November 26th, 2005

Kyle Mogen David

The Jewish Thing

You Don't Have To Be Jewish To EnjoyWhew, I think it's not bragging to be labeled one of the Chosen People -- it is indeed more of a heavy responsibility! That's one of the things some rabbis will tell you if you ask about converting. They suggest (not unkindly) that it might be better both for you and for Judaism as a whole if you remained a gentile and did your best for Jews from that standpoint, rather than put yourself in the line of fire.

When the mother is gentile but the father Jewish, I've always heard that a child has to go through a long drawn-out conversion thing if he wishes to be a practicing Jew. I read you were only automatically Jewish through the maternal side, unless she had converted. Of course, it depends on what type of Judaism you subscribe to. I looked a little bit some months ago into a LiveJournal Community (I forget now what it was) devoted to conversion, and every Rabbi from different parts of the country has different rules. Which is great, I think. Gives you a choice -- whatever you feel deep inside, you can choose the congregation that most closely matches.

In any case, I eventually drop or change the subject in my head when I delve too far into the Jewish thing. I always get to a place where it hurts too much, such as with my feeling of conflict with zionism Israeli nationalism. (No, before you get all hyped up, I do not believe in dismantling the state of Israel.)

It's a very wise policy they have -- they must make three efforts to dissuade a gentile from converting to Judaism. It may be an honor to be Jewish, but also the responsibility is tremendous. For myself, if I weren't an agnostic to begin with anyway, I would simply feel unworthy, and also afraid I'd fail in my obligations.

Of course, I'm a person who won't have a pet because I'm afraid I'd let it down and not take care of it properly. However, my daughter says I'm a good mom (which deep inside, I doubt, but I don't think about it too much or I'd really go nuts). It's a thing with me to take commitments very seriously. I wish I were more like my sister, it would make life easier. Oh, not that she doesn't take commitments seriously, far from it ~ sometimes she takes them too seriously. Probably it's a matter of having faith in oneself, I don't know.

Prosthelyzing: Christians are so dopey. They'll take any person on, just to get the numbers. Convert, convert, convert. What a bunch of cretins.

Antisemitism: It's pretty insane to hate people for what they were born as -- the only possible reason I can think of is jealousy. What would this world be if not for the progress made by the Jewish people? My mom is a little bit awed by the Jewish people herself, but my dad (probably more logically and fair) believes they're exactly the same as anyone else, and any idea of differentiation is bullshit. I get the feeling they made it a point that I grew up under the impression that anti-semitism was a thing of the past, because I wasn't aware of any kinds of people except Catholics and Christians, and nobody mentioned Jews except when talking about World War II.

After I graduated high school, I became friends with a girl named Sandy I met at a factory where I worked, and she was so amused at how verklempt I got when she told me she was half Jewish. Haha, I haven't thought of that for many, many years.

Come to think of it, here's another long-forgotten memory: it comes to mind, after all these years, that I did have another half-Jewish friend ~ a Beatle-lovin' penpal in the late 60's named Donna, from Illinois. We got friendly enough that, at the tender age of 17, we spent a week at each other's houses. When she discovered my almost-fangirliness toward things and people Jewish, she told me, as if it were a bad secret, that her father was really Jewish, but he converted to Christianity to marry her mother. My goodness, I would be bragging about it, I thought. (I wouldn't brag that he became an Xian, perish the thought ~ I'd brag about having such a great genetic background!) But ~ there must have been a good reason why she (or they?) weren't anxious for people to know ~ what a pity.
But again, like Sandy, Donna was quite amused. She had what she called a "Jewish nose" like her father's, and she hated it. Without thinking, I told her that I LOVED her nose. Well? I did, y'know. But that cracked her up so bad that she never let me forget it.

One thing, I wish she hadn't told me until the end of my visit that her father was born Jewish. I was pitifully shy anyway, but that revelation made me so very overwhelmed and self-conscious that I couldn't look at him or speak to him. Yeah, I was a mess. I still have a photo of the family. He looks like a skinny little bookkeeper with wire-rimmed glasses and a comb-over. ♥

Of course, since then, I've met a few more Jewish people, no more or less wicked or angelic than any gentile. However (just to illustrate a point), unfortunately there was one greedy shit in particular -- a transplanted New Yorker who owned a company I worked for briefly down in North Carolina. Yikes, he was a real pig. But was it BECAUSE he was Jewish?

Hell, no. He was just a pig, not unlike lots of goyim I've also been employed by and with.

Try telling some people that, though. Describe his personality, and if his name were O'Malley, they'd say, "What a greedy jerk." Give his name as, say, Greenbaum (not the guy's name), and the same people would point out -- "Of course! He's Jewish."

(Psst. I did enjoy listening to his accent, though. Made life a bit more tolerable while the job lasted.)

Not long thereafter, I worked for another every-bit-as-Jewish business owner, also from New York, who was efficient, industrious and enterprising ~ but also lots of fun to work with, LOTS of fun ~ and understanding ~ and fair and decent in his business practices.

But, in the end, which type of guy is most remembered by people for being Jewish?
Three guesses, and the first two don't count.
This makes me sad. So very sad.

Like I said, what a responsibility to be Jewish. To use a mixed metaphor, One bad apple and you're all screwed.

"It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this."
          ~ Bertrand Russell
"Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion –- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven."
          ~ Mark Twain

The Oys of Yiddish and the Joys of Paul Simon

Oy Vey in Yiddish letters
young Paul Simon I often wonder if Eppy understood Yiddish*, and his opinion of the language, considering his repressed self-hatred of his Jewishness. (He once turned down management of a very young Paul Simon because he "looks too Jewish" ... !)

I'm almost positive zayde (grandfather) Isaac, an immigrant from Lithuania, must have spoken it. If the Epstein family was anything like mine with the Polish language (my father's paternal grandfather came from Poland) then daddy Harry would at least have known a few choice words and phrases.

What tickles me the most about Yiddish is that so many of its words and phrases have been adopted into the American lexicon. Sometimes a person isn't even aware he's using a Yiddish word.

Recently I found evidence that Eppy did indeed speak yiddish, in the following:
"Recognizing his negotiating skills, the Shorins sent Sy to London in 1964 to negotiate the rights for Topps to produce Beatles trading cards. Arriving without an appointment, Sy succeeded by speaking in Yiddish to Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager."
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Speaking of Paul Simon:

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Many, many more photos - and lots of other goodies! - can be found at Paul-Simon.Info