“I have always been pleased by my good fortune in being a Jew,” wrote Philip Roth almost 50 years ago. “It’s a complicated, interesting, morally demanding, and very singular experience, and I like that. I find myself in the historic predicament of being Jewish, with all its implications. Who could ask for more?”
With this in mind, Lilith unwraps, in the following pages, five narratives that exemplify how singularly each one of us conjures that mystical, idiosyncratic, completely individual spark that binds each of our separate souls to its tiny, specific Jewish essence [in Yiddish, dos pinteleh yid].
That essence may reside in the memory of resisting a substitute Hebrew school teacher’s terrible lesson plan. Or maybe it presents as a lifelong centripetal pull to give back to our community. Is it the Jewish pledge we made, in our Christian childhood, that burrowed underground for years before we made good on it?
The essence might be the company of two biblical characters, Hannah and Eli, who periodically pop up in unsuspecting lives. Or, finally, it can surface in our grocery store’s produce section where a Holocaust survivor’s fleeting presence erases years of acrimonious Passover seders.
Each of us surely has our own golden Jewish thread that runs through everything. What’s the good fortune of yours?
In This Feature
Pam Crow and Robert A. Lowein owning an abusive biblical text
Two friends round up the biblical Hannahs and Elis in their own lives.
Marty Ross-Dolendown the crooked path to a daughter’s bat mitzvah
Divorce cleaves a girl’s interfaith family in two. What happens when the author vows to raise religiously unconfused children.
Monique Faison Rossin a congregation’s response to attempted murder
An abusive husband turns violent, and his victim discovers the potency of community.
Sari M. Borenin a corner of the Hebrew school classroom
In fifth grade, resisting a bad lesson plan: is she Jewish or is she American?
Susan Moldawat a hard-won seder
Encountering a Holocaust survivor over grapes in the grocery store, Moldaw overcomes her own Passovers from hell.