Excerpt: 'Stars of David : Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish' by Abigail Pogrebin

"So Bettianne and I put it up ourselves on the door to the baby's bedroom. And I love it. I walk up the steps every day and I see it in our new house on the door to the baby's bedroom and I feel like it's yet one more person keeping an eye on the baby. It doesn't bother me; doesn't seem to bother Matthew." She said it feels like the mezuzah is in the right place. "It's not on the door to our home because that's too big -- too much," she says. "Frankly, if someone had given me a tiny cross that meant something--" She cuts herself off. "There's this man that I see in the neighborhood all the time. He gave me this card for the saint of fertility and the saint of babies and this tiny little medal. And I was very touched by it and I've kept it next to me for my whole pregnancy because I thought, 'For him that means something and it's a nice thought.' It doesn't mean I'm converting to the Catholic Church. This is a nice man; he wishes me well, he wishes my child well. I wouldn't hang it, but it's nice to have."

The baby will have a Christmas tree. "Matthew and I get one every year, but it has no religious content. Growing up, it wasn't religious at all. My Mom and Dad loved the smell in the house -- I mean my stepfather, who raised me. We love the tradition of it -- we've had the same ornaments from the time before my oldest brother was born. It's about family and ritual -- the same things that I respond to in being a Jew."

Parker, born in Cincinnati, says her biological father's parents were "from that part of Eastern Europe that would go back and forth between being Russian and Polish." According to family lore, the name "Parker" was created by a series of miscommunications. "My great-grandfather on my father's side came over to Ellis Island. His name was Bar-Kahn, which means 'son of Kohen,' and the immigration officer thought he said 'Parken.' He wrote his N's like R's, so 'Parken' became 'Parker' and he was so happy to be in America and to have a business that was fairly thriving, that he never corrected his customers and he became Parker. So there's also great pride attached to this idea that we're Kohens," she says with a smile, referring to the fact that Kohens -- or Kohanim -- were the ancient line of high priests. "You know, the great tribe of Israel."

Parker believes her mother has Jewish blood as well, but that lineage is hard to trace. "According to Matthew, Hitler would have been perfectly happy to call me a Jew because there was enough Jewish blood in me that I was not a desirable. And I have, frankly, always just considered myself a Jew. Maybe I feel Jewish because my mother is very skeptical of organized religion in general and being a Jew felt more cultural to me. I was always responding to things that were Jewish.

"I think also because New York was this great jewel to us and it was such a Jewish city that I was so thrilled to identify with anybody from there, to be part of it." Parker's Jewishness, she says, is rooted in large part in nostalgia. "My father was raised on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn -- he was on the Brighton Beach line. It's a very Jewish community. And every year on our summer visits, the people we spent time with were Jews. Whenever we came to New York on Sundays we always went to Chinatown. To us that was a very Jewish thing.

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