Guide for the Perplexed

By Shira Levine

Published September 30, 2005, issue of September 30, 2005.

The day it is suggested that your mother’s kitchen isn’t kosher enough is the day the cinnamon-raisin kugel hits the fan. The Jewish holidays can be a stressful time for families, particularly for those whose members adhere to different levels of religious observance. Nearly every clan has someone in need of a special diet, but accommodating guests with soy chicken and gluten-free challah is a cakewalk when compared with the intricacies of the laws of kashrut.

Thankfully, the family grappling with issues prompted by new observance now has somewhere to turn.

Azriela Jaffe, an observant Jew from a nonobservant background, has documented her own experience and created a how-to book for families. “What Do You Mean, You Can’t Eat In My Home?” offers guidance for the less observant family flummoxed by newly observant relatives and vice versa. Jaffe delves into dozens of possible scenarios and gives tips on how to alleviate strains on family relationships and keep holidays and other family celebrations joyous.

The book tackles potential family conflicts using playful chapter headings like “What Do You Mean, You Can’t Go to the Beach With Us Anymore?” and “What Do You Mean, You’re Getting Married? You’ve Just Met Each Other!”

“What Do You Mean” is, at its heart, an attempt to bring into harmony two of the Ten Commandments: the Fourth (keeping the Sabbath) and Fifth (honoring your parents). How does one honor, respect and stay connected to family, embrace religious observance and not cause loved ones to feel rejected? A tall order, indeed.



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