Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why I am not a Jew

I had this carefully explained to me over a game of backgammon, once. I am not a Jew because my mother wasn't Jewish.

I used to work with an American woman who married a Palestinian emigre. She felt similarly excluded, although in her case it was his family in East Jerusalem that drew the line.

He had an educated younger sister who thought the whole "You're not really married to my son/my brother/my uncle" back turning was offensive and personally embarassing, and the two women were great friends. I lost track of her, it being not really my business and all, but sometimes I wonder.

I knew a girl whose home town was Sarajevo — in Marshal Tito's Yugoslavia. For all I know she's dead or worse. I wonder sometimes. Born in Communism, raised an atheist, she was not any religion. Neither was her country. We bombed it good.
The frayed edges of my life are too close to too many people I consider friends, who are too close to shooting wars and passions I understand but will not ever share.

My daughter stood in the peace memorial in Hiroshima last month. I hope she never sees a war, but if she must, I hope she never succumbs to shrieking monkey hate.

My source was both very Orthodox and an extremely liberal Democrat. For him, Jewishness was more like a nationality than a religion. Interestingly, reformed Jews recognize conversion, but I have no idea what that means in practice. Orthodoxy draws a clear line in the sand, however.

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