Beverly Hills · books and reading · culture/multiculturalism · education · Hispanics/Latinos · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · Los Angeles · pesach · rabbi · race/racism · teaching

Seder Confusion

Hey, people, despite the last post, I promise you, I had a fantastic set of seders. Stop apologizing.
My favorite seder was the second because my non-Jewish little sister got to experience her first seder with my in-laws in Los Angeles.

But the first seder was great fun thanks to my husband’s aunt and her precocious sons. While Auntie R. matched my insightful comments from The Survival Kit Family Haggadah with her own, her sons joined us in reading Ma Nishtana from 300 Ways to Ask the Four Questions. Our Ma Nishtana was quite the extended cut being read in Korean (which no one at the table spoke) as well as English, Spanish, Hebrew and French.

The biggest disappointment with the first seder was that we were so wrapped into detailed, comprehensive readings of each section that we had to cut parts of it short. Everything is still so new to me that I look forward to reading each part of the Haggadah and then commentary from other books. (Hey now, stop that eye roll!) And I also made myself a pest by repeatedly interrupting my poor husband’s first attempt to lead a family seder by voicing my disapproval at his director’s cut. In his defense, everyone under 18 was snoring long before the afikomen was found.

The second seder was a team effort, though my poor husband did most of the leading again. I wonder if he realized that studying to become a rabbi (on top of being the eldest) meant that he was taking on this kind of responsibility. This reminded me of how recently my husband’s been called upon to make some witty commentary on the parsha whenever we’re at someone else’s Shabbat table. Groan.

Luckily, at the seder, my husband’s younger brother, a college student who makes it his business to learn 24-7 as he explores a possible career as a rabbi, chimed in several times with little stories related to the seder. I don’t always understand what little bro is saying, what with all the Yiddish and Hebrew he peppers in, but the family jumps down his throat every time he fails to explain himself to us newbies so I’m technically covered. Still by the time all the screaming is through after he tries to speak yeshivish, I kind of lose my train of thought.

Our trip to LA turned into one of those frightfully stressful family trips again despite bringing my sister along. I probably wouldn’t have survived as well if not for her. Unfortunately, LA is always a culture shock. When I’m not on the outs with one family member, it seems like I’m on the outs with another. My husband juggles his family, our family and time for himself rather badly while he’s there. And I’m overwhelmed by such close contact with family gatherings. I grew up in a bubble where extended family rarely visited much after I hit double digits.

A close friend offered that the added conflict comes from class and race issues. In Los Angeles, I still feel like I’m trapped in Pretty Woman trying to buy fancy digs on Rodeo Drive and failing miserably. Whenever I forget I’m the only Hispanic person besides the maid, some subtle or blatant (We’re in America, so speak English or get out!) racial comment wakes me up. My friend says I’m having a hard time processing how to be “white” by which he means fake, um, I mean polite, or um, gracious. My true feelings are often broadcast through my facial expressions or from my lips.

And did I mention that most of the apartments I’ve lived in could fit in the garage of some of the fancier houses off Pico & Robertson. Washington Heights is a long, long way from being five minutes from Beverly Hills. Only in Beverly Hills, after all, can my husband point to a random pedestrian and joke that he’s probably a star and actually be right (it turned out to be the guy who played Leo on Charmed). LA just doesn’t feel real. Kind of like most of my life, right now.

One thought on “Seder Confusion

  1. Hi AlizaSo happy to read that you made use of our book ‘300 Ways to Ask the Four Questions’ at your Seder. One of the greatest pleasures we have derived from all of the work put into this publication is that folks like youself have used and enjoyed the book. And that in some small way we have influenced thousands of Seders, including yours, in such a positive way.RegardsRickey Stein


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