De-Jewed

April 07, 1997|By Miriyam Glazer

I CAN'T IMAGINE that millions of viewers across the globe understood host Billy Crystal's Oscar-night joke about suddenly finding himself a Gentile, but now I get it. Thanks to the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, members of the Reform and Conservative movements, like me and Mr. Crystal, were now excommunicated. De-Jewed.

Bring on the pork sausages, Ma. We're free at last, free at last, thanks almighty New York Orthodox rabbis, we're free at last.

For starters, think of the culinary burden magically lifted from us. Pork sausages are only the beginning. Kosher, smosher, I can go out and get me one of those mouth-watering country -- or city! -- hams. Garlic shrimp at my local Thai restaurant, any chicken but Empire's, swimming in wine cream sauce. Lord of lords, sin of sins -- a once-in-a-lifetime Big Mac, and don't hold the cheese.

At last, some room on my library shelves. Out with ''The Jewish Caravan,'' ''Eros and the Jews,'' ''Standing Again at Sinai,'' ''The Jewish Woman,'' ''Nice Jewish Girls,'' ''What is Jewish Literature?'' Out with 15 shelves of Jewish religious and mystical texts, Holocaust novels, Hebrew poetry, Israeli politics, tomes like ''The Jew's Body,'' ''Carnal Israel'' and ''Anti-Semitism and the Jews,'' novels written by women formerly known as Jews.

And I'll redecorate. Down with those artsy mezuzot on every doorpost of my condo; they're probably fraudulent, anyway, crafted by other former Jews. Down with paintings that evoke the Negev Desert or base their artwork on the Song of Songs. I'll pack away even my mother's exquisite needlepoints; with their menorahs, Lions of Judah, prayer motifs, they are, regrettably, just ''too Jewish.''

No more nervously scanning the daily newspaper for the latest outrage by either Netanyahu or Hamas. No more anxiety about whether the Hubble telescope, genetic engineering, the Internet, Ben & Jerry's or White House pajama parties are ''good for the Jews.''

No more giving to the New Israel Fund, the Jewish Federation, my synagogue building fund, Jewish Family Services, orphanages in Israel or even the Democratic Party. In fact, now I can vote against ''illegal aliens,'' against welfare, the minimum wage, taxing-and-spending, the tired, the poor, the tempest-tossed huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Thank you, rabbis. No more do I have to be hindered by the prophetic call, ''Justice, Justice, thou shalt pursue.'' That cry was just so . . . Jewish. And all that conflict I've had about teaching both Western and Jewish civilizations -- why should I care, now? I can leave the task of educating young Jewish college students about their history and culture to those who carry the banner of true Judaism. What can they learn from an unJew like me?

How the Sunday Travel section has opened up! No more annual trekking to pricey Israel (I'll ask my sisters in Tel Aviv to move back home). Around the Days of Awe, I'll go mountain climbing, )) perhaps in Nepal; I'll exchange my Purim costumes for trick-or-treating on Halloween, and instead of the painstaking house-cleaning, Seder-planning drudgery of Passover, well, don't we all love Paris in the spring?

I wonder what those delicately wrought silver Sabbath candlesticks of mine will fetch at auction. (Just because I'm de-Jewed doesn't mean I'm Jackie Onassis either.)

Admittedly, I'll miss them, along with the kaddish cups, challah cloth, Sabbath dinners; my glorious brass Hanukkah menorah and holiday celebrations with family and friends; the skullcap my student crocheted for me, and the prayer shawl I borrowed from my daughter.

But I'm free at last -- I won't need any of that old ritual paraphernalia. Sabbath mornings I'll hit the gym instead of the shul. I hear the building-fund board is busy converting it into a center for a new 12-step program anyway for the thousands -- millions? -- of other kicking-the-habit former Reform and Conservative Jews.

Miriyam Glazer is director of the Dortort Writers Institute at the University of Judaism. She wrote this commentary for the Los Angeles Times.

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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