Half a dozen of the other, or: Jew

Tassels swinging as they walk
to the Wall on Saturdays;
      perhaps not. It depends,
      you know. Some wear frock 
      coats so you wouldn't
      know it; 
      plus- tassels probably don't swing much under heavy polyester.
I went abroad
to teach a group of secular Jews
      from Russia 
      in Georgia. The
      country. I wore my skullcap (that's
      not what I call it) and
      only ate kosher food. They asked me all about ultra-
Orthodoxy. I'm no authority. No
insider. Most of that community sees
      me as no 
      different than secular
      Jews, perhaps "worse".
      Complicated to explain 
      without getting into theology.
Hard to explain even
to Jews. Moving
      on - 
      I live 
      with them in holy Jerusalem;
      a large group assembles on Saturdays
      near my former downtown apartment to block
traffic. My secular father found
this fascinating, as he did
      nearly everything; my wife 
      found it degrading. Me too.
      Most who protest weekly 
      wear those frock coats,
      indicating membership in a Hasidic sect. Those who
wear modern black
business jackets  
      are of the "Lithuanian" ultra-
      Orthodox persuasion, which, only several centuries ago,
      vehemently opposed
      Hasidic ways. 
      Now they're united in Israel's parliament 
against serving in the 
defense forces, despite 
      living under their protection.
      Difficult not to let
      bias show like my epidermis.
      I'll try
      to stick to the facts, Sir, Ma'am. That's what I am
here for. Not so sexy
writing about Jews; not
      something the world cares to know about.
      Write what 
      you know. 
      Some, mostly Hasidic,
      will never, ever see my words online because their rabbis 
forbid Internet access. Oh.
Those tassels are actually fringes,
      tzitzit in Hebrew, 
      which I wear, sometimes
      for months at a stretch, until I tire
      or struggle
      through a religious crisis. Those frock coats?  
Bekishes. Never worn one, nor
do I 
      want to. It's ironic (
      that they adopted the dress of non-
      Jews in the Czarist 
      era and claim today that it's authentic Jewish garb.
I wouldn't wear that, even to cover
      my epidermis, 
      but I'm not trying 
      to. Ultra-Orthodox 
      women don't wear pants and cover their hair upon marriage. 
      Some wear wigs; but some heed rabbis who rule:
Personally, oh-
      never mind. Just the facts, Ma'am, Sir.
      My skull cap is a kippah; that's
      Hebrew. Means
      dome. Many call it
      yarmulke. That's Yiddish. The majority who speak Yiddish
are Hasidic. The majority  
who speak modern Hebrew
      are Israeli.
      Jews' exteriors once mattered more
      to me. I saw wisdom in beards;
      now I have one;
      it's meaningless. I once asked a rabbi why he didn't have one.
He'd never thought
about it; I felt foolish. Still
      do. If tzitzit are concealed 
      by bekishes, you'll 
      note ear locks swinging as they 
      walk to the Wall on Saturdays;
      perhaps not, but most Hasidic males have them. I 
don't. I do
have insight into their 
      lifestyles, as I've studied
      them; we share
      a heritage and religious texts.
      The rub is that most 
      of the world sees me and assumes I am one. I


Open Link

For today’s d’Verse open link, I’ve decided to share a free verse poem that I wrote ten months ago, not long after I created this blog.

I rarely write free verse, although I think I should do more of it… but I struggle with poetry that doesn’t have any rules attached to it. What is it exactly that makes the above staggered sequence of words a poem?

85 thoughts on “Half a dozen of the other, or: Jew”

  1. Interesting reading this as I don’t know much of Jewish culture. Have you read The Source by James Michener? It’s on the birth of religion and the history of Israel in part. A heavy read, but I think you will find it interesting.

    1. YES! Wow, that is SUCH a good book, Anitaelise – I loved, loved, loved it. It’s “heavy” but it’s so good that it’s “light”! How did you come upon it? 🙂


      1. At the local library when I was in my late teens. Find the print of James Michener books too small to read now. And he wasn’t on Kindle when I last checked.

          1. Hi David, just have an issue with Michener books -the print is tiny as the books are long. Too much screen time these days makes these tiring. Have no problem with other paperbacks. Thanks for asking.

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