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Showing posts with label haredi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label haredi. Show all posts

Saturday, January 7, 2012

An Untitled Novel, Last Part

"That night, the family friend came over and said to avi, 'You're not going to believe what this kid told me about those koferim that I grew up hearing about.' He told him and the rest of us what had happened, and we all simply concluded that the kid had lo sekhel, was in over his head. That you would use them to study Anusim and compare Anusim to Yehudim and get a better picture of kol 'am Yisra'el is funny-- that is, strange. Besides, I told you about them to give you an idea of those times, and and idea of what my great-great-grandparents did versus what they did-- and thus why I did not give up my faith when I married your dad. I chose to take persecution for my faith and ethnicity, rather than to blend in and save my life which is not eternal on this Earth-- but will be eternal b'ha'olam haba."


But I thought about those Suwalki koferim compared to the great-great-grandparents of imi, and about what their relative said about them. "'In a similar way to how my side of the family meant evil by pseudo conversion, bnei-Yisra'el meant evil to Yosef. Just as they abandoned their Jewish religion in order to save their lives, so bnei-Yisra'el tried to make Yosef's life to be Gei Hinnom for their selfish ends.'" Also, "'Jesus would have told them not to abandon their Jewishness to save their lives from the Catholic Poles and Russians. "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." He would have told them to stand for their faith, even if they did not believe in him, instead of convert to Catholicism and pretend to believe in him. Then again, even their considering Catholicism just to play the goyim saved their souls.'"


At that moment, I was standing between two grounds: would I trust who "'sustained the little ones of my relatives who played the goyim'"-- the little ones such as Bernie and Ed-- or would I be like my great-great-great-grandparents and "'stand for their faith, even if [I] believe[d] in him"? I ultimately decided that "'even their considering Catholicism just to play the goyim saved their souls.'" 


I thought, "Let my dad hate me for being a Jew as the Poles, Russians, and even Americans hated Jews. Let my mom hate me for converting to Christianity to save my life. But I'm not being an Anusi -- I'm saving my eternal life, not my earthly life as those koferim meshumadim did. Besides, just as their relative said, 'Yosef said, "'Fear not; for am I in the place of God? And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."' What those koferim meshumadim meant for evil by not standing for their Jewish faith brought some of their children to the true Jewish faith, the complete Jewish faith-- Christianity.


"I can be a Jew and truly believe in Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah-- Yeshua HaNotzri HaMashiach."


Then imi, my dad, and all of my siblings-- Marta, Marjia, Mara, Enumah, Tikvah, and Ahavah; and Nwoye, Obi, Okonkwo, and Chinua and Maulana all got word of my newfound Jewish Christianity and sat shiva for me. They also tried to block me from getting back in the house when I came home from a walk. "We don't want the dead here," imi shouted. "As your dad said, we don't want the dead here-- ghosts, spirits, or bodies. That your dad and I agree on your belief in Jesus of Nazareth as Mashiach is the first agreement that we have had in a long time."


Then Nwoye, Obi, Okonkwo, and Chinua and Maulana stood with my dad in traditional Kushi mourning clothing; and Marta, Marjia, Mara, Enumah, Tikvah, and Ahavah with imi in shiva clothing. They along with my dad and imi, respectively, threw me even off of the porch and out of the house altogether. Before I completely left the house as I heard an African mourning chant and "Kaddish" lifted up, my mom called out to me:


"As I told you, I told you about them to give you an idea of those times, and and idea of what my great-great-grandparents did versus what they did-- and thus why I did not give up my faith when I married your dad. I chose to take persecution for my faith and ethnicity, rather than to blend in and save my life which is not eternal on this Earth. By the way, the troublesome man who avi saw you argue with in Upper Park Heights got word of your conversion to Christianity; and was the family friend who I told you about. He hadn't talked to me in years until he called me up once he got word of your conversion-- and no wonder he sensed you to be a schvartze, a troublesome schvartze."


As I walked away from my house, I thought of that verse, "'Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.'" I also remembered a verse that I had read when I had given up my Talmud studies in exchange for Bible studies, and when I had shocked my grandparents by even considering Yeshua to be Mashiach. " And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, orfather, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life."


I was glad to have given up the past Hanukkah and Christmas to go on a journey to find chayei b'ha'olam haba.

An Untitled Novel, Part 13

"Where did you hear about that mishpacha, anyway?" imi asked when I came home. "And you haven't referred to me as 'Imi' or 'imi' in a long time. You know, we used to call my mother that-- 'imi', 'my mother'." 


"You told me about hamishpacha."


"Now I remember. And I meant to tell you more about that before you went up there to explore that. Someone who claimed that he was related to that family one day came up to a family friend and asked if he could talk to him. He allowed him to. Then he told them perhaps what you told me that the other relative-- the one that you inquired to-- told you. He was using that story as part of his proselytization. The funny thing is that he even related it to this week's parsha-- he even quoted it, too. He said, 'In a similar way to how my side of the family meant evil by pseudo conversion, bnei-Yisra'el meant evil to Yosef. Just as they abandoned their Jewish religion in order to save their lives, so bnei-Yisra'el tried to make Yosef's life to be Gei Hinnom for their selfish ends.'


