All Posts Tagged ‘Jewish

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The state of the Jewnion

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If you come to my home, it will be hard to tell that Jews habitate within. Sure, there is the kiddush cup from our wedding, sitting on a side shelf, or a menorah in the library, or the mezuzah tucked away in our front door. Our ketubah is lying around somewhere upstairs.  There is a vintage travel poster urging you to “Come Visit Palestine!” with a picture of Jaffa sprawled out near the sea. Hebrew letter Jewish? Or just hipster?

We’re just normal suburban Americans (right).

We are not extremely outwardly Jewish in our daily lives, if being Jewish means going to services, knowing anything about prayers, or not eating shellfish. And, according to a new poll by the  Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, because of us, the Jewish people of America are screwed.

The poll found that,

Two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue, one-fourth do not believe in God and one-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year.

The poll has just described the entire Northeast Philadelphia Russian population, and probably half of Israel. And yet, I’ve never met more a Jew more fervent than my atheist grandfather.

Of course, religious Jews are up in arms and Jewish organizations that rely on telling Jews that there are no more Jews are FRANTICALLY UPSET,

“It’s a very grim portrait of the health of the American Jewish population in terms of their Jewish identification,” said Jack Wertheimer, a professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary, in New York.

But I’m angry, too. Are you saying that just because I don’t go to Friday night services, that you won’t count me as one of your people? I guess even crying at Prince of Egypt doesn’t count?

American Jewry has always had a stupid relationship with what it means to be Jewish that starts and ends by measuring how many times someone goes to a synagogue, which is like counting how many foodies there are by how many 4-star restaurants they go to. Maybe they’re eating at hole-in-the wall places you don’t know. Maybe they’re cooking at home.

That shit is hard to measure, but the Jewish community can’t be bothered to measure it, because that would mean actually thinking instead of panicking and trying to raise money from rich Jews who are also concerned about the Situation.

  • How many times you’ve been called a kike because you had an obviously  Jewish first name or last name in Russia
  • How many times you or family have been denied immigration to Israel by the Soviet government
  • How many restaurants you’ve gone to to find the perfect falafel
  • How many websites you’ve visited to find out when Hanukkah is this year
  • How many times you’ve teared up through Anne Frank
  • How much time you’ve spent thinking about Jews in the 1930s for your novel
  • The amount of time you spend on Yediot Ahronot and thinking about Israel
  • The ping of happiness when you see an international foods grocery section that has both matzah and Bissli.

None of these are measured in the survey, and yet all of them are my reality as a non-religious Jew who is as Jewish as you can be without knowing the difference between mincha and bracha.

Try these on for size, Pews and Jews, shut up,  and don’t come back until you start making sense again.

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Russian Jewish Romance

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My internet friend Alina (and frequent commenter here) wrote a short story for a romance anthology (which you can buy now, here).  (Disclaimer: I got a copy to read for free). Here’s the press release:

They say “write what you know.”  And that’s just what author Alina Adams (born Alina Sivorinovsky in Odessa, USSR) did when asked to contribute a short story for the anthology “The Mammoth Book of ER Romance” (Running Press September 2013).

Instead of sticking to traditional, all-American characters like she had for her previous “New York Times” best-selling books, including “Oakdale Confidential” and “Jonathan’s Story,” Adams created possibly the first-ever romance featuring a Russian Jewish heroine, whose decisions – in life and in love – stem directly from her non-traditional background and upbringing.

Adams explains, “I wanted to do something different with my story, “To Look For You,” and feature a character unique to romantic fiction.  Like me, Alyssa Gordon was born in the USSR, grew up in America, and never felt like she belonged completely to either place.  Throw in being Jewish on top of that, and I’d never encountered a similar type of character while reading romance.  I figured I might as well be the first to create one and explore how being a Russian Jew in the States affects who you fall in love with.”

I personally will never admit that I read romance novels, but this story is at the intersection of Russian Jews, hypochondria, perfectionism, war, and men who are really, really clean, which is probably why Alina thought of me.  There were a couple of things I was always really curious about with regards to romance writing, so I asked her:

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Freedom

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This Monday, I was asked to deliver a toast at the first seder Mr. B’s family had. I am a terrible public speaker and enormously shy, even with people I know,  so I refused, and Mr. B’s grandfather gave a short toast to the health of the family.  But I have been thinking about what I would say for a Passover toast, and this is what I’ve come up with.

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Why do Eastern European women love leather and fur?

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While Mr. B and I were in New Orleans, it was cold. Super-cold. Cold enough that we hadn’t planned for it. Isn’t the South always supposed to be perma-warm like that spot on the floor that always gets the sun?

Long story short, we had to buy clothes on vacation.

First things first. Oh, the irony:

Then, for five seconds, this was an option:

Until I realized I had become every woman I see at the Russian store. And I became terrified.

Why do Russian women love fur? What is it that brings out the fur coats, the fur collars, the leather?  And why do American women hate them?

I’m guessing it has something to do with this:

Although I’m too lazy to research. So I’m crowd-sourcing.

 Also, I did find this:

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His dad was Baryshnikov, the movie was pure nostalgia in a bottle

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Play this as you read:

 

 

“In 1986, I wanted two things. Freedom and meat. There was a deficit on meat. And there was a deficit on freedom, too,” begins the quirky  2011 movie My Dad is Baryshnikov (мой папа барышников), which Mr. B and I saw last night at the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival.  ”Although,” the adult narrator continues to remember, “it was exactly in this year that we first heard of a word called perestroika.”