Photo: April Killingsworth

Navigating Passover Without A Jewish Family Tree

Perhaps nothing reminds me more that I am a convert than when Passover is approaching. Each year my love for being a Jew deepens and I FEEL more and more Jewish but then spring approaches and BAM! – there is that pesky lack of a Judaic family tree again. Over the years, this time of year makes me a little sad and stressed that I need to bring home the proverbial (pardon my trayf humor) Seder bacon and get the invites because I am married (and always have been) to a non-Jewish man and our children are still a little too young to be used to beg for Pesach invites.

Usually, I am never anything but proud of my quirky heritage and its uniquely patterned pieces but Passover makes me long for what my born-Jewish friends have with their automatic Seder invitations and easy, comfortable traditions. But this year, as I gratefully accepted our second invite and thus fulfilling my annual obligation once again I realized that just perhaps I am actually the luckiest one of all.

Over the past 12 or so years and twice as many Sederim, I have experienced what feels like an infinite number of Seder traditions. There were multiple times at my friend Megan’s in St. Paul where I got to be in awe that she was so completely together even with two little kids and being, like myself, a convert married to a non-Jew. Squished together with a wonderfully eclectic group of Passover guests around a table in a house that seemed to grow smaller and hotter and louder as the hours ticked by my first Seder experiences were around her table. I can still remember how blessedly wonderful the cold Minnesota air felt in that hot house when she opened the door to welcome in Elijah for that very first time (all the while standing there with frazzled hair and her handmade Haggadah). My husband and I lost our Passover naïveté as Megan rushed here and there trying to be not only the best hostess but also a Kosher l’Pesach one. As I tried to remember which way to lean into my pillow I watched her whirling dervishness with a mixture of both awe and a desire to sit her down and shove a glass of wine into her hand.

Then there was the time we went to a rabbi’s house for Passover, and my husband and I learned that if you ever get an invitation to go to a rabbi’s house for Passover you should always go – but it’s also okay to be a little scared. We arrived promptly on time only to learn that that meant we were 30 minutes early. As the Rabbi greeted us and took our wine offering I couldn’t help notice him checking to make sure it was KLP (it was; my husband made sure of that). The evening that followed was a night to remember – we almost didn’t even start eating dinner until after midnight. My husband and I were welcomed into traditions which felt like they were being created just for that one night and for just that unique set of players.

But perhaps the most special and memorable Sederim are the most recent ones – those nearest to the front of memory. That is certainly the case for me. Last year, after some very difficult years, my husband and I chose to return to Minnesota from our native Washington State to try and find our happy place again. So for last Pesach, we were with some of our dearest friends in homes at the exact tables that I had longed to be at again for so many years before. For the first night, we went as a family and my toddlers deliriously spent a rare evening playing with a gaggle of children as my husband and I had a rarer moment to just be in the moment. For the second night, I went alone to a more adult Seder with comfortable friends who had welcomed me to their home so many times before that it still felt like MY home even after being away for so long.

As I sat at their table on a warm April night, feeling more Jewish and welcomed than I had felt in a long time the hard previous years were still very much on my mind. I couldn’t help feeling that I didn’t even need to wait until next year. I was already in my Jerusalem.

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Karen Riomondo is a TC JewFolk Guest Author

TC Jewfolk guest writers come from a wide range of backgrounds. We're always looking for new voices. Interested in writing about Jewish movies, music, politics, gossip, news or ritual? Email [email protected]

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