Most of you know, Iâ€™m jewish by accident of birth, and proximity to and love of family (to whom it may or may not mean a little or lot more), but personally, I can take it or leave it. Mostly I am not proud of the special antics of visible Jewish behaviour and am definitely the other side of Zionism (which is a whole â€˜nother story and can be found on this blog in better and more serious detail hereÂ and here).
I am often in mood swings with the Jewish stuff; I love making and eating kneidlach, which I do generally very well. I have some fond memories of Jewish occasions and traditions, kept in a bastardised kind of way by my grand parents, and I love Kletzmer music with a deep and abiding soul connection. I will speak out against all forms of anti-Semitism in the same way as I do with racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia â€“ I despise discrimination and hate those that practice it. But the truth is, I am often embarrassed by the way Jews behave!
So, what happens? I fall in love with, and marry, a perfectly un-Jewish gentile (his 6ft4 frame stands like a lamp post amongst my very Jewish family of bedside cabinets), who is delighted, entertained and fascinated by all things Jewish. Big Friendly has three â€˜yarmiesâ€™. He asked for and received a Channukiya for a wedding gift. He indulges in an Afrikaans-ised Yiddish that is as hilarious as it is corrupt. He loves Shabbash (Shabbat, with our friends the Noodles). He geshvitzes and shloofs. He gets toegedreidt (instead of tsudreit (sp)) and he loves all Jewish references in movies and books. Go figure.
When my cousin decided to come to Jozi from Australia to hold a rolling four day barmitzvah for her son I realised that is was going to be a series of firsts for Brenton. And it was brilliant.
Day 1 was a drive through a sleepy public-holiday-Jozi city centre to get to the Lionâ€™s Shul. All Jozi Jews of a certain age remember this shul near the old Alhambra Theatre because of the two lion statues on either side of the doors. It was Big Friendlyâ€™s first time at any shul. He was a little unnerved that men and women would sit separately and so I sent him in with my brother, and I went upstairs to the opposite balcony so that we could at least see each other and pull faces. The shul is cute, old and gorgeous, with lots to look at. Imagine Big Friendlyâ€™s total surprise when some of the men, with giant prayer shawls in place, hauled two little leather strapped boxes out of bags and started putting them on heads and arms. His eyes nearly popped out of his skull.
After the service, and his horror at the kids pelting the barmy boy with sweets (Big Friendlyâ€™s second fave things, next to chocolates), his amazement at the Brocha spread, and his fascination at how, throughout the service everyone kept up a constant chatter, he asked me why one of the men was a ninja. He felt very sorry that this guy, the ninja, had been asked to leave for a section of the service. He in fact was a Cohen, who had to leave so the family could get preference for coming up to the bimah (you try and explain that!).
That night, at the party, I watched Big Friendly as the barmy boy was hoisted high above heads on a chair and shaken about in celebration. I watched as the look of confusion spread when he took in the barmy singer, singing along to the remix track of â€œSimeltov u Mazeltovâ€ and his amazement at the food and the Jewish love of it.
Then there was the Friday night supper. Brenton loves the Kiddush wine. I had to give him my glass as well. He still laughs every time he hears that there will be benching, and he forgets every time that it means grace after meals.
Then there was the actual service and main reading at the Glenhazel shul on the Saturday morning. It was a long one, in a giant, modern shul. I donâ€™t remember why, but Brenton absolutely loved it. Maybe because he got given another special yarmie. My fave moment was when a wooden walking stick suddenly went horizontal among the seated men, and I watched as ancient Hymie tried to poke my cousin with it; he needed help to go to the bathroom.
Saturday lunch in an old Joburg garden was when Big Friendly attached to Frank the French bulldog. And when we drank pink gin and watched kids versus adults play the most vicious, dangerous and hard-core game of soccer.
It was intense.
Being home is a lot less Jewish.