My Big Fat Persian Family Wedding
Almost 70 years ago, a young man, recently returned from fighting in the US Army Air Corps, met a young lady from Brownsville, a heavily Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. He was the American- born son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia. She was a second generation “Yankee” with four Jewish grandparents who immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine. They had everything in common and nothing in common. They were married for twenty four years and raised four children. When their superficially idyllic marriage came apart, it was a surprise to everyone but the four children who lived it.
Those children all earned college degrees, some earned graduate degrees, and all of them married and raised families. The families spread out far and wide, from the East Coast of the US, to California and Oregon and later to the State of Israel and the westernmost provinces of China. The grandchildren are now mostly adults with college degrees; some have or are working toward advanced degrees. They are employed in many different professions. There are already several great-grandchildren, all of whom reside in a country that did not yet exist when those Great-Grandparents first met.
Over the past sixty some-odd years, there were many bad times, but the happy and raucous outweighed the sad and angry. And somehow, the parents who loved each other but could never quite figure out how to live together managed to raise a family where the one constant was an unwavering love and commitment to each other.
A few short weeks ago, this crazy mixed-up family convened in Los Angeles, California for the wedding of one of the grandsons. Grandpa passed away thirteen years ago and Grandma, thankfully alive and well, is no longer able to travel to out of town weddings. Two of the Israeli grandchildren and their families were also unable to attend. But although they were sorely missed, their absence could not diminish the intensity of the feelings we all experienced on this occasion.
We came from all over the world and all over the United States. We ranged in age from 18 months to 68 years. Some of us are Reform Jews, some are Orthodox. Some of us are Jews by choice, having been born into other religions, and some of us no longer practice the Jewish religion into which we were born. Some of us are still finding our way. Some of us brought friends and/or partners of other faiths.
Some of us are Zionists. Some are Right Wing, some are Left Wing, and some are a bit of each. We are Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Libertarians. What we do have in common is the deep love and loyalty we feel for the United States, whether we are neighborhood organizers, active campaigners, or US citizens living abroad, voting by absentee ballot. This too was instilled in us by our parents.
We are kosher and non-kosher, carnivores, omnivores, herbivores, vegetarians, vegans and eaters of exotic foreign delicacies. We are gay and straight and “questioning.” We are single, married, divorced, separated and “significant others.” We are parents, not-yet parents, and grandparents. We are biological family members and we are adopted.
We came with all kinds of aches and pains – some are chronic, some will pass. We had canes, braces, wheelchairs, and strollers. We have wounds and scars you can see and others you can’t.
We are students, professionals, and retired professionals. We are currently working, volunteering, unemployed, underemployed, underpaid, and still figuring out what we want to be when we grow up.
But most of all, we are one big messy family who managed to put aside our differences, table any current disputes, and leave behind all our pressing obligations for one long California weekend. We traveled to Los Angeles from near and far to meet and celebrate with a new set of relatives, mostly Persian Jews born in Iran. We enjoyed eating food traditional for each other’s cultures. We tried to dance to the music of each other’s cultures, too, although not always gracefully.. We talked, we sang, we hugged and kissed. We shared our lives and our hopes and dreams, as well as our sorrows and our joys. And then we all said goodbye and promised to keep in touch.
As the Jewish New Year of 5777 begins, I will be asking G-d to bless the members of my family, new and old, where ever they are, in the coming year. I’ll be thanking Him for allowing us to have shared this special time together. And,if it’s not too much to ask, if He will grant us many more opportunities to celebrate together. A Shana Tova to all.
Abby Hochhauser is a mother to 3 sons, mother-in-law to 3 daughters-in-law, and grandmother to 9 adorable grandchildren. A former computer programmer and technical writer, Abby and her husband followed their children from Edison, NJ to settle in Israel in 2014. Abby loves her book club, volunteering at her grandchildren’s school, and reading to kids.