What makes your home Jewish?

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

It is 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. 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 hanukkiah put away except on Hanukkah?
  • Jewish books on the bookshelves
  • What else?

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.

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 Service of Greater Dallas or the offices of our many organizations? What should these places look like Jewishly? What do you have in your place of business (that may not be a Jewish place)? What should you have?

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? These questions have become even more important today as we wonder how we should show and demonstrate our Jewish identity to the outside world. Whatever your decisions, it is often the thoughts and conversations that are the most important.

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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