Thursday, May 5, 2011
Jewish guilt. It can be self-generating, you know. I've been feeling guilty because I haven't provided any recipes for a number of days. Then I remembered this recipe, and the lady who gave it to me.
When Rob and I moved to Central Florida, Cory was very young, but getting to the age where a formal religious education was called for. As you might imagine, there wasn't an overabundence of synagogues to choose from. This was one of those culture-shock moments for me, having grown up in the Five Towns section of Nassau County, New York. Long before the area became known for its Chabad and other ultra-Orthodox communities, we still had a choice and variety of every denomination of Judaism within easy driving (and in two cases, walking) distance from my parent's home in North Woodmere. My parents chose a Conservative synagogue, Temple Beth El of Cedarhurst, for my brother's religious education. Rob and I were married in a Conservative synagogue, Temple Hillel of North Woodmere. I guess I was Conservative by default.
As a teenager, and an adult, I did a lot of soul-searching regarding my religion. The saying, "born a Jew, die a Jew" is no joke. If you are born a Jew, and later convert to, say Roman Catholicism, and even later become Pope, when you die, you are considered Jewish. Don't ask me to explain. I cannot imagine being anything but Jewish; at the same time, a lot of the ritual and philosophy associated with Orthodox and some Conservative communities is extremely off-putting to me. I was raised to respect other persons' beliefs, and so it was very difficult for me to get some of the harshest criticism from people of my own religion because I am not a Torah Jew, or even Modern Orthodox. I do not keep kosher. I drive and use electricity on Saturday. I eat pork and shellfish freely and with great relish. I have a very relaxed attitude towards God and intermarriage. There is no one true religion. If God did not want his people to worship in a multitude of different ways, he would not have given us free will.
So I researched the main denominations of Judaism, and self-educated (you notice I didn't get a Hebrew school education), and decided I was comfortable being affiliated with Reform Judaism. Not because I could choose to eat treif and do work on Shabbos, but because Reform Judaism stood for absolute equality among it's members, was the first denomination to allow females to became cantors, to ordain female rabbis, and to offer open arms to intermarried families and gay, lesbian, and transgender Jews. Reform Judaism emphasized ethics, good deeds, charity, inclusion, and outreach.
All of which inevitably led us to accept an invitation from another fine lady, named Shirley Miller, to attend services at Congregation Shalom Aleichem, a small Reform congregation at the outer edges of Kissimmee. This was the beginning of an association that lasted a number of years, and they were good years.
Community seder at Congregation Shalom Aleichem, 1994
Sheila Peacock was a member of that congregation, a long-divorced lady who had led a busy and fascinating life before retiring to Central Florida in 1992 to be near family, specifically her twin sister. Which is what brought Sheila to CSA, as her sister and brother-in-law were among the founding members of that tiny little congregation.
It was Sheila who brought her bean salad to one of our potluck occasions, and who graciously provided me the recipe. This dear (and delightfully feisty) lady passed away in February of 2010 and is remembered with much fondness.
Cory portrayed Mordecai in the CSA Hebrew School's presentation of the story of Esther, Purim 1996 or -97.
I have to share her obituary with you because it was, like the lady herself, incredibly unique:
PEACOCK, SHEILA RUTH, passed away at her home on February 1, 2010. She was born in Queens NY on October 8, 1935. She lived in NY until she was seventeen and the family moved to Daytona Beach. Sheila attended the University of Florida.. Married in 1955 she spent time living in Bradenton, Miami and the Panama Canal Zone finally ending up in Washington DC. Her career as a vibrant single woman in Washington had a number of twists and turns and she retired from the Defense industry in 1992. She retired to Kissimmee to be near her sister. She relished her early retirement, finding Kissimmee a very diverse and friendly town. She was passionate, generous and had a wicked sense of humor. Shoe sales persons all over Florida will mourn her passing. She is survived by her beloved daughter Rachel; and her dearest son-in-law Leonard Ceci; dear sister Carol Lowenstein; and brother-in-law Harry; nieces and nephews Berna Lowenstein, Karen Pridemore, David Lowenstein, Jan Reed, Helen and Sam Sainker and their spouses and children. In lieu of flowers, her family requests donations to Congregation Shalom Alechiem, PO Box 42275, Kissimmee FL 34742.
Published in the Orlando Sentinel on February 4, 2010