I look Jewish. Of the three girls, I'm the one who always gets told that. I have the curly (frizzy) hair and the "pronounced" (read: large) nose. I'm also the shortest and fattest of the girls. #blessed
I've never cared. That's not true, actually. I take pride in it. I've never been one to hide who I am. I am a Jew. Before all else. I mother as a Jew, I wife as a Jew, I daughter as a Jew, I sister as a Jew, I work as a Jew, I friend as a Jew, I live as a Jew. I've never been one to blend in. In Israel they consider me American. In America, an Israeli. People always tell me I resemble someone they know. My standard answer to that? "She sounds beautiful!"
There was a time I wanted a nose job. There are still times I kick the idea around. My father's rule was that I had to embrace who I was and what I looked like before I could consider changing it. Otherwise, he claimed, I'd never be happy. No man was better prepared to father three girls than my father. So while I still sometimes consider the idea, it's never a priority and I always find something I'd rather do with that money.
I'm also a wash and go girl. I wash my hair, towel dry it, put in a drop of conditioner, and go. No muss no fuss. In the winter, it's a great strategy. In the spring, it's iffy, at best. During the summer, I look like your crazy aunt, Bertha, who you pray doesn't show up to family simchas. My hair has no curl in July. I wish that were an exaggeration. I rocked the frizz for years until I learned of keratin. Now, I place myself in the chair once a year, in June, and let the magic take control. I'm not looking for silky, straight hair. I'm simply looking for semblance of control. This year I even opted for shoulder-length hair. Imagine if I attempted that sans keratin...I'd look like a mushroom. Hopefully the length grows at a faster rate than my hair’s regular texture and frizz.
I’ve wondered if I’m hypocritical, or not being true to myself, for acting like a martyr for keeping my Jewish nose while happily changing the texture of my hair. But the hair seems so temporary, that I can live with my hypocrisy. Plus, I’m pretty sure that no one is mistaking me for another ethnicity because my hair is less frizzy. So I’ll enjoy looking like a less-crazy version of myself for a while, which still feels authentically me, and continue to avoid profile pictures.
We celebrated my daughter Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah this past week and I wanted to share a couple of thoughts with you about the day:
At first I wasn’t going to do anything to mark this occasion, and perhaps she would have preferred it that way, but that would have been a mistake. What we all celebrated and experienced last Sunday was beyond my wildest dreams. Watching her up there, singing songs about the many amazing women who came before us all, and reciting her speech of how she will carry forward her Jewish faith and values, made me so proud and more emotional than even I expected.
It also reminded me that there are many different ways to celebrate this momentous occasion: we chose to have a small lunch with our closest relatives around us. It may have been unorthodox, but that was right for her. It may not be right for everyone, but we live in modern times where we CAN choose how we want to celebrate the big and not-so-big milestones, and I very much appreciated that our Rabbi (and his incredible wife) worked with us to figure out the approach that was right for her. Not for me. Not for them. But for her.
I also wanted to share with you something we had read during her ceremony I felt was perfect as she embarks on the next chapter in her Jewish journey. (I take no credit for writing this, I had borrowed it from someone else):
We wish for you to be a person of character
Strong, but not tough
Gentle, but not weak.
We wish for you to be righteous,
but not self-righteous
Honest, but not unforgiving.
Wherever you journey,
May your steps be firm and may you walk in just paths and not be afraid.
Whenever you speak, May your words be words of wisdom and friendship.
May your hands build and your heart preserve what is good and beautiful in the world.
May the voices of the generations of our people move through you
And may the God of our ancestors be your God as well.
May you know that there is a people, a rich heritage, to which you belong.
And from that sacred place, you are connected to all who dwell on earth.
May the stories of our people be upon your heart,
And may the grace of the Torah rhythm dance in your soul.
As my very wise neighbor Vivian told me recently, the biggest gift and blessing she’s been given is having been born a Jew. She takes that responsibility and the “values and morality that come along with it” very seriously.
I hope my daughter Hannah understands the responsibility she carries with her as a Jewish woman now that she’s been Bat Mitzvah’d.