I Am Rachel, And I Am That Kind Of Jew

I am that kind of Jew.
My Hebraic nature will not stay under wraps,
pipe down or seem more mainstream for your convenience,
is neither conservative nor reform.
My soul doesn’t fit in a power suit.
 
My Jewish
Is not a religion
It is lusty and dark and different.
It is other
It is rubbed to shining, glistening with olive oil,
Smelling of sweet almond.
 
It is wrapped in swaths of heavy fabric
repping the shtetl
Where Ruchel
thuds in my blood.
It is proud, head thrown back, chest spread, in a warrior stance  
Where רָחֵל
Rings through my veins.
 
I am that Hebrew.
 
I am that kind of Jew.
I believe in rigorous intellectual exploration.
You can thank my atheist parents for that: heaven knows I do.
Also true: the heart wants what it wants.
 
The rhythm of sacred dances circle through me unendingly.
My DNA is a hotbed of collective memory.
The ancestors whisper up through the vessel of me, they
Bless me for my willingness to exist inconveniently.
 
I am a Jew.
I am that kind of Jew.
I am that Hebrew
who had kindergarten playdates cancelled
on account of “our people killing Jesus.”
The kind who had swastikas scratched into her second-grade desk
with the sharp end of metal compasses.
Who had not one but two different high school boyfriends
get beaten for dating a Jew;
One by his stepdad and one by his best friend,
So please understand if
I am deeply saddened
But wholly unsurprised by rampant anti-Semitism,
by the hot breath of hatred against the back of my neck.
 
I am a miracle.
My existence defies logic
As well as the wishes of countless
genocidal sociopaths
who’d like to see me wiped off the face of the planet.
 
I am the product of generations of prayers
I am the product of a bravery I can’t begin to imagine.
The fact that I was born Jewish,
The fact that I breathe
Is proof of this.
 
And I am more than just this.
I was born for just this.
 
I will die with Shema on my lips.

 

(Update 11/30/14) Here’s the poem live, accompanied by Alma Cielo on violin.