Becoming Kosher and Orthodox in Budapest and NYC

Like Sisyphus, Rollin’ that Kosher rock up a hill …
2010/07/07, 5:38 am
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D. and I did it again last week, with a kind-of last minute trip to Prague, taking along D.’s two sons who were visiting us.  And we got the same, young brother and sister pair to take care of our dog and birds while staying in our apartment. We went over the Kosher items and different plates and silverware with them, as previously, and explained about non-Kosher food and using paper plates, etc, etc.

Prague, like Krakow, is a city experiencing a re-birth of Judaism and Jewish heritage. There are the ancient artifacts here too, the Old-New Synagogue, for example (What a name!). Here is the reason for the name, from Wikipedia:

There are two explanations for the name “Alt-Neu.” The first is based on the German and Yiddish translation of Alt-Neu as “Old-New.” According to this explanation, the synagogue was originally called the New or Great Synagogue and later, when newer synagogues were built in the 16th century, it became known as the Old-New Synagogue. Another view says this may be a mistranslation. According to this version, the synagogue is believed to have been built from stones from the Temple in Jerusalem, and the synagogue was built “on condition”, in Hebrew: Al-Tnai, that the stones would be returned after the reconstruction of the Temple.

And there is the ancient cemetery, with headstones piled on top of each other, and stones so old the rock is smooth, and there is nothing to read about the person’s life. Truly gone. And the strangest thing? Many of the stones had pebbles on them! So, still, after hundreds of years, families do remember and honor their ancestors. Or, is a more rational answer that random visitors placed these stones on random sites???

There are several other Synagogues to visit, as well as poking around various buildings and museums in the Old Town and Jewish Quarter. And it was fun to pursue the Golem legend that originated with Rabbi Loew in Prague in the 1500s.

But the enjoyment of Prague was tempered by what we found upon return to Budapest: A Kosher apartment “unKoshered” by well-meaning, but still ignorant, kids. There were dairy dishes in the meat sink; mixed silverware in the dishwasher;  unKosher food left on Kosher plates; unKosher milk and other foods in the fridge. Simply put, all of D.’s hard work went down the drain (pun intended!).  Our Kosher apartment was no longer Kosher, and it was 5pm on Friday night, certainly too late to do anything remotely recapturing the Kashrut. Shabbat was not the same, and we felt, deeply the loss, as of a family member gone. It was uncomfortable and annoying, We did enjoy the time with D.s boys, but it was a definite step back on our path to Kashrut and Shomer Shabbos.

Nobody ever said it was easy being Jewish, and nobody ever said Orthodoxy conversion would be a Garden of Eden. But still, it hurt. We have no resentment for the kids that watched the animals, they could not know all the details and requirements, and perhaps we should have spent more time teaching them, or perhaps we should have stayed home. NOT! It was worth this aggravation seeing Prague, getting closer with the boys over the 6-hour ride each way, and still keeping in mind that we are getting closer to God, even with having to push that Kosher rock back up the hill.