Vicki Boykis wants her child to grow up steeped in American Judaism — but not at the expense of their Russian heritage. How can she convey that Pushkin is as much their culture as Sholom Aleichem?
I spent the summer before college holed up in my room in front of my laptop watching strange cartoon letters take shape and trying to replicate them on my own. I was teaching myself Hebrew.
I live in Philadelphia. My parents live two hours away. So, when my husband and I were looking for a house last year, one of the most important features was the second/third bedroom. Because that’s where my parents would stay. So every house we looked at carried the specter of my parents. Would they be comfortable here? Would this room be big enough for them? Because I’d lived with them for eighteen years, then on the weekends in college, and I was really looking forward to hosting them in my house.
I was at my local grocery store this weekend, standing in line at the checkout. I saw that the line next to mine was moving faster. With stealthy Soviet queue analysis skills acquired only by years of living with Russian parents, I scanned the lines, assessed the length of time, and made a beeline into the line next to mine. I got through the checkout maybe ten seconds faster than I would have in the other line. I won.
On my blog and here in the Forward, I’ve dissected every single issue of Russian-Jewish life in America, from Russian Dolls, to raising Russian kids. But there’s only so much introspection you can do before you reach a meta-loop and break the universe.
I read an article last month in Philadelphia magazine about how American men aren’t growing up. These kinds of trend pieces aren’t new. Neither are pieces examining why Americans are raising their kids the wrong way. Just look at Amy Chua and the “bringing up the French bébé” phenomenon. But seeing this last one in particular made me think that the Americans are dealing with a nationwide problem that’s independent of whether your child is a Tiger, a Bébé, or just some Russian guy in the Bronx named Boris.
There is nothing more Jewish than Passover, the holiday of hope. There is nothing more Russian than trying to get a little something extra from the U.S. government. So I thought I’d take this time leading up to Pesach to talk about my hope that the Russians who keep defrauding the government cut that out. They’re giving the rest of us a bad name.
The expectations Russian mothers have of their daughters are tough to live up to. The biggest one is that Russian women should know how to cook. And since we have the double privilege of being Jewish, we are expected to know how to make both borscht and latkes, often at the same time as having children, pursuing higher education and having a career, and marrying a Nice Russian Jewish Doctor.
Valentine’s Day is a holiday sometimes tinged with controversy along the secular-religious American Jewish divide. Many people are familiar with the conundrum: should we as Jews celebrate a holiday that has its roots in a Roman priest trying to celebrate Christianity in light of adversity? The holiday has also caused a lot of angst in my Russian-Jewish immigrant household, namely because my parents thought it was ridiculous to spend money on Valentine’s Day cards.