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.