People sometimes ask me: isn’t it hard to keep kosher if you weren’t raised that way?
It’s true: I did not grow up keeping kosher. My mom grew up with parents who forced religion on her: she was forced to go to Hebrew school and to have a Confirmation. So when my mom had me, she was determined NOT to force religion on me, and I appreciate that. It means that religion is something I have chosen for myself. I was given the option when I was about 10 to either go to Hebrew school to prepare for a Bat Mitzvah, or to start playing a second instrument. At the time I was already playing the piano and I had been asking to take up trumpet lessons, too. I chose the second instrument rather than the Hebrew school. In middle school when all of my friends had Bar & Bat Mitzvahs I started to feel somewhat jealous… and not just because of the big parties they were having. I wanted to know how to read Hebrew, and I wanted to know more about the history and traditions in Judaism. In 9th and 10th Grades I went to Confirmation classes and I was Confirmed at the end of 10th grade. After that I decided that I wanted Judaism to be a bigger part of my life: I participated in the Diller Teen Fellows, a community service and leadership program for Jewish Teens in the Bay Area. Then when I looked for colleges, finding one with a strong Jewish community was important to me. I chose Johns Hopkins, and met Ken at Hillel during my freshman orientation. Since I had never really cooked before we got married, cooking kosher came very naturally to me. I didn’t have any non-kosher cooking habits that I had to “grow out of,” so to speak… I just sort of jumped right in, and it’s been very easy!
I was thinking the other day about the word “kosher,” and I thought of some funny ways that it is used: my mom used to say that something “wasn’t kosher” if she didn’t like it… for example, she would say that oysters weren’t “kosher” but it was because she didn’t like them, not because they really aren’t kosher (they’re not). I remember sometimes when she would say that to people who didn’t know what kosher meant, they would get really confused… because to my mom, Mussels are kosher (i.e. she likes them) but Oysters are not. People also use the term “kosher” to mean something that’s okay, allowed, or permissible.