"Are you Jewish?"

"Are you Jewish?"

This is a question that both Micah and I have been asked a few times in the past week. We assumed it had something to do with the fact that yesterday and today are Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year (or one of the Jewish new years). Micah said that just before the first time he was asked, he heard somebody else be asked if they were Jewish and his response was, “Oh, I’ve done it already.” Now we are both curious about what “it” is, but I haven’t been able to find out if there is anything specific Jews are supposed to do the week before Rosh Hashanah. I am also curious as to why random Jews are asking me if I am Jewish. Do I look Jewish? Is it something to do with Rosh Hashanah? One of the men who asked me looked like he might read to me out of the Talmud (or some other book that was written in Hebrew) if I answered yes. I suppose I could go out on Eastern Parkway and hope someone else asks me, and then ask him why he is asking me, but I thought I would see if anybody else knows more about this than I do.

Also, in case you wanted to know what some Jewish traditions for Rosh Hashanah are, I will tell you. Jews like to eat apples dipped in honey, or put honey on their bread (usually they put salt) as a symbol of a sweet new year. They also toss stones or bread into natural flowing water to symbolize casting off sins. The month before Rosh Hashanah is a time of self-reflection and of making resolutions, and the ten days after Rosh Hashanah are a time to repent before Yom Kippur.

At least that is what I learned from Wikipedia just now.

6 thoughts on “"Are you Jewish?"

  1. According to the two pre-teen girls I nanny, who’s father is Jewish
    1) They get out of school for the day to attend services they feel are very boring considering they are considered “reformed” so don’t know how to follow along with the Hebrew or the songs learned in Saturday School…
    2) After all of the services it is a time where family and friends get together and have a huge meal and big Jewish festivities celebrating late into the evening (as we do on our new years eve or on Chinese New Year). I went to a Jewish wedding once – they really know how to party!

    That’s about all I know. There are a lot of Jewish people I know in Seattle and perhaps the two of you could “pass” as Jewish. (Maybe it’s the curly, dark hair?)

    Either way, it’s a compliment! Maybe people were asking since you’re new in the neighborhood and if you said “yes” they would’ve invited you to the feast?

  2. If it makes you feel any better, around here we are asked with Baptist church we go to.
    Here is what I know about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (based on dating an Orthodox Jewess for about 5 months). Okay, Rosh Hashanah kicks of the Days of Awe which are a time of reflection and the time in which you make amends to those you have wronged. It is during these days that Heavenly Father fills the book of life for the coming year – who will live, who will die and who will have a good life and who will be cursed (based on your worthy work during the Days of Awe). The time is filled with teshyvah (repentance), telpah (prayer) and zedichah (charitable work) – I have no idea if I spelled them correctly. The books will be sealed on Yom Kippur, so hurry. On Rosh Hashanah, observers will also go to a river and empty their pockets to symbolize letting go of their sinful practices.
    There is usually a very holy Shabbat during the week as well. In Chasidic and really heavy Orthodox communities they also swing a live chicken around your head while praying the morning before Yom Kippur and then slaughter it and give to someone in need. Hannaiah taught me that when her family practices this ritual, they use a bag of money instead of the chicken. Unlike other High Holy days, you can work these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (except for Shabbat, of course).
    On Yom Kippur, the atonement between Heavenly Father and man occurs, if you have fulfilled your work during the Days of Awe, You are usually ok. Many people will wear all white on this day to symbolize purity. This is one of, if not the holiest of the holy days in Jewish tradition. Absolutely no working, usually synagogue the entire day; only children (under 9) and pregnant women are allowed to eat – you are supposed to fast (25 hours). You also cannot bathe, wear makeup, of wear shoes made of leather.
    Five days after Yom Kippur is an awesome party called Sukoat or the Feast of the Tabernacles. It celebrates the end of the 40 years in the wilderness and the harvest. You cannot work on the first two days of the sukoat holiday. The word sukoat translates to huts or shelters. A family will build booth-like structure with three walls and was to be built really strong. It is to be a temporary dwelling (like the ones used in the desert by the Israelites) and has to be dwelt in (or eat a meal) to fulfill the mitzvah. People really decorate them neat with fruit and veggies (to represent the harvest). They are also required to use the ‘four species’ of food in their observance: Citron (like a lemon), 1 palm branch, 2 willow braches, and 3 myrtle branches. The 6 branches are bound together and held with the right hand with the lemon in the left hand and are used to perform a ritual where they point in each of the 4 orient directions (north, south, east, and west).
    Anyway, just FYI. If you are lucky, you will get invited to a Sukoat meal. As parties with good food, they are second only to a Seder.

  3. Sorry, the best time to really have fin in an Chisidic or Orthodox community is Purim — kinda like a Jewish mardi Gras.

  4. Hey Liz,
    It’s your long lost roomie, Caitlin. I can tell you from growing up in New York that you could pass for a Jewish person. I just started a blog if you wanna check it out…www.landenandcaitlin.blogspot.com. I hope you’re doing well and Simon is adorable!

  5. Dear Lizzie, Micah, and Simon,
    I think you could look Jewish…but the point of my comment is to let you know how much a I miss the three of you!!! I DEARLY miss the Heiselts!

  6. We got off the subway by our apartment today to find a crowd of Jews on Eastern Parkway. Guess what they were doing? Swinging live chickens over their heads! Much more gently than I imagined when Eric alerted us to this custom. I just hope they slaughter them a little more privately.

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