"Quoting from the King James Version of the New Testament, he explained, 'Jesus would have told them not to abandon their Jewishness to save their lives from the Catholic Poles and Russians. "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." He would have told them to stand for their faith, even if they did not believe in him, instead of convert to Catholicism and pretend to believe in him. Then again, even their considering Catholicism just to play the goyim saved their souls.'


"Quoting from the JPS Version of Tanakh-- since he at least tried not to offend our friend in his proselytizing--, he explained, 'Yosef said, "'Fear not; for am I in the place of God? And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.  Now therefore fear ye not; I will sustain you, and your little ones.'"' In the same way, Jesus sustained the little ones of my relatives who played the goyim and thus turned their backs on their Jewish religion and ultimately on Jesus by only pretending to believe in Him.'"

Monday, December 19, 2011

An Untitled Novel, Part 11

"Couldn't they haven't just gone to the Beth T'filoh beit knesset?" I asked imi this after I Googled more to see what I had missed of what I had just left.

"They were very shomrim haredim," she answered my question in the negative. "And since when did you start calling me 'Ima'? Did you encounter your sava?" She knew that I had become more Jewish in spite of her family. "And why are you browsing the Internet on your phone? Avikha would kill you." She also knew that I'd been browsing Google. "At least you're learning halashon shel 'ameinu with Google; I'll you give you that." She knew that despite my identifying with her heritage, my Hebrew was limited in even what I had learned from her. "What about that Anusi mishpacha? What did you find out about them? They seemed very interesting to you, anyway."

I told her that the Reverend Vincent Dang caught me on the grounds of the church and cemetery while he was walking around them, befuddledly asked me what I wanted, somehow handed me some copies of records when I told him what I wanted, and walked away while mumbling, "Take a look at these." He was an Asian man whose second language was relatively-limited English with a strong accent to accompany it, and the former longtime priest of Holy Family Church. I had found nothing in the records yet, and was just still recovering from the shock that he had not called the police on me for trespassing on the church and cemetery grounds.

"As I asked you before, what b'Gei Hinnom did you need to compare that Anusi mishpacha to my Yehudi mishpacha for, anyway?"

"Man b'Gei Hinnom I needed to compare the mispachim for, as I answered before, is to get a broader picture of my Jewish heritage and kol 'am Yisra'el." I still made her wonder man b'Gei Hinnom she was going to do with me. After she wished me a laila tov and hung up, I began thumbing through the record copies that the Reverend Dang had, not knowing what else to do, given to me.




Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Untitled Novel, Part 10

"You're not allowed here, schvartze! You're not allowed here, schvartze!" A Jewish man stopped me as I was trying to get into my grandparents' neighborhood in the Upper Park Heights shtetl to explore it and perhaps catch a glimpse of my grandparents. Then the only encounter I had with sabi shel HaLevi'im-- my Levite granddad-- was this: he spit on me when he recognized that I was his daughter's Kushi son and having what he considered the hutzpah to argue with a Yehudi.

As the look of recognition was still on his face, he angrily yelled, "You disappoint me! You disappoint me!" After that, I left for Sugar Notch to go inquire about that Anusi mispacha to which I was going to compare to mispachti-- my family, who were Yehudim and wanted their Kushi neched gone. I never saw mishpachti shel Ha'Levim except for imi again.

"Beni, beni," my mother lamented. "You left for Sugar Notch in this cold weather? And avi spit on you? Oy! Next time just stay in Baltimore for the yom haba, to recover and get away from mispachti as much as possible." But as I lamented to imi and became all the more proud of my Jewish heritage, having been persecuted as a Kushi and a kofer because of it, I revved up the engine in my car to see what that Anusi mishpacha had, anyway.

Just as I thought, Sugar Notch had cold weather that gave me enough time to sit in the car and then make a mad dash for the Town Hall or Holy Family Church, whichever I felt like parking my car in front of and rooting through records in. This time, I wasn't staying in a hotel-- not in poor to below-poverty-line Sugar Notch. So sleeping in my car would be nothing unusual, I figured as I parked near the old Holy Family Cemetery and stayed there.

Perhaps the church would figure that I was a sojourner or pilgrim just spending my night in the car, or a transient or schicker who couldn't make the night home. Little would they know that I was a Kushi Jew coming here to inquire about a family who they had no idea were Jews-- and to see what this family of Yehudim had to gain from running from persecution and being Anusim instead of facing persecution like my family and me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Untitled Novel, Part 9

As I looked at a Reform beit knesset on my way from Reistertown Road back to Upper Park Heights, I couldn't help but wonder about the Union for Reform Judaism and eugenics. I should've brought my mom along because I had so many questions for her, including this one: "Mom, why is abortion allowed in Talmud?" Reform Judaism defends their position on abortion with Talmud.

