Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, Passover. The three times in a year that I send reminders to my adult daughters that they’re Jewish.
OK, they know they’re Jewish, after all they were both born in Israel, and Hebrew, though forgotten, was their father tongue. But do they know when it’s erev Rosh Hashanah this year? Or Yom Kippur? Even though they’ll work and eat that day, it would be nice if they didn’t treat it as just another day, but thought about its heft—and their lives from the standpoint of being Jewish.
It seems better not to test them, though, so I send out reminders. How do I remind them? This is the triannual conundrum.
This year for Passover I sent chocolate-covered matzahs. One daughter got vegan ones which she finished quickly, but I knew she would because she always loved them. My other daughter found the gourmet ones that I sent to be too sweet. I had hoped that she would care enough about me and the holiday to eat them. Three of the four that came in the box were still in her pantry in June. I ate them when I visited. She was right: they were too sweet, but they were also bitter. Not the bitterness of slavery, perhaps the bitterness of a missed connection.
On Hanukkah, I usually send candles. While this has a clear connection to the holiday, sending sage and sea-breeze scented candles feels hollow. Really? Is that it? Light a candle, any candle, and connect to the Festival of Lights. Seems about as deep-meaning as Santa Claus for Christmas. I continue to send Hannukah gifts, though, to proclaim our heritage in that time when our menorahs in the window are overshadowed by other holiday lights.
Last year on Rosh Hashanah, I sent pomegranate-shaped trivets. They are beautiful and useful, but what uplifting message did that send? Another statement without much meaning. It’s a holiday! Did they remember the significance of pomegranates or google it? My hope at this point is that they give a momentary pause when using them, “Oh, here’s a Rosh Hashanah gift from Mom.”
This year, I sent a collection of honeys and other jarred foods from Israel, along with a honey pot that says d’vash (honey in Hebrew). They’re still in-transit. This gift feels more connected to our past and a drop more meaningful than some of the other gifts I’ve sent. I hope they appreciate them and the holiday connection.
But after endlessly scrolling through Jewish gift websites and Etsy items made in Israel looking for the perfect gift to signify the holiday but not suggest observance, I realized that I need to stop thinking that I can control what they do—that time has passed—and be proud of who they are, Jewish observance or not, because they are my Jewish daughters. I may still send dried fruit and a new Haggadah on Passover, but I’ll send them as an expression of my love of who they are and the history they are part of, rather than a critical nudge.