THE TRUTH ABOUT MY JEWISHNESS
Inspired by @samboyd (and the Internet) I give you...
- •I am named after my maternal great grandmother Lena Simonoff, a Jew who emigrated from Russia in the early 1900s.Supposedly her arms were dotted with scars from baking bread. She had six children and when one died in a plane crash her remaining five wrote her "letters from Europe" as the son who had "moved away."
- •My grandfather Samuel Simonoff changed his name at the start of World War II.Concerned about the family he was starting, and the sweet Jewish gal he was marrying, he took the name Samuel Ira Simon. My grandmother said Simon was a "dreadful" last name and so Simmons it was. I should note her last name, Trussell, was no picnic.
- •On the first day of kindergarten my mother Laurie (named after Lena) ate a salami sandwich and clam chowder in the non-Kosher school cafeteria.She called my great grandma Mimi to tell her and Mimi screamed "why!?"
- •My mother met my father, who is Protestant, in 1977.Grandma Mimi said "never marry a gentile, he'll only end up at the corner bar." Later, after their wedding, my dad was late coming home. He finally called and my mother yelled "where are you?" He was at the corner bar.
- •When I was in first grade I started Hebrew school.However, I stopped in second grade because I was not given the role of Esther in the play.
- •On our family vacation to Ecuador I bought a silver and turquoise cross necklace in a marketplace.My grandpa said I couldn't wear it and turned away from me. I told him it was "for fashion" then went swimming in the lake and lost it and secretly blamed him.
- •The summer between 9th & 10th grades I fell in love with a white rapper named Jules Epstein-Hebert.I asked to see his penis and he showed it to me and said "it gets bigger" but I didn't touch it or test that theory.
- •When Grandpa Sam died in 2002 it was the first Jewish funeral I had attended.Before that only my father's parents had died. He was laid out in his coffin in his navy uniform in a private room. Later as we each dropped a handful of dirt on him I wished I hadn't looked.
- •In 2010 I went to Jerusalem for a film festival.I smoked cigarettes and drank coca cola and sweat because it was July and I was hiding my tattoos. I cried at the wailing wall and upon tasting hummus. I felt like a woman and a feral animal and a free person and a part of history. On the way into Tel Aviv at night I heard dance music before I saw lights. I started praying despite myself.
- •In 2012 I met Jack.Jack is my partner/person/husband and his grandfather Max was a rabbi who fought for civil rights along with Martin Luther King Jr. and looms large over holidays and cheeseburgers. Before bed I often make Jack tell me stories about his Jewish day school where he spoke Hebrew for half the day and started a secret business smuggling in Dunkin Donuts. I love imagining all the stuff he got up to in a yarmulke and also the rare moments he paused and thought about G-d.
- •I hopemy children learn about Judaism, meditation, feminism and Joshua Tree. They don't need to know anything about my father's religion except that he's always saying "it's too hot in here" and fiddling with the lights.
- •Oh I guess I should addthat time last week the Anti-Defamation League spoke out against a humor piece I wrote and my flummoxed mother asked over and over "do they know you're Jewish? Because your last name isn't! But you are because I am! Do they know??"