Posted by: gruvenreuven | February 4, 2009

18 random things about my Yiddishkite

My Chai ListIf you are connected to Facebook, then you have probably been tagged with the “list 25 random things about you” note. Good fun, but I think I want to spin another list.. Maybe not send it out as a chain note like the Facebook note, but publish it anyway. It’s a list of 18 random things about my Yiddishkite.

1. All four of my Grandparents were German Jewish Holocaust Survivors. My Mother’s mother came to the States in ’38, My Mother’s Father was a camp survivor (Bergen Belsen) and came later. My Father’s Parents went to Palestine in ’35.

2. I Grew up under the Conservative Jewish Movement. My folks were your typical “send the kids off to Hebrew School until bar-mitzvah, go 3 times a year to Shul, and be strict with your observance of Pesach” type of Conservative Jews.

3. My Father was born in Israel, I hold a dual American/Israeli citizenship. My folks used to send me to Israel to visit my Grandparents and other relatives every summer until the Government started to take an interest in my Draft Status. I’ve been is Israel about 13 times. 10 before the age of 16, once in ’87 for my Honeymoon, once in ’93 for a visit and in 2004 for my Nephew’s wedding.

4. My Bar-Mitzvah parsha was Pinchas, my Haftorah was Mattos. President Ford was in the Whitehouse

5. Between 1987 and 2000, I did not step foot in a Synagogue (Making up for that now for sure) Today I Daven thrice a day, and have put on Tefillin daily (with the exception of Shabbos & Yom Tovim) since 2001

6. Adopted my eldest son from Romania at the Age of two. At the time I was so far disconnected from my Judaism that I didn’t want to give my son a Bris. Fortunaly I was overruled by my Wife and Family. During the Surgical Procedure (he was 2) I recited the Shema over and over again for 45minutes. It was the only thing I knew at the time. After we had the Bris, it hit me…. When the chips were down and I was scared, I turned to Hashem. Been pretty much Frum since then!

7. In fall of 2000, I returned to the Conservative Movement. In 2001, I started attending a Chabad shul, and shortly after that became Shomer Shabbos/Shomer Mitzvot

8. I have been Studying Daf Yomi (Talmud) since November 2004. Today I study Talmud, Chumash with Rashi, Tanya & Rambam’s Mishnah Torah on a daily basis.

9. My favorite Sage is Hillel. I enjoy the story about Hillel in Tractate Shabbos page 31a. A want to be convert goes to Shammai and asks him, “Teach me torah while I stand on one foot”. Shammai tells him it is impossible and to go away. He then goes to Hillel. Hillel tells him, “”What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary; go and learn it.”

10. My favorite Talmud personality is Reish Lakish –Like me a Baal tshuvah. A “Robber” turned Sage. I love his quote from Sotah 31 “No man commits a sin unless struck by momentary insanity”

11. My favorite Holiday is Sukkot. I love trusting in Hashem that for all my needs while I dwell in my Sukkah. I love picking out my Esrog, I love constructing my Sukkah. I love the feeling of rejoicing after the joyful seriousness of Yom Kippur.

12. If I wasn’t a Chabadnik, I’d be a Breslev. I enjoy reading about Rebbe Nachman, and his focus on the emotional attributes in comparison to Chabad’s focus on Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge.

13. My favorite Liturgy. Hallel – Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving

14. My greatest regret is that I never picked up the Hebrew I should have when my folks sent me to Camp in Israel all those years. I’d really like to study a lot of the seforim that are not translated into English yet.

15. I created the site to teach my father (who now resides 1,000 miles away from me) how to Lay Tefillin. I have left the site fallow for years and really should re-invent it.

16. My favorite “Chabad Holiday” is Yud-Tes-Kislev, the liberation of the Alter Rebbe, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe from Prison. The Rosh Hashana of Chabad Chassidus. If I could have a yechidus (private audience) with one Rebbe, it would of been him… Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi

17. My Favorite Sefer.. The Tanya. Each time I read though this work I gain a little bit better understanding of Chassidus. My Favorite Chasidic Discourse (Maamer) – the last one I read. (Same applies to Sichos of the Rebbe)

18. Today I love helping my brothers gain a deeper understanding of Torah and Mitzvot one Mitzvah at a time. I don’t want to make people Frum. I just want them to take on one more Mitzvah (after that we can talk about taking on another).

Feel free to comment about your 18



  1. Love it! Got to get rolling with my own. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. 1.- I was raised in a very secular Jewish family, my father being from an old French jewish background on his father’s side, and Ukraina from his maternal side, but both parents born in Paris, France. You can trace my paternal family back to very far, thanks to the works of a member of this family who went back to the craddle. I think I am the 7th or 8th branch on the 5th generation from the first ancestor he traced back.

    2.- On my mother’s side, my grandfather was a Sephardic Jew and his name can be found in Chronicles (Chr I, 23-11) which kind of make me pretty vain about it (being able to say that you trace your Yiddishkeit back to the Tanach, who would not feel a little proud about that anyway?). My maternal grandmother was coming from a prominent Lorraine family (ashkenaz) and they were already settled in Paris, France when citizenship was granted to the Jews right after the French Revolution (9/28/1791), so you can trace her family in the civil official registars back in 1792.

    3.- I grew up with absolutely no religious education. My parents were very liberal, and my mother pretty free spirited. Most of my extended family that had any kind of religious practice were attending liberal shuls (would be called “conservative” in the US although it does not exactly match the definition).

