Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Our ancestors were wandering Arameans

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Our ancestors were wandering Arameans

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

For those of you who haven’t spent time around a Passover seder table, the reference to wandering Arameans comes from a classic line in the seder narrative. For me, Passover 2011--or, more properly 5771--carries faint echoes of a book I just finished about a father who was, at least in terms of language, a wandering Aramean.

The book is “My Father’s Paradise” by Ariel Sabar. Sabar is an American-born, California-raised journalist. His father, Yona Sabar, was born into a 2700-year-old Kurdish Jewish community in Iraq and ultimately became a world-renowned scholar of Aramaic, the nearly -extinct language he grew up speaking.

The book is a fascinating account of Yona Sabar’s journey and of Ariel Sabar’s often fraught relationship with a father different from all the other Southern California fathers. Its references to Baghdad and Mosul and other places so prominently in the news in our new century, remind us of another aspect of the area’s long history. It tells us of a time when such harmony and respect existed among Muslim, Christian, and Jew that Muslims would share the “holiday bread”--matzah, of their Jewish neighbors. And, for me, it opened a door on a community I knew nothing about.

But at this season of sitting around a table and handing down ancient tales, the book was a reminder of how much can be lost between generations and how much the transmission of our history--human, familial, cultural--relies on retelling the stories. Retelling and listening.

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Blogger Mim said...

Thanks, Ellen! "My Father's Paradise" sounds fascinating. I look forward to reading it.

April 19, 2011 at 3:17 PM  

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