Different reads on Shavuot


J.J. Goldberg of the Forward calls Shavuot, the Jewish holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah, "The Zeppo Marx of Jewish Holidays:"

Of all the major Jewish holidays, the least familiar to the general, synagogue-avoiding Jewish public is the festival of Shavuot, which commences Tuesday evening, May 18. In fact, its obscurity is so striking that discussions of the holiday commonly start by noting its obscurity, as I did. As a result, it’s probably best known for being little-known, if you follow me. Basically, Shavuot is to Jewish holidays what Zeppo is to the Marx Brothers. It deserves better, but we’ll get to that.

Shavuot is also a holiday celebrating converts — Ruth, whose book we read on the holiday, is the most famous Jewish convert, rewarded with "begetting" King David. In the Jerusalem Post, Ariella Barker writes that when she converted to Judaism three years ago, she expected anti-Semitism but didn’t anticipate that some Jews would be anti-convert. Nor did she suspect she might be in danger of having her conversion be revoked, as it has been in Israel for some converts. She writes:

However, this year, as I count down, or rather up, to Shavuot, the day we all converted at the foot of Sinai, and prepare to read about the biblical convert , who is the progenitor of our greatest human king, King David, and, ultimately, the messiah, I have made the decision to be proud of being aconvert. Today, I have a better understanding of the issue of the convert versus the Jew from birth.

The issue is not who my mother is, but rather who I am. The question for all of us is – what have you done today? Are you a Jew by birth and an idol worshiper by practice? (Insert the name of your favorite idol, be it stone, drugs, money or physical pleasure.) Or are you a Jew by practice? By conversion, I am a Jew. By practice, I am a Jew. 

In Hadassah magazine, food writer extraordinaire Adeena Sussman celebrates the dairy-centered holiday.

Someone very wise indeed must have conceived the dairy blintz. Other than cheesecake, there’s no food more closely associated with Shavuot—and, in my opinion, none more delicious. The Yiddish word blintze, derived loosely from the Slavic word for mill and associated with the finely ground flour used in making them, has permanently entered the American lexicon, and you can find blintzes on menus both posh and proletariat.

For the story and yummy recipes for blintzes with sweet and savory fillings, go here.

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