Tag Archive | Jewish

God Willing


God willing, Nannie would say
I won’t be here next year
God willing, He’ll take me
I’ll rest
You young people can carry on

Make your messes
Find your faults

Or better yet
Don’t talk at all
Kill each other with silence

I’ve had enough, Nannie would say
God willing, take me now
I’ve seen the so called Promised Land
It’s not for me
You young people can have it

Scramble over each other
Dash for freedom

Even better
Block all passages
Let no one through


Fight for a new land
Fight to stay alive
Fight to find happiness

God willing, Nannie would say
By tomorrow I’ll be gone



The Elephant in the Room



It’s Hanukkah, the time of year when Christmas is all around us. Some may say relentlessly so. Decorations and lights, music, shopping opportunities are everywhere. They prompt me to think a bit more than usual about being Jewish and what that means. For better or worse, I’ve never “looked Jewish,” and many people are surprised to find that I am. I don’t talk about religion much, and I don’t practice the faith outwardly. I tried the Unitarian Universalist church for a long time, but it didn’t take, not in any deeply connecting way (not their fault – I felt like a traitor to my people, a nice Jewish girl going to church on Sundays. What was I thinking?) Living in an area with a heavy Roman Catholic presence and a tradition of Yankee Protestantism, I simply don’t fit in and never have. At least that’s how I feel. I don’t fit in. Never have. Unlikely that I ever will.

In an excerpt from my novel set in 1968, PERSEPHONE IN HELL, Sammy is Glory’s older brother. He’s had a thing for Denise throughout high school and makes no secret of it. Denise is pretty but dull and unaccomplished. She looks good in tight sweaters; that’s the attraction.

“Everyone knew how much Sammy liked Denise, even though he was going off to college in only a few months and Denise would be left working at the dry cleaner in town.

Denise wasn’t so sure about who she liked, especially as she was an inch or two taller than Sammy. She had wanted a taller beau. But her mother said Sammy was a good catch. A college man, destined for success. Didn’t the paper say he’d graduated number three out of the whole class? A brilliant boy, an Ivy Leaguer, maybe law school after that. Good enough by far for her under achieving daughter.

Then Denise told her mother the truth, that Sammy is Jewish.

“He doesn’t look Jewish,” her mother had replied. “He looked perfectly normal, handsome even, in his tux on prom night. And he was so polite. You must have heard wrong, Denise. You must be mistaken.”

Denise told her mother there was no mistake – Sammy is Jewish. You don’t have a name like Samuel when you’re Christian, she’d said. That’s a Jewish name. And she’d driven by his house last winter and had seen blue candles in the window, but no Christmas tree, no wreath on the door. She’d thought that was oddly strange, but then heard that Jews don’t celebrate Christmas. She didn’t know what Jews do celebrate, but it is some weird thing involving blue lights. They don’t believe in Jesus, Denise had said.

Denise’s mother didn’t know how Denise knew such things, but she was shocked by the report. She instantly reconsidered her daughter’s future. What had been a clear, smart scenario dissolved into a murky, uncertain view. And she wasn’t about to incur the wrath of Father O’Brien. God forbid her daughter date a Jew.”

Now, times have changed…they’ve changed….times have changed….haven’t they?

Best regards to everyone of every religion, race, nationality, gender, age, weight, height, and sexual preference. It is the content of one’s character that matters. And have a very happy holiday season. If it bothers you that I’m using the word ‘holiday’ instead of ‘Christmas’, well, I mean it with all good will and no, I don’t plan to change the way I wish you well.

A Tale of Two Davids


I’d heard all about the statue of David, of course. The magnificence of the carving, the perfection of form. Its compelling presence. Michelangelo’s greatest work, perhaps. Florentine, uniquely Italian, yet universal. A statement of the human condition.

When I saw David this summer in person, right up close, I fell in love. It was the same with Van Gogh’s paintings in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. I never knew how much I admired and cared for Van Gogh’s work until I saw them for myself some seven years ago. One can read and study and memorize every detail of a photograph of an art work, but seeing it for real is a whole different experience.

