Monday, September 3, 2007

Introduction: "The beginning of the world often comes"

In this beginning, my name is Adva, which means "small wave, ripple" in Hebrew.

I'm a 23-year-old history graduate student, and in my non-existent spare time, I work as a freelance journalist and columnist for a local paper. My fiance and I just moved in together, and we're learning about ourselves and about each other every day. I'm a practicing Reform Jew, and he's been doubtful or an atheist since the age of three, when he asked his teacher how they knew Jesus was the son of God at his Catholic preschool. In this beginning, my fiance's name is Mordecai, or Cai for short. We have been together for almost seven years, and fortunately, as I've grown more religious, he's grown more supportive of my efforts to connect with my Jewish identity. My fiance has also begun to craft his own connection with Judaism - his father is an ex-Jew, and his mother, an ex-Catholic. But he has always related more to Jewish culture, particularly, he says, the emphasis on food.

Food will be a major motif, or maybe even a theme in this blog. We decided to make our home kosher-style, which is one of the reasons why this blog is named "Adventures in Kosherland." Neither of us have ever lived kosher before, since my family's Judaism was primarily cultural, and his family had a Christmas tree but never attended religious services.

As a child, I went to temple school once a week starting at the age of five, and I became Bat Mitzvah at 13. My parents did not encourage or discourage any religious education beyond this point, but I continued with confirmation at age 14, and I was a teaching assistant at my temple school at home for 5 years. When I started college, I became very involved at Hillel, where I attended weekly Shabbat services, celebrated the holidays, and found my real love for Judaism in a wonderful community. I discovered what it meant to be Jewish and feminist in a brief but spectacular Rosh Chodesh circle started by one of the students in the Hillel family, and I spent several nights a week at the Jewish student housing co-op, where many of my dearest friends lived for two years. It was on their kitchen floor during a Shabbat meditation that I found my own words for faith. It was at their dinner table that I learned what it meant to have a more traditionally Jewish home.

In school, I study early America and gender history, but I had an awakening last quarter in which I confessed to a colleague that "I think I'm a Jewish historian!" "Mazel Tov!" she cried. We embraced, and since then, I've been finding ways to incorporate Jewish history into my own studies. I've decided that I'm going to add it as an outside field when I begin my PhD program.

My biblical knowledge is minimal - I know bible stories at a second grade level, because those are the oldest students I taught over nine years as a temple school madricha. But I started studying Talmud with my rabbi and a couple of friends on rainy Shabbat afternoons last January. We went very slowly, working through 18 pages of mishnah over the following six months, noshing on crackers and lemonade.

I'm starting this blog (at the urgings of others) to chronicle my experiences at a very interesting moment in my life as a Jew. My fiance and I are learning how to compromise our lifestyles (but not our beliefs), and we're doing it largely on our own. I'm discovering that very little exists locally in the way of community for young adults my age. We loved Hillel, but we're a little old to hang out with 18-year-olds. The temples in the area have programs for the elderly, teen groups, and an excellent network for parents with young families. We don't fall into any of those categories, and we're definitely not having kids till I have my dissertation. I'm constantly seeking a balance between my religious and academic lives. My parents and grandparents cannot offer extensive religious support because, like many other children and grandchildren of immigrants, they learned to privilege secular, American life over Jewish religious life. They are very culturally Jewish, we celebrated holidays, and our Bar and Bat Mitzvahs were important. But I did not start celebrating a traditional Shabbat until I became involved with Hillel. I would have previously relied on the Jewish Co-Op family for community, or on Hillel, but a majority of my friends have graduated, and many of them now live in two of the Jewish homelands: Jerusalem, and New York City.

Still, I'm trying to simultaneously teach my fiance what it's like to have a Jewish community and a Jewish home, while I continue my own practice and attempt a more traditional Jewish lifestyle. I have a few Jewish friends left in the area who have been very supportive and loving as we embark on our journey into Kosherland. When I went out for coffee with them after Shabbat last week, I found myself thinking about how many ages and ages of Jewish women have chatted over coffee and tea on Shabbat. When the rabbi says that the amidah links us to our Jewish ancestors and to Jews all over the world, I see a long chain of Hebrew words, reconnecting members of my scattered community.

Either way, what follows are thoughts, humorous anecdotes, and religious ramblings about our just-beginning (mis)adventures in Kosherland.

Thanks for reading, and wish us luck -- it's going to be a wild ride.


Queen Sieve said...

Mazel Tov! I look forward to the future Adventures of Adva in Kosherland. Does Mr. Adva have a name for the purposes of this blog?

Adva Ahava said...

Thanks! I'm trying to think of a name for him. He would choose Mordecai - it's his favorite. But it's so common and so connected to the Esther story that I might have to choose something else. Adva Ahava isn't my Hebrew name or anything. It's something I chose picking around online instead of researching :-) Finding a name for him could serve a very similar purpose!