NauenThen

Notes on being a Jew/Jewish writer

July 16, 2017

This piece, published probably 20 years ago, resurfaced & (unsurprisingly) still has many of my concerns & thoughts.

Notes on being a Jew/Jewish writer: the start of my questions
(one Jew, six opinions—old joke)


“To be Jewish is to have left home early and arrived nowhere.”
—Edmund Jabes

I am a Jew because Hitler said my father was one
because my father suffered
because my father survived.
To ignore that is to deny what happened and what could happen.
I am an American
because my father fled here.
Land of my fathers? Where could that be?
There is nothing
nothing in Germany.

“What preserves the Jew’s separateness in this age is far less his ancient religion or some distinct culture than his terrible memories; it is Hitler who has defined the modern Jew and continues to define him from the grave.”
—Peter Gay, Freud, Jews and Other Germans

I am a Jew to remember
remember my father’s story.
Never forget.

I am a Jew.
I am 40 years old.
Some people tell me I don’t look my age. To deny my age is to invalidate my story: I want my face to look like I’ve lived my life. I’m 40 so I look exactly like a 40-year-old woman looks.

Do I write as a woman writes? A Westerner? An immigrant to New York? A Jew? A Wobblie? A wife? A white?
I’m a Jew because I’m a Jew. If I forget others won’t.

“When someone sticks a gun in your face, you become an active witness.”
—Maggie Dubris

I am a Jew because my father was one.

His last words were in German, a language he barely knew anymore, after almost 50 years in America. Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, wrote the great anti-Semite Martin Luther. My German father; my Jewish daddy. A language to die for. Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott: A mighty fortress is our God.