There's this point in the ceremony when the parents give a little speech. And when my dad got up there to talk, a Powazek family legend was born.

My dad got through three words of his speech before he started to cry. "My dear son," he said, and then his eyes welled and his voice quivered and the rest no one could understand.

We tease my dad about his speech to this day. "My dear son," my sister and I tease, "boo hoo hoo." It always gets a laugh at family gatherings.

But the truth is, I heard every word. Every single word. And for the first time, my Jewishness didn't seem embarrassing. It seemed meaningful. Or, at least, in that moment, I realized that it had a meaning I had yet to discover.