Monica Rozenfeld moves to Brooklyn with two roommates — a Catholic and an observant Jew — and they each seek understanding of what it means to be religious.
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Passing Over Passover
It was as if it never was here. When one is in graduate school, the most important thing is a break, a vacation – Disney World. Annie and I up and went last minute to the land of dreams, miracles and fairytales; a land where Passover almost doesn’t exist.
I didn’t even think about it.
You might remember another time when I wouldn’t have considered missing Passover. I would be the one in the family to make sure we get to shul, to be upset if my family was not getting together, to seek out seder meals. But I don’t feel that way anymore. After this trip, however, I wonder if I’ve become altogether dismissive of the power of a Jewish holiday.
It was a bit ironic that on the third day of Passover, four days before Easter, Annie and I show up to the gates of Disney World and in the sky was written “U + God = Smiley Face.”
It went on to write JESUS. Invictus. And some other words that faded as soon as it hit the sky. It was as if a fanatical religious man stole a skywriter and had a field day. But it reminded me — Hey! It’s Passover!
The only Passover-friendly food in our included breakfast was the yogurt. Bread, bacon, sausage, cinnamon rolls… I didn’t even think about it, until I thought about it.
However, what really reminded me of my Jewish-ness is when a guy near the pool said, “This is the week that all the Jews from New York and New Jersey come here,” with a laugh and a tone that made me squirm. I wanted to walk over there and say, “So What?” But I pretended as if I didn’t hear. It’s a reminder to me that being Jewish is not something I should take for granted, but should wear on my sleeve a little more than I do. Especially when my dad was the one to call and say Happy Passover first before I thought to call.
It didn’t all feel like that; in fact most of the time I didn’t even think about it. (I repeat this line because I really didn’t, at all, and I wonder why.) Spending a week on vacation with my Catholic best friend is also a reminder of why I didn’t go all the way in my religion. She is the only person in my life that can make lemonade out of lemons, no matter where we are, no matter what. She is the only person who will look at me the same whether I leave Judaism or move to an ultrareligious neighborhood with a rabbi husband and 17 kids. I couldn’t find that kind of friendship in Judaism.
Getting away might have taken me away from a traditional way to celebrate a holiday, it might have made me feel slightly guilty or defensive at times, but it also introduced me to miracles. Like a mom at the poolside taking care of her son with cerebral palsy. Him releasing his hands from fists is a miracle to this mother and she did everything she could to make that happen. It’s the 7-foot tall man in a Hawaiian shirt that kept dancing all night no matter who was watching or who was laughing, reminding me that I wished I could be more like that. It was seeing Disney World through the eyes of younger versions of myself who reminded me we too once had a sense of awe and wonder without any doubt.
We return to the apartment with an aluminum-foiled kitchen that Farrah made Kosher for Passover, and the chocolate matzahs that Farrah gave me before my trip that I totally forgot to bring. I guess I didn’t realize that I am still searching for my place in Judaism. Seeing our kitchen that way is a funny reminder of what I once wanted to be. I now know there is still some work for me to do.
Perhaps, with the meaning of the holiday, it was the perfect Passover, after all.