It wasn’t a union that my grandparents could have even imagined when they were living in Cairo.
But they accepted it, cognizant of the decision they made to raise their daughters as secular Americans.
Eventually I discovered how much my grandparents were a part of this tradition.
I was told from a very young age that I was Jewish, but that was all the information I received from my family.
Like many others raised in a non-religious household, by the time I was an adult, the only associations I had with Judaism were my grandparent’s food and language: Molokheya and Judeo-Arabic. I was born in Los Angeles to my Egyptian mother and my Mexican father.
When the former chief rabbi of Egypt, Rabbi Aharon ben Shim’on was asked whether someone could use matches on Yom Tov, he could have said no and left it at that.
But instead, he wrote an introduction that sums up the Sephardic mentality: Human knowledge has increased through the investigation and the new discoveries of the principles of Creation, and with it, man’s industrial and technical capabilities.
Searching with candles every comparable detail which could be found in the Talmud –which is like a deep ocean– to arrive, perhaps, to a practical conclusion and final ruling.
And in addition to all this, once a conclusion is reached, one has to have a special merit to be spared from the critics, those whose expertise is to condemn, because they were trained to criticize arguments, and not to build them In the end, his decision wasn’t as important as his approach to the question.When I did, I approached Judaism with all of my strength, and thankfully it was matched by wonderful Ashkenazi rabbis willing to teach my everything they knew.But despite the vast knowledge these rabbis had to share, they were unaware of what they didn’t know, and therefore couldn’t help me with some of my hardest struggles.The first time I entered a synagogue was many years after the passing of my grandparents.I was 19 years old, and I had only accepted the invitation extended to me because I was a starving college student and they were offering free food.They made that decision after a lifetime of forced travels brought on by their Judaism.