But your husband is Sephardi!

Post by Melissa

Yes, but I am not.  There, I said it. I do not believe that because I married a Sephard (Spanish-Portugese), I lose my Ashkenz (Eastern European) roots.  I have adopted many things over the years, but some I do not want to give up.  I light candles like an Ashkenazi woman, and I celebrate Pesach like one.  I mentioned previously the importance of my grandfather’s influence in my life – and Pesach was the premier holiday of that.

I would go to my grandparents home in the morning before first sedar and spend the day cooking, cleaning, setting the table, and learning about the family and traditions.  The last time I spent with my grandfather was a Pesach meal.  My grandfather died on the 5th day of Pesach.  With this knowledge, is it surprising that I don’t want to let go?  Never the less, marriage is about starting a new family and making compromises in traditions, so we do.

Every day is an adventure in blending our traditions, and Pesach is no different.  While we’ve done it before, this is the first year doing it as husband and wife and the first year where we will be hosting our own sedar.  Both of these add unique layers of expectations and difficult conversations.  Neither of us can truly understand why the other cares so much about certain things, so we have to have some interesting moments of attempting to explain it.  The biggest topic is definitely Kitniyot* (I’m sure any regular readers are not shocked at this), and the second is Haggadot (but I’ll save that for an upcoming post).

My husband is a card carrying member of the Kitniyot Liberation Front, as am I.  However, I don’t eat it. It is not hametz and we will both tell you that until we are blue in the face (that is beyond the point of this post, and if you comment on it, I may delete it).  I chose to uphold my family’s minhag (custom) of not eating it, and D chooses to eat it.  We made an agreement that our future children will eat it, and at that time, I may reassess my choice to not. We serve kitniyot in our home and our community all knows it.  We have found those who will eat it and D has them over one afternoon for Cholent, and I go to my Rabbi’s house for Matzah Brie instead.  However, that does not stop the endless comments from D and others that since I married a Sephardi man, I can eat it without regard to minhag. Yes, but I don’t want to.

Marrying a Sephardi man did not undo a lifetime of Ashkenzai traditions. I can embrace what my husband does to honor his ancestry, without denying my strong roots in the process.  I don’t know what my grandfather would say about rice next to his sedar plate, but I hope I have many years of happiness before I will find out.

*For more information about Pesach and Kitniyot see the following articles at MyJewishLearning.com (Kitniyot and What to do with leaven)


14 thoughts on “But your husband is Sephardi!

  1. Thank you for this post. I feel the same way though in my case it’s because my husband is Ashkenazi and I’m Dominican (which to me means I probably should have gone with Sephardi customs). I don’t eat potatoes at any time of the year except for Pesach now and my husband helps me cope with giving up rice and beans that time of year by making me other Dominican foods.

    • So glad your husband at least helps you keep some Dominican food during! {side question – Does the major change in diet affect your health at all?}

  2. HI there,

    I read your blog via my reader but don’t think I’ve ever commented. I think this is a great post and I have a similar yet different situation in my own home.

    I’m Ashkenazi on both sides but have always wondered, as do others when they see my dark eyes, dark features, curly curly hair, if my mom’s family had Sephardic in there somewhere. As I got older and became more observant I asked myself if I should keep the traditions of my grandparents who kept kosher but were non-observant. I became a vegetarian in high school and am now 36; and that’s when I decided that I would personally adopt Sephardic customs because, as you point out, there aren’t the issues like there were when the rabbis made the rules. For me it was always, if it’s good for observant Sephardis it’s good for me.

    Then I married a convert who, in his process of conversion, took on the food customs of Sephardics as well. He just is more of a meditteranean eater overall. And so, for our home, we do kitinyot and neither of us feel bad or off for doing so. We are observant Jews who keep Sabbath, kosher, etc and being vegetarian it only makes sense, in our modern world, to have access to soy protein during the holiday.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for sharing as well! I think there is no reason not to adopt eating kiniyot, especially if you are a vegetarian! I was a veggie for five years, and always got so ridiculously sick during passover b/c amazingly enough matzah with creem cheese and salads is not enough sustenance (can you tell I was also in college for most of this time?)

