By Courtney Pories
Each Passover, I travel from Seder to Seder, enjoying the different traditions, Haggadahs, and recipes at each one. I love seeing the different ways that the same Jewish holidays are celebrated depending on who is hosting and the kind of home they’ve created. That started me thinking: What makes a home Jewish?
For some, it may be visual: a mezuzah on the door, a menorah in the window, other Judaica put on display. These things definitely look Jewish, but what makes a home feel Jewish? Is it about the conversations over dinner, reminiscing about trips to Israel and asking where the kids from Hebrew School or Jewish summer camp ended up going to college? Is it discussing plans to attend an event at the JCC? Is it having a supply of candles and grape juice so every guest who wants can celebrate Shabbat? Or is it having enough matzo on hand during Passover, or even simply bringing home bagels and lox for Sunday brunch?
At the end of the day, what it really comes down to is having a home that expresses your values. If you’re passionate about charity, you may keep a tzedakah box in your living room for guests to contribute. If quality family time is very important to you, you may host nightly tech-free dinners or Shabbats where your family comes together and talks about their day or week.
Maybe having a Jewish home means creating shalom bayit, or “peace in the home.” This concept refers to intentionally fostering healthy physical and emotional relationships between family members. A home may have a mezuzah on the door and host regular Shabbat dinners, but shalom bayit speaks to creating a truly safe, comfortable home for everyone who lives there.
As a young adult who has lived in her first apartment for just a year now, it’s interesting to reflect on how I’ve made my home Jewish. Living with a few other twenty-something Jewish girls, we’re always running between working and socializing, trying to figure out how this whole “adulting” thing works.
There’s not much that makes our home outwardly Jewish–-we don’t have a mezuzah on our doorpost, but I guess we were one of the only ones without a Christmas tree in the window last December. But, our values are definitely present. We’re very kind and honest with each other and support each other in times of stress. We care about each other’s friendships and relationships and help each other grow through each experience. Our home is a safe place where we can express how we feel about work, life, Judaism, and more. It’s also a place where we keep chocolate-covered matzah in the fridge, for those times of extreme stress.
What makes your home Jewish, literally and figuratively? What are your values, and how does your home reflect them? How do you make your home comfortable and safe? How does your home incorporate the concept of shalom bayit?
As you reflect on the answers to these questions, we’d love to hear from you and learn more about your Jewish home. If you’re interested in sharing, please reach out to [email protected].
Editor's Note: If you want to share the spirit of shalom bayit with women who have known far too little of it in their lives, consider supporting the JWI Flower Project. Each year, thanks to its supporters, JWI sends flowers and financial literacy resources to 200 women’s shelters across the U.S. on Mother’s Day. Please click here to learn more.
Courtney works in public relations in Washington, D.C. In her free time, you can find her catching up on all her Bravo shows while eating something a little too spicy to really taste. Visit courtneypories.com to view more of her work.