Jewish by association

Most days I forget that Jon and I have very different religions.  We’re lucky enough to not have any major issues with each other’s beliefs (except for Jon’s zombie Jesus jokes every Easter), and we’ve never really let the religion get in the way of our relationship.  Mostly, we find each others traditions fascinating and we both make an effort to observe the other’s rituals with enthusiasm.  For instance, Jon loves Christmas.  He gets more excited about presents than anybody I know*.  I really enjoy Friday night Shabbat dinners.  I’ve also been to shul with him once and was awed by the whole affair.

Aside from not really cooking with pork in our house, there’s not much that I’ve had to sacrifice.  Jon is really chilled when it comes to things like that – his view is that as long as he’s not forced into anything that makes him uncomfortable, he’s cool with it.  He’s even agreed to come to a church service with me one day (although I’ve yet to convince him that funerals and wedding church things don’t count).

Because he’s so open and willing, and because this year was the first Rosh Hashana without his family being in Joburg, I decided to bring a little of his childhood home traditions, home.

Except me being me, I found out that I was a day late when I called Jon’s mom for advice.

Me: Hi Jon’s mom!  I want to surprise Jon with a Rosh Hashana dinner, what do you suggest I get for the menu?

Jon’s mom: Giggle.  Sheena, you’re a day late, it finishes tonight at sunset.

Me: *deflated* Oh.  I didn’t know that.  What can I get him anyway?

So off I went to Pick n Pay, which is owned by a Jewish family, right?  You’d think they have amazing Jewish things on their shelves, right?  Wrong.

In order to make a dinner that represents the traditional Rosh Hashana  menu, the criteria according to Jon’s mom was as follows:


But the shop wouldn’t co-operate.  So instead what I got was this:

Yup.  Of that whole list, I managed to get one item right.  Chopped herring.  They say it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

Well, in all my excitement I got home to show Jon what I’d done and was overcome with feelings of failure.  All I had to do was get the ingredients and remember the date, but I couldn’t even get those two things right.  Jon convinced me that he loved my efforts anyway and even though it wasn’t 100% right, we went ahead with my plan regardless.  Even though he’d had similar plans to surprise me with a dinner he cooked by himself (he’s been craving beef strogonoff for weeks & went and bought all the ingredients to surprise me with a dinner I didn’t have to cook), we made a compromise and did both.

A day late, only one item off the must-have list, and a few giggles later, Jon and I celebrated his very first Rosh Hashana in his own home.  He prayed over the make-shift chelsea bun and everything.  I was very moved by it all.  It was a big moment for us.  And even if it made him feel slightly weird about it, and the fact that I interpreted a lot of the items, I’m glad I made the effort.

We’ve decided that we’re going to plan the next big high holy day properly & make a proper thing of it.  Now all we need are a few Jews to share it with.  Any volunteers?

*Not that I give him much choice.  As you all know, if there are presents involved I reduce my age to at least 9 years and force my enthusiasm down everyone’s throats.


  1. Shebee says:

    PS: I’m not really giving up on Jesus or Christianity, guys. Before the lynch mobs comment. I’m just embracing diversity and sharing in my bf’s experiences 🙂

  2. Vibeke says:

    That’s awesome Sheena 🙂 I got to cook for Neal’s family last year, I was super honoured. Luckily my Pick n Pay here in Sea Point was full of old Jewish ladies stocking up. I asked for their advice and they all shouted ‘Mazeltov’ and hugged me because they thought I was converting! Then proceeded to help me pick a good challah bread and give me all the tips. Was so funny.

    • Shebee says:

      V – this is when I miss living in a smaller town. In Joburg, no one cares. Not even the old Jewish ladies. Hehe. I’m sure I would’ve had much more support if I’d gone on the right day, maybe that was the problem, all the Jews were at home chilling from their 2 days of feasts.

  3. Charmskool says:

    From my experience in Joburg (I am often there for the High Holy days, there is a place in Norwood which has all the right stuff for Jewish holidays and they will surely help – all I recall is that it is in the side street opposite the Spar. Also the Spar in Norwood has loads of Jewish stuff for the holidays. If you get stuck as to what you need, contact me, I have a cousin in Joburg who will happily tell you what you need and where to get it – email me and I’ll give you her details. Well done on the effort – I know it was late and all that but I also KNOW for sure that Jon appreciated it – I know I would have. xx

  4. Gina says:

    Sheeeeeennnnn! You should have come shopping with me 🙂
    Next time I will take you, k??
    Will even give you some of my granny’s recipes and everything

  5. Jackie says:


    Pick and Pay Norwood has a Kosher deli and Kosher section where you can find all sorts of goodies, including challa (the bread with the raisins).

    There is a Kosher Spar in Glenhazel called Kosherworld (Long Avenue, Glenhazel).

    Frangelicas in Glenhazel is a restuarant which also does does meals you can order to take home.
    Address: 5 Long Avenue, Glenhazel, Johannesburg
    Tel: +27 (11) 887-7675

    There is also “The Strip” in Glenhazel, there you will find all the Kosher shops, buther, fish shop, pie shop etc.
    Address: 74 George Ave.

    There is a bakery called “Mooz” that also does the breads and other meals. also has lot of info.

    Hope that helps.

  6. Angel says:

    Aw Shebeeliciousness I got such a lump in my throat now!
    We are so in on sharing the Jewish holidays with you if you’re up for inviting guests and Jon feels like educating a few Gentiles on what’s up!

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