I was raised Catholic which while I found hauntingly beautiful, left me with three main skills. Background choral singing talent for an off-key organist. Kneeling. Daydreaming. It wasn’t for my parents’ lack of effort, I might add. My parents LOVED Jesus. This love was so passionate that you better believe that if I fooled around in church, I would be sitting in a chair with my hands folded in my lap for an hour in my living room when we returned home. Religion class at church was followed by religious instruction at home. I made my First Communion while battling Scarlet Fever. One year, I was even a stand-in Joseph in the Nativity play. Oh the woes of the nickname “Joesica” for a sensitive 8 year old girl!
With such a strict Catholic background, I’m not exactly sure when my fascination with Judaism began. Maybe it was college, as a religion minor I fell in love with my Old Testament course. Creation, Eden, Noah’s Arc and then it got really interesting…Sodom and Gomorrah and The Lion’s Den. Fire, hell and brimstone…oh my! I also worked as a secretary at a sports camp in the Berkshires for a few summers and was absolutely enmeshed in Jewish culture. It came to my attention that summer camps may be an outlet particularly intended for Jewish parents. Names like Silverstein, Berkowitz and Perlman dominated my files and they rolled off of my lips in the most satisfying manner.
I remember telling my sister, a free-spirited photography student in NYC that I felt I was born into the wrong religion and wished to learn more about Judaism and particularly those mysteriously delicious Jewish men. My sister said that the Hasidic Jews who worked at the store in which she bought her film were ever interested in getting to know her better, and pretty persistent. She felt my chances were good at landing my own. Yet, I felt intimidated…like I had been branded with the symbol of the trinity on my forehead.
It wasn’t until years later that I happened upon a dangerously sexy Jew. He was older, very mysterious and as religiously conflicted as I. Although our entanglement was short it was a sweet punctuated moment in time that satiated my dark Jewish desires. One night while out for drinks he informed me that I was a shiksa, a woman that he could never have. And so he took me to his mother’s house, to torment her I suppose.
The Urban Dictionary, which I find equally enlightening and entertaining, has whole lists of terms that make me giggle. From this I learned that a “shiksa” is a Gentile (any person who is not a Jew or often specifically a Christian) and often typecast as a blonde woman who has especially attracted a Jewish man. This is NOT a term of endearment I might add. Rather, a derogatory term used by Jewish women to insult non-Jewish women. I kind of like it.
So when Hannukah arrives, it rekindles the mystery for me and I can’t help but feel a little jealous that I am without a menorah of my own. This year I was invited to my first Hanukkah party and although I’d love to run out and bedazzle the Star of David on a blue and white sweatshirt I figure I’d just make dessert instead. My recipe for Chocolate Ginger Cake can be found at the left, fondly referred to as Shiksa Cake.