    4.- My first recollection of being in a synagogue is being the flower girl at a wedding. I clearly remember the blue ribbon that was holding my bangs (I probably kept it for many years). Being on the bimah made the whole experience very memorable, and the only thing that mostly struck my mind was the breaking of the glass. I was 7 or 8.

    5.- I look very much alike my paternal grandmother, who was assassinated in Auschwitz in September 1943. I paid tribute to her memory on my blog here:

    6.- I started to be interested in religious matters when I was in 7th grade. Of course, the majority of my class (being in public school and in a dominantly catholic country) was involved in their solemn communion that year, and the only girls left behind in class in June were either Jews or communists atheists! My best friend at the time was a Muslim and she shared with me some things that made me read a small book about Quran, while I had her read another small book from the same collection about Zohar.

    7.- My next encounter with religion was much later. I met an orthodox Jew whom I dated for some months and he introduced me to the beauty of Shabbat, which I started to observe. At that time we had started a Talmud Torah group, we were meeting every week and would study the parsha together. The group lasted until most of the participants got scattered around. Two of the initial group of five (it became more numerous at times, but started with 5) made Alyah eventually. A third one who joined the group later out of curiosity became b.teshuvah, although you would have never thought that she was one to ever embrace shomer neguiah!

    8.- My interest in Judaism certainly stems from this study group, and the nearly kibbutz-like life we developed at the time spending all the main religious holidays together. I should have been even more serious and marry the guy (see 10) instead of the other one…

    9.- I didn’t know that my soon to-be new boyfriend and eventually husband and father of my children was jewish. When I realized he was, that’s when I actually pursued him more seriously. I had in mind that I would only marry a Jew for a long time ago although I have no recollection that it had been a spoken instruction in my family. I am actually the only of the three siblings to have married a Jew.

    10.- I did not have a religious wedding. At the time, I felt like my father would have been really upset if I had done so. My husband and I had discussed that we would eventually do it… later. It turned out to be a pretty abusive marriage and later, he divorced me, and left me behind anyway. I was kind of relieved that we did not marry religiously because I doubt he would have given me the get, out of spite or whatever was in his mind at the time of the divorce. Although I haven’t had any inclination to date again, one never knows.

    11.- I discovered a totally different approach to secular judaism through my (ex)family in law. There was some tension when my father-in-law told me I was “not a real Jew” because I had never been to Israel. Out of respect I said nothing, but it hurt my feelings badly, and it showed me that bigotry could lay in all sorts of prejudices. I learnt how to overcome his adverse opinion of me when I tended to his wife when she was terminally ill.

    12.- I learnt a lot by myself, and I learnt the jewish mourning rituals on that occasion. My family in law was totally at a loss when she died and would not know what to do, but they were very thankful that I arranged things in the most jewish fashion. I had learnt about it at the time we were studying ( see 8 ) and one friend had lost her father. Putting it into practice was very meaningful for me. It really fortified my confidence that Judaism was the right answer for me in everything in my life.

    13.- Although it was a tradition for me to spend Passover sedarim with my friends, on several occasions I decided to go to a seder in my extended family, and it turned out that once it was at my uncle’s who passed away the year after, and the other time it was my second-cousin’s father’s last seder too. I am very thankful that I had a chance to build a memory that stays as a link with my cousins til this day now.

    14.- When I arrived in the United States in 1998 I had no idea what the different jewish denominations meant. The Jewish culture is very different in France and in the U.S. anyway, so I didn’t really mind what shul I would attend. I did not “shop” as I understand it is the custom, now that I have accustomed to the country. My first encounter with the local synagogue and its congregation and rabbi was pretty awkward. In everyone’s eye I was an “orthodox” Jew, because my observance was different and they were reform. It was kind of useless to explain that I came from a secular background and that my observance was certainly very far from being orthodox!

    15.- I did not have a Jewish name. When I asked my mother what she would choose now if she had to give me a Jewish name, she couldn’t come up with anything, so I chose for myself. My Jewish name is Hadassah bat Rachel (my mother’s hebrew name).

    16.- Because he is severely autistic, my elder son didn’t get any formal Jewish education in religious school, and was not able to speak for himself for his bar-mitzvah so I gave a drasha myself on his parsha. It can be accessed for whoever would like to read it here: (this is a .pdf file that will download on your drive – 220 ko)

    17.- I simply love being Jewish. The more I study, the more I enjoy it. I started learning how to read first in 1993, then had to stop attending the class when I got pregnant. I started again last year, although the class turned into a conversational modern hebrew class rather than biblical hebrew (I guess our rabbi had too much trouble with the level of the class in general, but that’s fine with me). On a religious point of view, my main focus and inclination is on shemirat halashon.

    18.- I still haven’t been to Israel yet. I can picture myself living there permanently however. One never knows.

    I realize that the more I was finding a random thing, the more I was wanting to add to them another one. Maybe I should have gone up to 36 instead of following the instruction to limit myself to 18. But then, I realized I was likely to put this on Reuven’s blog (as mine being entirely written in French, I would have had to write in French for my readers, and I first addressed my meme to Reuven who I think does not read French…) so I didn’t want to abuse his hospitality with too long a post… But I enjoyed sharing all this very much, and hope anyone who would read it will enjoy reading it too.

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