Becoming Jewish
One Girl's Journey

Effervescence is a state of mind. It's about choosing to bring sunshine to the day.
Every person I meet matters.

If it's written down, I know it (If it's not written down, I don't know it)
If it's color-coded, I understand it (If it's not color-coded, I don't understand it)

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Passover and other chatting

Such Diversity! - I've never been in a more diverse work environment than where I currently am on contract. The first day I was introduced to the programmers that work on this team, I felt like one of the only English-speaking Americans. I've noticed employees from Japan, Canada, England, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Bosnia, and every state in India. Some of the Indians on my team like to tease each other about their accents when speaking English, based on which part of India they're from. The guy next to me happens to be Jewish, and we're both young Americans. Around the corner is a guy who happens to wear a kippah (the skullcap) and a tallit (the fringed garment, under his work shirt) to work every day. Going out to lunch with the programmers, over half of them are either vegetarian and/or keeping kosher.

Yesterday, however, was the first time I walked past one of the small conference rooms where people drop in for 2-3 person meetings or private phone calls, but through the office window I saw someone bowing to Mecca for prayers.

I'd never been in an office where I saw a practicing Muslim taking a quick break for prayers. There's a guy around the corner who has an Indian deity [or something like that] on a color printout on his cubicle wall. And the Orthodox Eastern European has never made eye-contact with me, because I'm female and he hasn't needed to converse with me for business reasons yet.

I've never been in such a diverse environment before in my life. It's very bizarre. And this office has never seen me come to work without a Star of David necklace on, so I'm adding to the diversity of the place. Very bizarre.

My Passover Season: Early Seder in Class - I had a very full Passover "season" this year. First, my Introduction to Judaism course held an early/practice Seder on Wed before Passover, giving us Wed during Passover off from class. For the first 30 minutes, the Rabbi gave us all assignments for "we need X, and Y, and someone can get Z..." so that our setup was all done by us.

We remembered to bring the Seder plates, but got confused about whether there should be 2 greens, 2 charoset, or 2 horseradish on the plate to fill in the spots [lamb shank, matzoh, roasted egg, charoset, parsley, horseradish, and several plates had two pictures that looked like parsley). One of the ladies shared with us the myth versus the reality of the story of the orange on a seder plate ("A woman belongs on the bima like an orange belongs on the Seder plate").

We had matzoh, but we forgot to have a cloth or pocket or box for the afikomen (I improvised by getting a clean towel from the kitchen and wrapping the 3 matzoh in the towel). We had candles and candlesticks, but we forgot to have an Elijah cup (I improvised again, since we were using styrofoam coffee cups, by taking a styrofoam cup and decorating it with Elijah's name in Hebrew with a dark blue ballpoint pen, in outlined calligraphy, then adding a row of light blue magen david under his name, pillars of interlaced knotwork on either side, and some purple grapes and green curly leaves and grape vines... Voila! A decorate cup for Elijah). And we didn't do the handwashing step.

The Rabbi's wife joined us, and a tradition for her is to spill wine on the tablecloth on the first cup, to show (as hostess) that it's okay for anyone to spill wine at dinner. I shared with the class that in our tradition with friends, we make certain no one pours their own wine or grape juice, since we're all free-men now and not servants, so someone pours our wine for us [and then we have fun being the server for one another]. Several people liked that tradition. The youngest member of our class happened to be out of the room at the time of the afikomen, so we all knew where it was hidden and we played "Cold, Warm, Warmer, Hot" as she went hunting for it. It was very funny.

At the end of the meal, I carried the last of the afikomen around to my classmates, so that we could all have a bit of the "dessert" of the afikomen for our last bite of the night. That was the strangest thing, I'm used to ending Passover on a bite of matzoh. But since this wasn't the "real" Pesach, I left class with a strange sense of matzoh but I didn't need to keep eating unleavened bread for a few days yet.

My First Hosting Experiences - Adrienne has often hosted a "family Seder" in her home, for several of us friends who are close like family. But my darling "nephew" is only 5 or 6 weeks old now, and so she knew she wasn't hosting Passover this year. I volunteered to host, and it expanded into a weekend filled with my First Seder hosting experience.

