So what makes a person Jewish? Well you do Jewish things. Such as? Keeping kosher.
Now that I’ve converted, most days I’d probably forget that I’m even Jewish now. Lately my boyfriend has been on my case about how I introduce the Jewish aspect of my life to people. I don’t go around saying, “I’m Jewish!” I did that for about a day and now if the topic ever comes up, which it rarely does, I simply say, “I converted.” According to my boyfriend that makes me sound less Jewish. He’s like, “Stop saying you converted. Just say you’re Jewish.”
Ok. Fine. I’m Jewish. I keep kosher. Amongst other things — the Jewish aspect of my life feels so natural now, I don’t really have to obsess over every detail as much anymore…and there’s still lots to learn, but I’ll learn as I go from here on out. Ultimately, since I wasn’t born Jewish, I can’t say I’m a Jew by birth. I identify as more of a spiritual/religious Jew and that means if I don’t abide by the Jewish laws to some extent, then how can I call myself Jewish at all.
I recently read an article in the Jewish Journal about one European girl’s conversion and she mentioned that the hardest aspect of “becoming Jewish” was keeping kosher. For me, this has been the easiest part. The hardest was learning how to read in Hebrew…and I seriously need to revisit that soon or I’ll totally forget everything I just learnt. So I started keeping kosher by accident before I even considered studying Judaism. My boyfriend has kept kosher since his bar mitzvah and since we often share meals, if I ever had to cook, it had to be kosher and if he ever cooked, it was already kosher. So by default I started eating kosher.
Keeping kosher is under the umbrella of Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws. I respect this because there are a lot of ethics involved. The way an animal is sacrificed brings a minimal amount of pain, so I’m not eating cows that have been tortured in slaughterhouses. And the animal can’t have any physical or health defects. I never considered this before and after I started eating kosher I began to wonder if previously I had been eating disabled cows…or cancerous cows?! You mean to tell me this shyte is not regulated in the non Jewish world?! No wonder everyone’s dying from cancer! We need to stop eating cancer cows!
Kosher also means you can’t mix meat or dairy, because dairy comes from animals…and according to my boyfriend if you eat meat in dairy, it’s like eating an animal in it’s mother’s milk…the logic is something along those lines. Makes sense I suppose. Other than that, no pork or shellfish. Not necessarily because pigs are gross but because they’re smart animals…and you probably shouldn’t eat an intelligent animal. Plus pigs are cute. I mean who knows why you can’t eat pork entirely. That aspect of it was always a bit unclear to me. But if you are what you eat, then shellfish are considered bottom feeders and pigs, well they’re pigs. I did, however, go through a brief withdrawal from bacon cause you know I’m a pig (I like to eat) — ok. not that funny. But Jim Gaffigan did this standup set about how bacon is the best and it affected my appetite for bacon a bit…or a lot. But the one time I caved and ate bacon, bad things happened to me that day, so I decided it was in my best interests to just keep kosher and not risk getting cursed. hahaha
Now, I’ve met a lot of Jewish people who don’t bother keeping kosher and I even stumbled on this Rabbi’s account of why she doesn’t keep kosher. So it’s not something every Jew abides by…I think in general the Orthodox are much better at sticking to it. But it requires discipline to keep kosher, for example you can’t order certain foods at non-kosher restaurants, but since so much of my life had lacked routine and structure prior to studying Judaism, I feel like some boundaries, even dietary boundaries are healthy for me. And seriously, it’s not like trying to be vegan or anything. And we happen to have a Kosher market on the corner of our street – Ariel Glatt Kosher Market.
We happen to live in a highly populated Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, which means we have close access to some of the best kosher restaurants in town and even the local Ralphs has a kosher section.
But really, since I started eating kosher the quality of what I eat has improved astronomically. My boyfriend used to own a French Mediterranean restaurant in Palm Springs with his dad, so he’s ensured we always eat 5 Star quality.
Here’s a visual glimpse into my kosher life.
A lot of these recipes are extracted from a cookbook entitled, Jerusalem. Plus, all vegetables, dairy products & fish are naturally considered kosher and we improvise a lot – chocolate chip challah french toast, fancy meatballs, stuffed zucchinis…etc. To sum up my Jewish dietary life is awesome!
The hardest part has been sticking to the time restrictions between dairy and meat – 3 hours in the particular Jewish tradition I’m sticking to, others wait 6 hours. It’s just I like milk in my coffee and I drink coffee all the time. But for the most part I’m used to it now.
Put it this way, as poor and financially deficient as I have been lately, I have never missed a meal and I’ve been eating like a Queen, a Jewish Queen, or Jewess let’s say.
Keeping kosher makes eating much more of a spiritual experience and since we stuff our mouths at least three times a day, I suppose it should be spiritual. So there you have it: Keeping Kosher!