  3. I am a firm believer that marriage should not erase a woman’s identity. Yes, in matters affecting the kashrus of the kitchen, taharas hamishpacha, and the education of the children, it is important to have one set of standards for the whole family. This is traditionally acheived by having the wife take on her husband’s minhagim. The woman in this article has made the compromise of serving kitniot in her house on Pesach. But in matters affecting only herself, I see no reason why a woman should not continue to observe her own customs. My husband is Chabad and I am not; he davens Nusach Ari Chabad, I daven Ari Sefard. We each light a Chanukah menorah – when our kids lived at home, they each lit one too. Can you ever have too much light? And on Pesach, the cooking is all natural, without oils, spices or other “products”. But there are things that I will eat on Pesach, such as chocolates and coffee, that my husband won’t.

  4. Somehow, I cannot imagine why a person would willfully deprive herself of qitniot for a week (maybe it’s difficult for me to imagine because beans are my absolute favorite food), but hey, whatever floats your boat. 😉

    What bothers me especially is when the Ashkenazim expect the whole Jewish world to revolve around them and conform to their standards, but I of course don’t mind a person choosing Ashkenazi customs for herself and only for herself. So enjoy your potatoes all week! 😉

    • Of course, I still try to convince as many people as I can that they are allowed to eat qitniot. But you see to realize that, and you are rather choosing to avoid qitniot because you want to, and not because you feel you have to.

      • I totally convince people it is ok to eat it also – I just make the choice not to. Minhag is not halacha! And, I totally don’t expect anything to revolve around me, my husband keeps making comments about having to make two sides all week and I told him he didn’t, I would just eat more salads…. 🙂

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  6. Thank you for writing this. I’m 1/2 Sephardi and 1/2 Mizrahi and I understand what you mean. I’m pretty contemporary and I wasn’t very observant ( much to the dismay of my mother) until I was going to marry an Ashkenazi man earlier this year. It wasn’t until we begin to discuss the methods of our children and life when I begin to feel a deep sense of nostalgia and the overwhelming need to maintain my roots. Eventually he and I didn’t get married. I wanted to teach my children Portuguese, so they could communicate with my Mothers family and he refused calling it a “useless language, culture and barbaric thought.” Yes, he did. I know better than to assume that this is how all Ashkenazim think. He’s just a nut but the relationship showed me how important it is that I marry another Mizrahi, Sephardi or at least someone willing to maintain those cultural aspects. I refuse to give up myself because of who I marry. I appalled you for your bravery and I wish you a lifetime of happiness!

    • Thanks for reading and sharing your experience as well!
      It is always a big moment to realize what our own needs and expectations are, and to be able to stand up for them in a relationship. Kol ha’kavod to you as well!

  7. We finally moved to LA and into a place where we can host Pesach seders and we had our first this past year. I feel that with my Spanish roots, I am Sephardic despite living in an Ashkenazi world. I also recently found out that my Jewish roots ARE Sephardic and Turkish and that compounds the issue even more.

    This was the very first time after 4 years of being Ashkenazi where I joined the Kitniyot Liberation Front. But my husband kept Ashkenazi customs to the letter. I had my own section of the kitchen with my products. It wasn’t just a liberation thing this year. I’ve been having a lot of digestive issues and been hospitalized for them this year frequently so we took that into account and decided he would go his way and I would go mine.

    Instead of our usual way of substituting kitniyot, which is all I eat since the mainstay of a classic Dominican meal is rice and beans, and having substitutions like yuca or batatas or plantains, I had my regular Sephardic food. It was liberating. Especially because I do have a problem with giving up my cultural traditions, even as a convert, because I married someone from different cultural traditions. In every case except Pesach, we’ve been able to blend. Well, we blend a little on Pesach but, not to whine, it is incredibly hard going without kitniyot when you already have a restrict diet (kosher and IBS) and it’s ALL you regularly eat. If I show up at a meal and there’s no rice, I feel like I haven’t eaten.

    I’m proud that we’ve been able to marry people different than us and still celebrate our traditions together and apart and support each other in doing that.

    I worry that more traditional/machmir/strigent folk would have a problem eating at my home and they might not have any idea how incredibly careful my husband was this past Pesach (and boy, was he!).

    But I find in LA that instead of the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities being completely cut off from each other, they make a work by eating around the stuff that they can’t. You’ll find rice for some folk and potatoes for others at one table. I find it sad that Sephardic people in some communities feel they HAVE TO “go Ashkenazi” for Pesach so friends will eat at their house instead of being isolated all Pesach alone. That’s taking the laws to a degree it wasn’t invented for, I think.

  8. Pingback: Why is this year different from all other years? | Redefining Rebbetzin

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