The same is true about violence and death. One can read about it in the newspaper or watch the nightly TV newscast, and feel almost nothing. Over and over, we hear about war and battles, bombs and sniper attacks, until it seems we become immune to their true horrors. The biblical David was famous for his victory over Goliath. He epitomizes the intelligence of the Hebrew people. Yet he killed. Perhaps too much time has gone by for us to feel the violence of his act.

When my brother David committed suicide some 25 years ago, the anguish of it was too much to bear. All I could feel was anger. I held back love, compassion, pity. I froze out understanding. I couldn’t allow acceptance or any contemplation of the human condition that my brother’s act of self-inflicted violence might have represented.

But when I saw the David of Michelangelo, in the company of my sister who endured the same anguish and agony as I had 25 years ago, my heart began to open. In the presence of the master sculpture, I let compassion in. I tried to understand, and in doing so, began to heal. I waited too many years. I should have visited him long ago.


A Tale of Two Davids

After 25 years
I’m finally ready to talk about David

There are two Davids
One cast in stone
In the Accademia museum in Italy
The other cast into the ground in a coffin

David the rock carved of solid marble,
Form of a god
David the weak
Composed of decomposing human flesh,
Probably all bones by now

One symbolizes heroism
The other was cowardly
One slew the giant
The other slew himself

One had the intelligence
To outwit an enemy many times his size
The other had intelligence too
But couldn’t find his own strengths

Rock David is perfect
Cut from the stone by a master
Flesh David is perfect too
Perfect in his anger against himself

David the Florentine statue
Admired for courage and artistry
The world will remember
David my brother
Reviled for his inhuman loveless act
We try to forget

David born of the Hebrews and Michelangelo
Lives in beloved eternity
David born of the Hebrews Joyce and Herb
Died in despair and disgrace

A tale of two Davids

Chinese Food For Thought



The secret’s out – I eat Chinese food fairly often. How do we know? The frequent references to my fortunes, of course.

Tonight’s revelation: “Focus on trusting your intuition and you will get through it.” This fortune seems rather appropriate and timely. I like to think that I have an intuitive sense about myself and the obstacles I face. But what about conflicting intuitions, those instances where communication appears to be real and yet the people involved are light years apart in understanding? One person’s intuition is another’s indecipherable attitude. In this 1968 scene from PERSEPHONE IN HELL, Glory and her physics teacher couldn’t be further away from understanding each other.

“Stay a minute, will you, Gloria?” Mrs. Standish asked.

What’s important enough to make me late for my next class?

Madeline Standish looked at Glory. She saw a vibrant girl with a movie star figure, startling violet eyes, and wild dark hair strung with colored beads. Those hippies, Madeline thought, out to change the world. Our perfectly good world.

“Miss M_____, you simply must pay more attention in my class. Your grade depends on it. You want to go to college, don’t you? Well, of course you do, a bright girl like you. Not that girls need college. But you don’t want to end up a nobody, do you?”

I’ll never be a nobody.

Glory drew herself up out of her self-indulgent slouch. Her eyes turned dark and piercing. She looked at Mrs. Standish with the wrath of the high born.

I am Elizabeth of England, the great queen, and being talked to as a lowly sailor.

Madeline sensed she had said the wrong thing. She tried again.

“Glory, as a member of God’s Chosen People, you have a special obligation. You have to try your best. We know that all Jews are smart. That’s God’s truth. God expects a lot of you.”

Oh, is that all this is? I’m not about to let on to Mrs. Standish that I don’t believe in the god of the Jews, or any other god for that matter.

She’s complicated and interesting, Madeline admitted to herself. But Jews are tricky. I much prefer our normal girls. Still, I treat everyone the same and I’m proud of that. It’s a modern world, after all.”

Tonight, along with my Singapore rice noodles, beef with broccoli, and Peking ravioli, I contemplate my life. I sit in front of this computer with a glass of red French wine and wonder where the world will take me. What trust should I have in my own intuition, when it’s clear that intent can so easily be misinterpreted? Even one’s own mind must be subject to scrutiny. How long, how deeply should I think things through? What about feelings? Am I thinking too much? Focus…trust…intuition – Chinese food for thought.