During Passover, our home looks very different – tinfoil on the counters, boxes on the floors, cabinets taped closed, different tablecloths, etc. Someone new walking in would wonder what was going on (unless, of course, they did the same things in their homes). It’s pretty easy to identify a Jewish home on Passover, and on many other holidays as ritual items come out as needed. However, the question is: what makes your home Jewish on a daily basis? How would someone know they have walked into a Jewish home? How do you remember your “Jewishness” from an ambiance perspective – what are the visual reminders?
Take a family walk through your home starting at the front door and look for those things that identify your home as a Jewish one. From there, decide what you might change (and you might not do anything). What are some possible signs?
Mezuzot – Front door? Back door? Every room?
Jewish art – pictures, ceramics, ketubah…
Ritual objects – where do you keep your Shabbat candlesticks? Is the menorah put away except on Chanukah?
Jewish books on the book shelves
Talk about the intangibles that make your home a Jewish home – what are the sounds and the smells? How are holidays and special days unique? Much of Jewish practice and celebration happens in the home – the rabbis tell us that our dining room table is our “temple” where we bring the family together for blessings.
The next step is to think about other Jewish places in your lives. One of my J team’s responsibilities is Jewish ambiance at the J. What does that entail? What makes the J look and feel Jewish? What about other Jewish organizations? Synagogues have it easy but what about our Federation building or Jewish Family Services building or the offices of our many organizations? What should these places look like “Jewishly”?
The goal? How do we “remember” our Jewishness in our daily lives – when we are “walking on our way?” What do you carry with you both physically and internally that says, “I am Jewish?” How do you make those decisions? When Passover ends and the tinfoil is taken off the counters, don’t let the questioning end? We continue to challenge ourselves to question and repair our world from the inside out.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.