This would have followed Chapter 26 had we not excerpted it from the manuscript. Look under recipes for the updated version of these cookies.
Celestial Tea and Poppy Seed Cookies
Rosa: My Allochka is very uncomfortable with the title, “Judaism is my platform.” Why would your granddaughter include that if Alla doesn’t want it?
Grandma Rae: What’s the problem? Meryll is just writing Alla’s words. What? Is she embarrassed? Why is Alla uncomfortable? She’s Jewish and she cares about being Jewish. She has a good Jewish soul and reminds Meri of her Jewish connections.
Baba Lyuba: Meri doesn’t need that kind of reminder. She is strong, intelligent, and she knows right from wrong, even in such a horrible milukha like Russia. No matter whether it’s the tsar’s Russia, Communist Russia, or Putin’s Russia, it’s all the same. Merichka is unusual because not only has she had a fine education, but she has her good values. Communism was supposed to be like that--a new kind of government with good values. We thought in the 1920s we were building a new way of life. Then came Stalin.
Rosa: Lyuba, it’s more than that to be Jewish. You seem to have forgotten about Judaism yourself and God knows, it wasn’t easy to keep the rituals alive. Of course, Alla couldn’t learn Jewish law like my family in Gorodok, but we celebrated what we could. Alla’s heart and soul are Jewish. My son-in law Naum, alav hashalom (may God rest his soul) taught her to question. Isn’t that what being Jewish is all about?
Baba Lyuba: I went to gymnasium so I learned to question. I don’t think it’s just a Jewish trait. Oy, Rosa, enough about how you observed the holidays. Why all this talk about being Jewish. We know where we came from. Has it helped us?
Grandma Rae: If someone is Jewish, then they are Jewish. If they are born Jewish and don’t say they are Jewish, they are still Jewish. If they are a thief, then maybe they aren’t acting so Jewish. What’s important is what is in your heart and how you treat others. Most important is that all our girls can cook and now they can have their own families around the table talking and sharing a meal.We can argue, we can ask questions.
Rosa: Absolutely, the table is the center for the family. Our family and friends are the center of our world. Of course in the Soviet Union just finding the food to put on the table was quite a trick. Alla has always been very exact so it’s not enough to be Jewish for her if she doesn’t observe Jewish law.
Grandma Rae: So many of us American Jews kept kosher and kept Shabbos as long as our parents were alive and then we chose our traditions. A Reform Jew is no less of a Jew than an Orthodox Jew in my book. Your Alla is Jewish and if she feels Judaism is her platform, who can question that!
Baba Lyuba: Enough about Alla already. I didn’t think this book would be all about being Jewish. It’s not so interesting to continue talking about. However, it is interesting to see how Meri’s story continues. I wonder if she got Issya from the good sense that I gave her.
Rosa: I wonder if my Allochka will buy her own apartment in Israel. Imagine!
Grandma Rae: Such a pleasure to have such wonderful granddaughters. More sugar with tea? Take more poppy seed cookies. It shouldn’t go to waste.