I opted to set Sat 4/19 as "house opens at 5 pm, please arrive by 6 pm." By leaving it loose, I knew we had enough wiggle room for people who would be running late. Everyone was there by 7 pm, and we were all sitting down for the Seder, right at sunset which was a nice touch for the candle-lighting moment. My friends Jeff & Adrienne (I know, I talk about them a lot) loaned me all the rest of the "props" that I didn't have on-hand. So we had a hand-washing pitcher at the sink in the kitchen, an Elijah cup, and their fancy sabbath candle-sticks. I had my Seder plate (which I used for the first time this year). And they had a nice matzoh box, matzoh bag, and afikomen wrap. Plus, they have these great (and silly!) jumping frogs, so we could have silly plague toys. Oh, and a Moses "action figure" that we also joking have "split the red sea" by pushing two of the salt water bowls together, separating them and having him walk through, and then we usually toss the frogs in the water when the Egyptians are drowned in the sea. It's all so fun.

There were 12 people at each of my dinners, and only 3 friends came to both nights [4 of us, counting me]. Second night I made "open-house at 4 pm, please arrive by 5," and I think everyone was there by 5:10 or so. I also had the dinner portion done earlier on Sunday night, and did a better job at keeping everything warm. But we also didn't really take much more than about 60-90 minutes on the Seder portion before the meal(s).

So Saturday night, the last of my guests wandered out just before midnight, and my overnight guest kept me company while I finished dishes by 12:30. On Sunday night, I think everyone left by around 10 pm (with it being a work night and all). And both nights, I was personally pleased with myself for keeping up with the dishes and the mayhem, so that when I went to sleep, not only was everything clean, but put away too. *grin*

Now my house still looks "holiday clean" and so much of the house still reminds me of our lovely Seders. One frog got left behind, and he looks mischievous on the coffee table with my stack of haggadot, plus my extra reference volumes sitting out. I had three books of medieval illuminated haggadot from history, that we passed around and looked at on Sunday evening. Saturday evening, the questions and discussions actually warranted looking something up in Scripture, so 2 of my Tanakh are sitting out right now, too. And one of my guests brought a hostess gift on Sunday, giving me two more books. Ah. I live in a library! *grin*

B'nei Caid Seder - Besides my hosting opportunities on Sat 4/19 and Sun 4/20, my SCA (middle ages history re-enactment) group also had our "B'nei Caid" Seder on Fri 4/25. Caid (pronounced kah-EED) is the "Kingdom" for the southern CA region. And the gentleman who set up our yahoogroups was originally raised in Mexico City, so he transliterated the Hebrew-to-English with an E instead of the typical A in "B'nai" spelling. [And in my mind, the word is now "supposed" to be spelled B'nei, since that's "my" tradition now. *grin*] But I digress.

Friday 4/25 was our medieval Seder ... nearly everyone was in costume, and one of the girls had put together a Haggadah complete with images from medieval illuminated haggadot (that she could find online). It was beautifully crafted, and we all enjoyed the extra work she put into it. We all got to take ours home as a souvenir, plus she posted the PDF online for us to have a copy. [I'm sure if anyone here would like a copy, I might be able to get permission to share it with you.] There were 17 people at our B'nei Caid Seder, and it was just a lovely evening. A wonderful way to wrap up the week.

Since Then - I also had a wonderfully successful week, observing Passover and maintaining a leavening-free diet for the 8 days. Half-a-dozen of us went out Sunday night, not for the ubiquitous pizza but Mexican food. Still, it was yummy. And yesterday bagels for breakfast at work! *squee* I was tempted to eat just a "bread sandwich" for lunch, but I added slices of turkey after thinking better of it. *blush*

Now this week, my work account needed me to update my password again, so I incorporated the phrase "Counting the Omer" into my password phrase. It's a nice daily reminder. *grin*

And on Sunday afternoon, my Intro class toured the Skirball Center (in Los Angeles) in the afternoon. I'd like to go back and spend extra time looking at the embroidered wimples (Torah wraps made from the swaddling cloth from circumcision) and the ketubot (calligraphed wedding contracts). I'd like to do some Hebrew calligraphy and embroidery over time, and in conjunction with my SCA artistic research, and I still really haven't gotten started yet. Perhaps I'll find a way to get that started as part of my Pentathlon research and artwork (a huge artistic competition held every two years).

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Today's Blessing That I'm Thankful For: All my Passover compatriots -- I enjoyed the holiday with you, immensely

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