Let's begin at the beginning.
When I was a young bride, standing under the chuppah (the Jewish bridal canopy, symbolizing, among other things, the future home the couple will build), the rabbi (oh, come on, you know what a rabbi is) exhorted me to be a good Jewish wife: to light candles on the Sabbath, to observe the holy days, and to bring up my children in the Jewish faith. All of which I did.
Yet in spite of the fact that I followed all of the rules --or perhaps because of it--my children (including one of the authors of this book) have presented me with a succession of non-Jewish in-laws . . . and they're still coming. Over the years, my children's spouses became my children as well. By the way, the rabbi who literally put the fear of God into me on that long-ago wedding day wasn't spared the changing times either. He lived long enough to welcome an African-American in-law into his own family.
I still keep a Jewish home, to the occasional bemusement of my non-Jewish children-in-law. They have had to learn to eat latkes (potato pancakes) on Hanukkah and participate in the Passover seder. It hasn't always been easy, but to our credit, we all keep trying. If they ever get around to giving me grandchildren, I'm sure the complications will multiply. And I'm just as sure that we will deal with them.
In the old days, in the Eastern European shtetls (think Fiddler on the Roof) to which most American Jews can trace their roots, life was easier. All you had to worry about was scratching out a living and running away from the cossacks. Assimilation was out of the question.
When my great-grandmother Judith--my bubbe--came to this country, she brought with her little besides her heavy brass Sabbath candlesticks and some five thousand years of tradition. My grandmother passed these along to me, along with the family recipe for chicken soup and some nice shares of AT&T--before it started splitting.
I sold the stock but I still have the candlesticks, which I hope one of my daughters will inherit and use. Plus I have the recipe, practically guaranteed to cure everything from mild depression to menstrual cramps to the common cold, which I will share with you. What else can a Jewish mother do?
Mom's Chicken Soup
1 stewing hen, cleaned and quartered
Several teaspoons salt (keep tasting, I never seem to add enough)
4-6 carrots, peeled
4-6 large stalks of celery, cut up
2 large onions, peeled and halved
Small bunch of parsley
In a stock pot, cover chicken with water, add salt, and bring to a boil. With slotted spoon, skim off the film that forms at top of the pot (use a clean paper towel to clean the rim). Reduce heat and cover. Peel and cut up the vegetables and add to the pot after skimming again, if necessary. It is not a bad idea to add more salt at this point as well. Simmer for three hours. Cool and strain. (Strip chicken from bones to use in chicken salad or casseroles; slice carrots to float in soup if desired, but store separately.) Refrigerate liquid until fat forms a solid crust at the top of the container. It can easily be lifted off at this point and discarded. Reheat soup and serve with wide egg noodles or matzah balls and plenty of love.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from What to Do When You're Dating a Jew by Vikki Weiss and Jennifer A. Block. Copyright © 2000 by Vikki Weiss and Jennifer A. Block. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.