Emma Sass
Grateful to be Grateful

When Sushi Unites: Why This UK-Israeli Ashkenazi Jew Eats Kitniyot

Being single for what felt like forever in the religious community, sucked. Although I had a ton of friends, a great community, wonderful family, I never ever felt like I belonged. And I hated that. Indeed, it’s a common human trait, this need to belong.

The problem was though, would I ever really belong? Even when I did get married (eliminating much of that feeling), I still faced elements of this all-too-expansive dichotomy. Looking back, a great deal of what attracted me to my husband when we were dating was his acceptance (which translated into the sense of belonging I craved) as he too didn’t quite fit. The semi-professional pool-playing, tefilin-donning, kippa-wearing flirtatious soul I met and married went quite well with the X-boy pant-wearing, shacharit-davening, innuendo-dropping girl who is me.

So when we got married it was great. We had found our fit. And we belonged.

But then we faced the larger community and sense of belonging, which we hadn’t mastered. Don’t get me wrong; in some situations it’s great and I embrace it. But, if and when I can be a part of something greater than myself without having to compromise who I am (or who we are), then I’m all for it.

Which is one of the main reasons I decided to go for the whole kitniyot thing.

I mean, isn’t it enough that I am unable to be articulate myself proficiently in the language of our country? Doesn’t it make me stand out already being a substantially older parent at the gan parties? Isn’t my distinction obvious by the fact that I don’t participate in cholent-based Shabbat lunches that start at 11 am as I’m still sleeping or reading a trashy novel?

So thus when an opportunity like this presents itself…a chance to join our Sephardi brethren, an invitation to smile knowingly at our cousins in a restaurant that has “L’Ochlei Kitniyot Bilvad” on its window, to even be part of the Mimuna after Pesach, should I really reject it? For what? Because my ancestors who were not blessed with the zechut to make Israel their home, hundreds of years ago were told by the Rabbis back home that they should not eat kitniyot as there may have been a problem? Do we not have enough problems already that we’re aware of?

While I keep so many of my minhagim (or my husband’s) from years gone by, isn’t it wonderful to make my own, on something that would likely have been so unimportant to my family in the past anyway? And by so doing, give their neshamas a liluy by living in the land and in the way of the land that they were denied?

Because by taking on this minhag of davka eating kitniyot, aren’t I — on some very small level — contributing to the cohesion of Am Yisrael rather than being a divisive force in it?

There are so many people we don’t talk to for one reason or another. And due to my insufficient command the language that is made even worse. But if I can at least go into a Kitniyot restaurant on Pesach and smile at my Sephardi cousins and say “Chag Sameach” to them, telling them indirectly that I am taking on their minhagim, then I believe I’m doing something positive without causing any negativity.

So I propose we raise our kitniyot-glasses and give a l’chaim to our fellow Israelis, as we bask in the memory of our ancestors.

And what better way to unite the Jews than through food…#anyexcuseforsushi!

About the Author
At 48 years old, Emma Sass is blessed to be the most content she has ever been.
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