Jew Am I?
Regardless of my unpronounceable surname, formidable Dukakis-level brow line and decidedly Jewtastic seasonal allergies, I’ve at all times considered myself a daily, common American. I’ve lived in America for all 50 of my 50 years, if we depend Los Angeles as a part of America. And some folks do. On Friday nights, I resolve Blue Bloods murders right alongside Tom Selleck’s mustache. On Saturday mornings, I will watch any college football sport you place in front of me, even the normal battle between the Devry Institute and Clown School. And on the 4th of July, I not only root for Joey Chestnutt in the new Canine Eating contest, however I am going to usually eat along with him. You already know, for ethical support. I like my sitcoms with three cameras and my omelettes with three cheeses. I cried at Argo, Sully, Rudy and Miracle. I complain about site visitors and Mondays and my again and gridlock in Washington. See? Regular. Average. American.
After which there are occasional days, after i still really feel like a visitor, making an attempt to “cross”. But hey, what are you gonna do?
Not way back, I used to be on the dentist when their hygienist requested if I used to be Persian. I answered “No, however that is funny I do get that quite a bit. My grandparents were Sephardic. From Turkey.” Apparently, I had given the unsuitable answer. Apparently, I had given probably the most grievous answer identified to man. Seems my hygienist wasn’t Persian, but Armenian. And she spent the following ten minutes holding me a little too chargeable for the Armenian Genocide, while by no means as soon as eradicating her finger from my mouth. “I assume possibly there’s such a thing as a great Turk” she provided with all of the resolute conviction of somebody studying a ransom word with an off-digicam Glock pointed at her head. She then made repeated references to “your people.” My grandparents moved here 100 years ago. My people are from Encino. As I have been known to say, the only things they committed genocide towards are pound cake and my shallowness.
I can not say I grew up in a super Jewish dwelling. We have been Reform. So reform that our temple had a swimming pool, therefore it is common appellation as the “shul with a pool.” I went to Nursery and Hebrew College there and had my bar mitzvah there, but we had been largely Excessive Holiday kind of Jews. And even then, these providers were ceaselessly held in a Presbyterian Church. I did mention this was LA, did not I?
The other thing that muddled my Jewish id was the truth that I was half-Sephardic (from Turkey) and half-Ashkenazi (from Poland and Austria). I at all times thought of my dad and mom as simply two Valley Jews. Their practically matching tennis gear did not belie some cultural chasm to my ten yr-old eye. However apparently, their union had been the Judeo equal of an inter-marriage. I never actually thought of that there was much difference between my grandparents. However wanting again, one side, the Bel Air aspect, had been shut mates with Richard Nixon. On the other facet, the Fairfax side, I had a grandmother so outdated country that she did not drive, pronounced Seattle as “Seatt-Lee” and wouldn’t purchase me root beer as a result of a child shouldn’t drink alcohol. And a grandfather who, I swear, had no less than eight brothers named “Victor.”
I went to a public elementary school that was so Jewish, I did not even notice anybody there was Jewish. I just thought all guys had been as unhealthy as me at contact sports. And all ladies had frizzy hair and topped out at 5’2.
My first real understanding that not everyone celebrated Shavuot, got here when i entered my Episcopalian middle faculty. A number of the clues included boys with blond hair, Topsiders, restricted counry clubs, tee occasions and a group known as the Sons of Hitler that drew swastikas on our lockers. I don’t consider they obtained course credit score for his or her arduous work. However they did not receive suspensions both. This was again within the day, when “kike” was tossed around as casually and with out consequence as “fag.” And when you occurred to be a delicate Jew, you ceaselessly obtained the daily double.
I at all times felt I was a guest at someone else’s college. However by the top of my six years, I started to have enjoyable with it. I used to be tasked with doing the introductions at our annual debate banquet, where I shared the dais with our faculty priest and English headmaster. Neither appeared significantly overjoyed when i began my comments with “seated on the bima tonight” after which launched each member of the talk team by their synagogue affiliation. Aside from the one Korean guy every debate team had. He, I stated, was here representing Fromin’s Delicatessen.
In school within the Northeast, I definitely went by means of a section where I did everything I could to cross. Not just as Gentile, however as Mayflower, previous cash Gentile. I had the Bean Bluchers and the Norwegian fisherman’s sweater and the shiksa girlfriend from Miss Porter’s. I performed contact soccer with fraternity brothers overlooking the water in Newport while carrying an Oxford shirt. However this was always an in poor health-fitting costume. As they are saying, you can’t hide the hook. That’s my nostril. That’s what the hook is referring to.
I even as soon as tried dying my hair blond, using a homemade brew of lemon juice, Sun-In and peroxide. As a substitute of blond, I spent a summer with a vibrant orange mane wanting like the evil spawn of Danny Bonaduce, Carrot Prime and Bozo the Clown.
In actuality, it’s arduous to move as a Jamestown colonist or a laconic Wyoming sheriff with the final title “Behar.” My spouse and that i used to joke that if our children ever wished to run for the Senate, they could drop the “Behar” and run as “Samantha Robins” or “Jack Andrews.” The latter could also save the State Department from an impending terrorist attack in a Michael Bay movie. Then once more, this now looks like a concern from a bygone era. Things have modified so quickly in this country that no title feels extra quintessentially American than “Barack Hussein Obama.”
As an adult, I’ve embraced my Jewishness if not a deep religiosity. Both my kids attend Jewish day faculty, but I’ve never been to Israel. “However who’s watching my timber” I ask each time to repeated non-laughter. I call a thousand Island , “Russian dressing” and still see Woody Allen films principally out of cultural obligation. I do know the V’ahavta by heart (or off-e-book as I call it). But then again, I still additionally know the Lord’s Prayer–the gift of Tuesday Episcopal chapel that keeps on giving.
We consider ourselves a typical American family. Our last large journey was to Charleston. Earlier than that, we went to Austin. Super American, proper? However then, after per week of eating our means via Texas and nonetheless in a brisket coma, I used to be pulled out of line on the Austin airport for questioning. For no discernible motive, past my swarthy complexion and swarthy outlook.
It’s attainable I am getting extra Jewish as I age. Or the corollary, all outdated individuals appear Jewish. Last week, I smuggled a baggy of Trader Joe’s lox into my native bagel store so I wouldn’t have to pay full retail. When did I turn into everyone’s grandmother?
So what’s the purpose of all this identity navel-gazing. Two ideas come to thoughts. The primary is about the Jewish-American expertise. And the way not everyone’s is identical. We have grown accustomed to seeing 20th century Jewry by the identical herring-tinted filter. It’s all the the joker haha time Ashknazi. It at all times runs via Brooklyn. And it all the time appears to be narrated by the same talking heads. We get it, Larry King liked egg creams, stickball and sneaking into Ebbets Area. However my experience has just as many bumuelas and biscochos as tongue sandwiches on rye. And my expertise has already been supplanted by the new Jewish immigrant tales from Iran, South Africa, Russia and Israel.
My second remark is how I/we match into the overall tapestry of American life. Each immigrant in each group at all times faces the give and take of full assimilation versus holding on to valuable customs. There are days when I’m effectively conscious that I’m a Jew in a non-Jewish society. Try spending a day at Disneyland. (It is also helpful if you want to feel anorexic). However on most days, I just blend in and don’t think about it–a proposition I am well aware not all teams get to realize with equal ease. But as I write this last paragraph within the Northridge Starbucks, the only non-Asian or Latino within the room, I see that all of us just want to be considered American.
the joker haha