The Cake I’m Making for my Daughter’s High-School Graduation

The Cake I’m Making for my Daughter’s High-School Graduation

This month, my oldest daughter, Hadas, is graduating from high school. And in honor of her graduation, her high school invited all the parents, girls, and faculty up to Beit El to attend a Shabbaton together next week.

This has been a dream of a high school for Hadas, who has made so many dear friends and learned so much and grown up into such a lovely young woman over the last 4 years. But among the parents of students, Josh and I really don’t fit in.

There are very few other parents there who were born outside of Israel, and close to none who are baalei teshuva. Religiously, I don’t fully fit in anywhere (or to be more exact, I fit in many places, and therefore nowhere), but at this high school, which represents a very specific sector of the right-wing of the National Religious/Chardal community, my Weisberg out-of-the-boxness feels especially pronounced.

Yesterday the high school sent out an email to all the parents requesting that each mother prepare an “uga mefaneket” for the graduation Shabbaton– a special cake to “spoil” the girls. And as I read those words, I felt my stomach fall into my toes… I almost never bake, but when absolutely necessary, I prepare the most basic kind of stuff. The simplest white cake from Spice and Spirit, frosted with chocolate spread and sprinkles for a birthday. I wouldn’t even know how to do mefaneket if I tried…

And I imagined next Shabbat, all the other Israeli mothers in their regal, layered headscarves that make my neck ache, swooping in with one cake more mefaneket than the next. And then my cake, which (thankfully) got squished on the busride up, so none of the other mothers could see my white cake frosted with chocolate spread and colored sprinkles.

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On the Friday morning before Shavuot I went on a walk around the block to get some air, and I saw a mother in her thirties coming my way. She was driving along the side of the street in a motorized wheelchair, a smiling toddler balanced on each leg as she drove along.

Seeing her, my eyes welled up with tears. Thinking of this mother who couldn’t walk, but who took a weakness, an inability, and chose to focus on what she can do rather than on what she can’t. And I prayed I should learn how to do the same.

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11 comments

  1. You sound like me. Hashem wants me to be me, and to use my uniqueness to serve Him. I have been learning this for the past couple years and I am more confident than I ever was. BAruch Hashem.

  2. Yocheved

    mazal tov! whats hadas doing next year?

    • JewishMom

      national service teaching about Judaism and jewish values in a secular elementary school near tel aviv. I wish she would have been my teacher when I was at a secular elementary school!

  3. I wonder if anyone really feels she fits in totally. And if she does, she may not be ‘shteiging’ – rising in her avodat Hashem. If we want to be bnei aliya, of whom the Gemara says there are not many, we are constantly, or gradually developing and so having to re-evaluate where we stand. If we also work on our ahavat Yisrael towards the women we meet, I think that’s plenty.Each woman’s relationship with Hashem, when we remember to work on that too, is unique. In that context there is nothing to feel inferior about. We can learn this from Dovid haMelech throughout Tehillim

  4. Vicki Belovski

    Mazal tov, Chana Jenny and family! First high school graduation is a big milestone – take lots of tissues:) The regal layered headscarves made me smile and I get completely what you wrote about fitting in many places and therefore nowhere. Don’t worry about your cake – Hadas will appreciate whatever you make, because you made it. We also often make the white cake from S&S. You could go for the chocolate chip option if you want to make it more special. Relax and enjoy the shabbaton and the nachas.

  5. Do any bakeries make nice cakes at an afordable price? im no cook/baker – my (young)children see bright coloured icing and sprinkles and are so super excited, no fancy cake could make them any more happy.

  6. Chana Jenny – it is so unwise to compare oneself to others. I would rather eat your S&S cake, than any other cake another mother could come up with. You are beautiful, intelligent, and unique. Your daughter must not hear you tearing yourself down because you are not a master baker. What a joy to make ANY cake – in celebration of such accomplishments! Make your S&S cake – with chocolate icing and sprinkles . . . let it bounce around on the bus-ride up there and get mushed.. it will still be a celebration-cake! Anyone comparing cakes at such an event . . . or even comparing headscarves . . . is missing the true joys of the day. It’s not the cake . . . but really the accomplishments of your daughter that will be remembered.

  7. I totally get what Chana Jenny is saying about “uga mefaneket”, as I also have no idea how to go about making one, and don’t enjoy even thinking about it.
    Part of the awful feeling is the expectation on the part of the school that a mother should/could bring an “uga mefaneket”.

    Every mother is asked to bring an uga mefaneket – the request itself already puts on the pressure. I can easlily imagine the mothers tying to bake the BEST, MOST MEFANEK kind of cake possible. Unless its my own insecurity that imagines this? I sort of don’t think so…..

  8. I say: why don’t you offer a large cut fruit and veg platter instead? Trust me, it will be the first thing everyone dives for… I did that once for a gan party and the kids immediately made a beeline for it. Needless to say my own daughter preferred the “ugot mefankot” :-)))

    As you can see, I also don’t really fit in!!!

    • otherwise, you could always make your usual cake but as cupcakes in those colourful cups which are fun, festive and much easier to eat!

  9. shoshana

    Dear Chana Jenny,

    I wish for you to listen to your feelings -to all of them.
    If you felt there is nothing wrong with a simple cake – you wouldn’t write this post in the first place or would write it in a different tone.

    This is not some kind of universal truth of how the cake should look and taste. And you don’t need these outside voices approving of your not baking or not minding. You know for yourself that you wish your cake would be somewhat fancier, which would probably make you feel more accomplished in a subtle, feminine way. This is the part of you which is hurting. Why deny yourself this satisfaction by claiming you are comfortable with the status quo if you really aren’t ? I believe it’s your birthright as a woman.
    We have those areas which are truly ours, a woman’s domain. I don’t believe into talking myself out of doing what I need to do to feel a real woman.
    Say, if the kitchen floor looks terribly dirty no amount of uplifting talks about the woman’s role and purpose,meditation and wise quotes would make a lasting effect on my emotional state.This black floor would star right into my face wherever I’d turn and make me feel black too. I’d need to clean the floor to feel calm and optimistic. But windows won’t make me sick -sure I wish they would be cleaner, but their current state doesn’t affect my innate barometer of well being. That is true for me and only for me.
    Please afford doing what you need to do not to feel inferior as a woman.
    In short – it’s no shame not to bake a cake (or shine a window,for that matter) if it doesn’t hurt you. But it is a self neglect if it does.

    With much love and appreciation,

    shoshana

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