25 February 2015
Jews of Christchurch
Being Jewish is something you are born into, although there are a few converts, such as my brother's girlfriend Bernadette. This can be tricky if you are discriminated against by others. Sometimes, a person can be discriminated against in subtle ways. This may be done in passing comments or in running jokes amongst friends. In NZ as well as America, these are often directed at minorities. I have often felt the minority status of being Jewish whilst growing up in central Pennsylvania, a predominately Christian region. Holidays were always complicated because Hanukkah often fell a few weeks before Christmas, and Easter and Passover had one similarity- hard boiled eggs. In Pennsylvania, assimilation into the local culture meant having a Hannukkah bush instead of a Christmas tree. It meant enjoying Spring Plastic Egg Hunts for candy and prizes, and then also celebrating Passover with local Jews at the temple and having matzoh ball soup. Living in Christchurch, we are lucky to have a Canterbury Hebrew Congregation in the city. We can still go to family services on a Friday night and eat matzoh ball soup. Sometimes we even have a Hebrew School teacher to help the kids learn Hebrew and info on the Torah. I value having times where I can be comfortable in my local community as a Jewish person. The Jewish community in Christchurch is unique in that it is a blend of Israelis, Americans, and Kiwis, as well as a handful of Europeans. All come to celebrate holidays and pray for High Holy Days. Purim, a holiday with a carnival theme, is coming up in early March. The kids are having a carnival party at synagogue and the adults are having a drinks and dancing night at Cargo Bar. Most of the Isrealis insist that Purim is a huge holiday in Isreal and that drinking is essential. Mike and I have a friend watching the kids this Friday, so we can go out. A spring Egg hunt will soon be underway at the local park. Then on Sunday, we have the kids' carnival. We will see how that goes. Kids had a great time last year celebrating. I am glad that we have other friends in the minority to hang out with, and some friends in the majority Christian Kiwi society that accept us for who we are. Jews are all a bit different from each other in NZ, but we all have many commonalities that bind us as a community.