tiny kosher section and we figured it out.