Saturday, September 24, 2011

Out On A Limb, Again!

Another tale from the “Former, Anti-Semitic, Recovering Jewish American Princess

On occasion I am, painfully, reminded of the kinds of things that, originally, evoked my “former anti-Semitism.” In a few words I can summarize; Jewish, anti-gentile other-ing (i.e. blatantly excluding those not of the “tribe.”) 

I speak forthrightly here of my “former anti-Semitism.” I am both an American granted, by my constitutional rights, the right to freedom of speech and a 100% member of this tribe. Additionally, I have made sufficient amends to my tribe to have earned the right to, publicly, be my own kind of Jew! This is, after all, my tribal family.

Don’t let me, however, hear a cross word from you about Jews and those things that are Jewish, if it is not also your’s. Much less a speck of disrespect more than a current, negative emotion that you are intent on transforming to its highest plane, sooner rather than later. For myself, I am certain that I am only “naming” my view here in order to “claim” who I am without hiding behind another one of my outmoded masks. Then I will go forth, again, up to my next tier of finding the light inside the darkness of me. Feel free to do the same, if need be.

Here is my current story; another in my series of “Former Anti-Semitic Recovering Jewish American Princess” tales. On Tablet Magazine, tag line; “A new read on Jewish life,” which I love for its like-mindedness with my personal Jewish American values (or is that American Jewish), the following occurred this week.

A self-identified “shiksa” (non-Jewish woman), no older than twenty-five, published a bold and beautiful article of her adolescent into adulthood, near-hero worship of Jews and Jewish culture. For me, the article, “Counterlife” by Alice Gregory, was one of the most compelling pieces I have read. I wish I could express myself as well.

Perhaps Ms. Gregory’s article touched me so deeply because, first, I, too, grew up in California as a teenager, as did she. So I could easily “feel” the California energy of which she spoke. Secondly, like the young author, I have lived my entire adult life, not in NYC with its rampant Jewish population, but not far from it in the Washington, D.C. area, still a far cry from California. Thirdly, though I am 100% Jewish, like Ms. Gregory, I, also, have had massive identity issues that cross the lines between Jewish and gentile. Contrary to Ms. Gregory, however, when I left the home of my very observant Jewish family, I had, by choice, almost no friends who were Jewish. She had few that were gentile.

Unfortunately, this well-articulated author got trashed by too many of her commenting readers in response to her her offering. Instead of celebrating it, her critics tore her piece apart in a most condemnatory fashion; their censuring done by reproaching her for what I viewed as an honoring of our tribe and its members, in spite of their blemishes. How dare a shiksa take the liberty to love the Jews!

Such gross discourtesy; unsavory examples of Jews not welcoming “others” into our elite circle, Rather, her disapproving commentators made it a point to demonstrate just how arrogant and excluding Jews can be; in my opinion, an open door invitation to the very negativity that sparks divisiveness and attracts anti-Semitism. There is a cost to elitist comments such as these.

Where, as a group, we could have graciously received Ms. Gregory’s bold and beautiful article in the spirit in which I feel certain it was offered. Instead we turned her appreciation of our people, including our eccentricities, back on her with pettiness. By their comments, these readers illustrated Ms. Gregory’s well-made point.

“….. we—the goyim who aspire to some cursory definition of Jewishness—see you in a different way than you see yourselves.”

Were these petty comments representative of how modern-days Jews want to be viewed?

In so transparently presenting herself, as Alice Gregory did, she provided a gift to Jews and gentiles. We Jews need some honest input from those outside our tribal limits such as her’s. And, there is no reason we cannot, also, do with some added adoration, even from adolescent idealists. There are no limits to the assistance we all need to cross the barriers of whatever it is that separates us.

So be it! When non-Jews speak similarly about Jews and those things Jewish as did these disdainful commentators, I would be equally incensed. Such an absence of tribal dignity and manners is painful to witness.

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