My Jewish Grandmother’s Hospitality Transcended Divides

Millennial writer Mike Jordan Laskey has a new article at NCR:

Familial love would be stronger than religious difference. This commitment never wavered. Between my two younger siblings and me, there were three baptisms, three first Communions and three Confirmations. Grandma was there for all nine.

Reminiscing about her with other family members since her death, I realized that as Mina’s family grew to be more and more diverse through the years, filled with people of different religions, races and sexual orientations, she never stopped welcoming and supporting. She remained close with her late husband’s relatives decades after his death.

The love I felt was felt by so many others, too. And it was so natural — I never felt out of place with her because I didn’t share her faith. Hospitality is just what she did. I remember being surprised as a kid to learn that Jews and Catholics have a tumultuous past, marred by anti-Semitic persecution and violence. That history was so far from my experience of mutuality and understanding.

In more recent years, Grandma came to a few different talks I gave as the Catholic speaker at events sponsored by the regional Catholic-Jewish Commission, including one about engaging youth in religion. I told my own story of growing in faith as a kid, starting with the baptism party, and then talking about powerful community service trips with my Catholic youth group. I shared how Grandma’s Seders taught me how Judaism shares with Catholicism a special commitment to the poor and vulnerable inspired by the way God led his chosen people out of slavery in Egypt, and how both traditions’ commitment to social justice had led me to my career.