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3 kittens

Birthright to assimilation

Posted on 2014.11.16 at 08:08
It looks like I made it to 40 weeks. In your face, doubters. Procreators are gonna procreate.

I actually went to xfit for the entire 40 weeks. I am much more muscular going into this L&D than I've been with the last three, for whatever that's worth - I assume not much.

Look what Panisdead made for us:

November 16, 2014 (1)

This complements the three exquisite hats she made last year, for the three existing children:

December 7, 2013 (17)

Seriously, her hats are the most gorgeous.  In addition, she must understand my need for symmetry and completeness.

A different friend gave us this print after Ace was born, when we had three children:

November 16, 2014 (2)

I love this print, but my very first thought was, "But where is our fourth bear cub?"   It eats away at me that it has  only three bear cubs. (My plan is to scan and print out a fourth bear cub, and tape it somewhere on the glass.)

Mimi arrived on Thursday, and my mom arrives on Sunday.


Charleycarp is an Unfogged commenter who is amazing with the internet. I asked if he wanted to hunt down my grandfather, and he dug in.

The family story goes: (oh, I've used pseudonyms for this before. I suppose I should look them up. Here I called my grandfather M. Aaron, and my grandmother Beatrix.) M. Aaron was always super secretive about his past. At that link, I told the story of an old newspaper article alleging that M. Aaron Lastname and Beatrix were divorcing, a few years before they supposedly had even met each other.

Now Charleycarp has turned up copious evidence that M. Aaron basically changed his identity altogether. Not a farm kid from upstate New York who was protecting my grandmother from antisemitism (as the story went), but a Jewish kid from Manhattan who married a different woman, also named Beatrix, and divorced her, and then married my grandmother.

But I thought he was part French, Scottish, and English? And I thought he brought Christmas to Beatrix and her family, who doggedly did not celebrate anything - even birthdays - out of a dedication to Communism? And that my mother one time found a family bible? (And, most ludicrously, that he could trace his ancestry to Mayflower times.)

Nope - Charleycarp produced a senior in high school photo of M. Weitzman, and it is absolutely one and the same person as my grandfather.

High School portrait, alone

So our beloved grandfather was actually Jewish along with everybody else, all along. And had a brief first marriage. (The beloved part is real, not scare-quotated. People uniformly revered his wisdom. They rave about his wisdom and gentle demeanor. He sounds like a deeply lovely person.)

(I would like to someday be considered wise and gentle, but I'd have to sacrifice being a cold jerk with great boundaries. It's a trade-off, perhaps not worth it.)

My mom arrives in town tomorrow.  I think she would want to see a photo of her father as a teenager. Without the photo, I'm not sure she'd want to know the rest. I'm going to try to broach the topic kindly, sensitively.

This raises a lot of complicated issues of identity and religion. My grandmother and my mother are two dyed-in-the-wool assimilationists. My mom will say things like, "I just love Christmas carols!" out of the blue, with no prompting. If Passover comes up, she'll (predictably) say, "I just think it's so awful to have a holiday based on the murder of all first-born sons." (Uh, yes, that is a part of the Passover story, and no I'm not going to defend some complicated Old Testament epic, but Mom, it really is a bit odd to focus on that one gory detail.) And my grandmother, with her awful "Why don't the Jews embrace Jesus?" entrapment.  Pity be the fool who thought they could easily field that bomb.

My grandmother had one daughter, who had one daughter, me. My grandmother dumped stuff on my mom, which then got dumped on me, which no one else in the family seems aware of. The uncles, the brothers, the cousins - they all easily say they're ethnically Jewish but not religious. I alone seem to carry the burden of all this assimilation and asterisks and fraudulence, so that when asked my heritage, my most honest answer is "I practice Fraudulence." I can't say Jewish without cringing, even though I say it anyway.

One pillar of their claim to assimilation has always been M. Aaron. He was a pastor's son! My mom grew up with Christmas! (and Christmas carols.) Mom is ethnically only half-Jewish. Where as I, being all of three-fourths, should have felt perfectly comfortable claiming a Jewish heritage, but again, the burden of assimilation, and Christmas carols. To deny my assimilation and fraudulence is to deny the gentle wisdom of M. Aaron.

With that photo above, M. Aaron's ethnicity has now been flipped upside down. It undercuts the premise of a lot of identity shit that's trickled down on me. I'm not sure what to make of it. My mom may find this very upsetting. (But I'm sure she'd want to see the photo.)


I've got my normal accumulation of Silly Things the Kids Said, but somehow I think I'll here.


Jeremy Osner at 2014-11-16 14:34 (UTC) (Link)
One gory detail? Really? Seems to me like that's the key element of the holiday -- that the murdering Angel passed over Jewish homes.
heebie_geebie at 2014-11-16 14:43 (UTC) (Link)
True! And even the word "Passover" itself. But I mean, years and years of slavery, Moses goes down a river, ten plagues, why is this night different, etc, etc...It's gory and prominent, but there sure has been a lot of gory, prominent violence in all of human existence.
Kelly Jennings
Kelly Jennings at 2014-11-16 16:11 (UTC) (Link)


I know it's the name of the holiday, but the Seder itself -- at least as it's done in the delagar household -- is about being freed from oppression, and why you (THEREFORE) should also help free others from oppression; and be kind to strangers; and so on. "Remember you were slaves in Egypt" here translates to "And therefore you ought to help all those who are also suffering, as you suffered in Egypt."

The death of the first-born in Egypt gets mentioned once, among the other Ten Plagues.

We're not even remotely orthodox, though, down here in Arkansas.
Kelly Jennings
Kelly Jennings at 2014-11-16 16:13 (UTC) (Link)



To be FAIR.

Dr. Skull also always brings up the fact that Jews now have nuclear weapons. "Try and fuck up with us NOW, Pharaoh!"
heebie_geebie at 2014-11-16 16:25 (UTC) (Link)


Right. It's just a whole lot of glossing over a massive amount of tradition and meaning-making, (and pretty damn disrespectful), to pretend that the holiday's key feature is this rather gruesome historical bit.
(Anonymous) at 2014-11-17 04:00 (UTC) (Link)


I don't know that it's *necessarily* either pretending or disrespectful to spend a little time with the thought: "boy, it sure is weird that all that tradition and meaning-making is built on the back of 'God killed a bunch of Egyptian kids but not ours!'" But I believe in your ability to identify when your mom is being absurdly assimilationist.

Ugh I don't want to faff around with any of my logins, sorry,
heebie_geebie at 2014-11-17 14:02 (UTC) (Link)


But to underline your (second-to-last) sentence: yes, it's certainly worth a discussion that the holiday is built on a rather horrific premise. That's a whole different thing though, than having your knee-jerk single association of the holiday being "oh, where you celebrate MURDER?"
Kelly Jennings
Kelly Jennings at 2014-11-17 20:30 (UTC) (Link)


I also doubt that Christian holidays get the same scrutiny.

"Oh, Easter -- that's the one where you celebrate the torture-execution of your God, right? Weird. But what's with the chocolate eggs?"

"Christmas -- isn't that the one where you celebrate the fact that Herod slaughtered all those other babies, but not your Baby God?"

panisdead at 2014-11-17 03:10 (UTC) (Link)
Yay! I'm glad you like it! I appreciate your commitment to symmetry and completeness very much.
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