Wednesday, November 19, 2014

From Left to Write: J by Howard Jacobson

To be one of the chosen people of God. I've had a fascination with Jewish culture since my family moved from Chicago city proper to its suburbs. All of a sudden half my classmates had the last name Cohen, Finkel, or the like. They talked frequently about the shenanigans they pulled in Hebrew school. Somehow Korean school wasn't as glamorous or exciting. The year I turned 13 was filled with friends' bar and bat mitzvahs, elaborate over the top parties where kids would get carried in chairs in the air and everyone would dance holding white napkins together in a circle. Throughout my formative years schools were closed for every Jewish high holiday (but not Good Friday) and we frequently talked about seders and Hannukah in class. I wanted to be Jewish. It looked like such a cool club from the outside.

College and life in New York afterwards expanded my love affair with Jewish culture in the form of food and life-long friends.  The Kosher Kitchen was one of the best dining halls on campus and it was part of the meal plan. Manhattan's offerings were even better--Artie's deli on 83rd street with its sides of cole slaw and pickles, Cafe Edison for matzoh ball soup, and Zabar's to pick up everything else, to say nothing about the deliciousness of real bagels! Many Jewish girlfriends and boyfriends enhanced my appreciation for a people that have endured so much hatred and oppression for thousands of years and yet have persevered to excel in education, the arts, medicine and every field of business.

While I ultimately did not end up converting or marrying in, my belief that Israel was given to the Jews by God has never been diminished. So imagine the horror I felt when I found out that, on Tuesday morning, two Muslims from East Jerusalem armed with a gun, knives and axes burst into a West Jerusalem synagogue shouting Allahu Akbar and then proceeded to open fire and bludgeon praying men with axes. Of course, this made me think of J, the novel I had been reading for the From Left to Write book club. I had read a review of the book that it was not realistic that another Holocaust would happen as suggested by the book. I beg to differ--in a world where Jews in Jerusalem can get massacred in a synagogue, is the possibility of another Holocaust really that far fetched? I had originally been planning a different post, but how could I not comment on the fact that most people in this world are not outraged by what happened, and it did happen! Why is the flag not lowered to half staff for the Americans that were killed in this tragedy? Why doesn't the POTUS come out stronger against the incident? Does he even care?

I am praying that God will comfort the families of the three AMERICAN and the other victims of this travesty. If it is God's will, I pray that he will help Benjamin Netanyahu carry out his vow to "settle the score with every terrorist."  Whenever things like this happen, I question whether it is the end times. More and more I agree with the answer my pastor recently gave to this query, "it's been the end times ever since Jesus returned to Heaven." If you live in a place where there are no Jewish people and the problems of the Middle East seem far away, just think about how Hitler was able to affect the life of every human being on Earth during World War II. Ignoring the issues will not make them go away, please spare a thought for these issues today.

This post was inspired by the novel J by Howard Jacobson, about a world where collective memory has vanished and the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited. Join From Left to Write on November 20th as we discuss J. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Stacy at The Novel Life said...

It has only been in the last few years that I have made friends with several Jewish couples. Growing up in rural North Georgia we had a plethora of Appalachian inhabitants but not anyone (that I can recall) from the Jewish culture and faith. I had to smile though with your opening line about being "one of the chosen people of God." In Sunday School and church at a very Southern Baptist church, I would inevitably stick my foot in my mouth asking the question of any adult who would listen to my request to be Jewish! Thank you for sharing your timely and thoughtful post.

Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

I grew up in Louisiana and really didn't meet any Jewish people until after college. I'm still learning about Jewish faith and culture and I'm glad to have friends to help me.

Alicia said...

I've only known one Jewish person in my life, a dentist I worked for, but he never mentioned it much.

I think it's horrible that no place is safe anymore, not even a place of worship.

Excellent post!