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Judaism as a Cultural Heritage
Elliot is Avrom's son, featured on the prior page.
Elliot doesn’t practice Judaism. He wasn’t Bar-Mitzvahed, doesn’t go to High Holiday services, and couldn’t tell one St. Louis Park synagogue from another. Yet, he still undeniably calls himself Jewish- in an ethnic way. Elliot’s Judaism is a cultural heritage. It’s about visiting his grandmother at the Shalom Home, bantering with his Jewish friends, and understanding A Serious Man.
“It’s part of our identity, you know? But I think a lot of it comes through just in conversation. If you’re with my dad and my aunt and my grandparents, they definitely were very embedded in that community and all their friends were Jews, and I think that’s even true of me. A lot of my friends are Jewish, and it’s kind of just a shared connection or a cultural dialogue that you can reference.”
At the time of this interview, Elliot was a freshman at Carleton College. He moved to St. Louis Park (not in the eruv) when he was a sophomore in high school, after attending St. Louis Park public schools since 5th grade. While he doesn’t have much of a relation with the Orthodox Jewish community, he feels that living in St. Louis Park has put Judaism and his Jewish identity more in the forefront. It’s things like frequently walking by a Jewish bookstore, interacting with Orthodox Jews while working at Target, and seeing Sukkahs pop up in the eruv during Sukkot. Elliot likes the visible presence of Judaism, mentioning that the city’s nickname is “St. Jewish Park.” “I think it’s a source of pride, I think people like that we have that kind of identity,” he said.
For Elliot, being Jewish, makes him feel a little different - a little less “vanilla” as he says. Elliot especially appreciates the moment when he and a friend realize they’re both Jewish. He describes it as an “oh, now we get each other more” moment. When asked to further elaborate, he connected it to “Jewish Humor.”
"A lot of my friends are Jewish, and it’s kind of just a shared connection or a cultural dialogue that you can reference.”
“I think it’s a certain life outlook, or a certain finding things humorous that aren’t really that overtly humorous. There’s a lot of complaining and commiserating. There’s an implication of certain shared experiences,” he said.
When asked how he thinks Judaism would play a role when raising any future children, he wasn't sure but said that it would probably be similar to how he was raised with an ethnic identity. "If I had children I wouldn’t have them be bar or bat mizvahed, I wouldn’t raise them in the faith, but I’d certainly be open if they were interested in exploring it. And I think, through generational interaction I’m sure that they would get some of it through my dad or from my aunt," he said.1
Schwartz, Elliot. “Interview with Elliot.” Interview by Maggie Goldberger and Maya Margolis. May 4, 2016. ↩