Growing up Jewish in America

My father was more traditional than my mother. Growing up I remember this – maybe I was eight years old, nine, ten, something like that – my mother always used to make this large pot of soup, or used to bake hallah bread, or make a lot of food because we had a lot of kids. And she would always make enough to deliver on Friday afternoon to homebound people in the neighborhood where . . . in the congregation that my father served. And one Friday afternoon . . . And I would always go with my father. Actually I and the brother just under me who is 18 months younger. I and my brother would always go with my father. On one Friday afternoon my mother turns to us . . . turns to me and says, “Irwin, now this is very important. What you’re going to do right now with your father is what Judaism is. Tomorrow when you go to synagogue . . .” I went every single Saturday from the time I was a little baby – the Sabbath . . . “Tomorrow you go because you respect your father and your father sings wonderfully, but that has nothing to do with Judaism. This is Judaism.” And now that’s actually kind of an abusive thing to say to a child because that’s nuts. How is a 10-year old gonna hold that together who is also going to parochial school at the same time? Basically what I learned – and I think it animated me for the rest of my life – is whatever is your practice and ritual in any religious system or any theory about living, it better actually produce people who can deliver food. Recorded on: 8/15/07

From his traditional Jewish parents, Kula learned that throughout any practice and ritual in any religious system or any theory about living, there must be people who can produce food. He also cites the experience of becoming a Jewish man through listening to the songs of his father, a cantor in his family's synagogue.

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