"Talmud states, 'IF A WOMAN IS IN HARD TRAVAIL, ONE CUTS UP THE CHILD IN HER
WOMB AND BRINGS IT FORTH MEMBER BY MEMBER, BECAUSE HER LIFE COMES
BEFORE THAT OF IT. BUT IF THE GREATER PART HAS PROCEEDED FORTH,
ONE MAY NOT TOUCH IT, FOR ONE MAY NOT SET ASIDE ONE PERSON'S LIFE FOR
THAT OF ANOTHER.' Haven't you been studying 'Ohalot'?"

I went back to my hotel room at the Red Carpet Inn that night and reexamined the URJ documents. I guessed that their argument would be that the case of a child having a genetic disease could so unbearable to the mother that she "is in hard travail", thus "her life comes" first. I then understood why my mom once said that what seems to contradict Torah in Talmud is just a sh'eilah."


I was reminded of when she literally threw Talmud at me for me to catch and quoted, "Withhold not correction from the child; for though thou beat him with the rod, he will not die. Thou beatest him with the rod, and wilt deliver his soul from the nether-world." She then explained, "In your case, the rod is the book. As the old saying goes, 'Throw the book at him.'"


I asked her to further explain her sh'eliah comment, meanwhile. "We are given sh'eliot, such as Ohalot 7:6, to see whether or not we will follow the mitzvot in Tanakh. The sh'eliot are paradoxical only in the sense that they are mitzvot until they are realized as sh'eliot which Torah and rachamim override. Actually obeying anything that is a purposeful violation of Torah means that we have failed a sh'eliah."


Wishing my mom "L'Laila tov", I hung up the phone and recited the "Bedtime Shema". I had a long day ahead of me.



An Untitled Novel, Part 8

My mom bought me the Magen David tree topper and an artificial tree as a gift. "Don't tell your dad or your brothers," my mom warned. She also asked, "Is there anything else you'd like to request before I hang up?"

"That you pay my phone bill," I joked.

"If you can pay for your own trip and sustainabilites with it, then you can pay your own phone bill." By "sustainabilities", she meant everything that would sustain the trip and me while I was on said trip-- food, lodging, gas for my car, and other necessities. "L'Laila tov, and be safe in Baltimore," she admonished.

I stayed at the Red Carpet Inn, which cost $45 per night. But I somehow managed to afford a $45-a-night room with just myself in that room. On Shabbatot, I would hide that I am Jewish and pose as a Kushi v'goy l'Shabbat to work at the local batei knesiyot and earn a few shekalim.


One night, I was at the Red Carpet Inn and dreamed a flashback: I was at home with a Kwanzaa candelabra and replaced the Black candle with an Olive candle, and the red and green candles with red-olive-and-green-blended candles. My dad yelled at me, "What are you doing?!"


I explained, "Olive is for the color of 'ami-- my people. We are Jewish." I was chased around the house by my very-angry dad after that.


With the few remaining shekalim that I had from the previous Shabbat, I bought a cup of coffee from a beit cafe in the Reisterstown Road shopping district. Then to take my mind off of the flashback, I called my mom and asked her a few questions which I had.


"You know why they couldn't have gone to the Reform or Conservative, or Modern Orthodox batei knesiyot around where you are. The batei knesiyot are modern and weren't there then, and your grandparents are very haredi-- which is why they went to B'nai Israel." She knew that I had Googled some things before I left.


One of the questions was obviously why they went and still go to a beit knesset that is so far away from their home.


Friday, December 9, 2011

An Untitled Novel, Part 7

Mytreetopper.com started to sell a Magen David tree topper for Christmas. I wanted to get one offline or even in a store in Baltimore if I could find one. My dad said no. "I am not Jewish. I do not care if you and your mother-- and your sisters-- are Jewish. Your brothers and me are not Jewish. So we will not get a Star of David tree topper. Besides, your mother's the one who lets you celebrate that holiday for the White man's messiah, and she doesn't even believe that he's the Jewish Messiah."


A similar occurrence took place when I wanted to put my electric menorah in the window for Hanukkah and asked him about it. "No!" he responded. But I even quoted from the Soncino Talmud, the Talmud Bavli equivalent of the Christian King James Bible, to explain why the menorah was to go in the window at least until we all went to bed each night-- actually, in the window l'kol Yamim-Hanukkah and turned on each night until we all went to bed:



"Our Rabbis taught: It is incumbent to place the Hanukkah lamp by the door of one's house on the outside;  if one dwells in an upper chamber, he places it at the window nearest the street. But in times of danger  it is sufficient to place it on the table. Raba said: Another lamp is required for its light to be used; yet if there is a blazing fire it is unnecessary. But in the case of an important person,even if there is a blazing fire another lamp is required.
"What is  Hanukkah? For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislew the days of Hanukkah, which are eight on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden.  For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest,  but which contained sufficient for one day's lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit  therewith for eight days. The following year these  were appointed a Festival with Hallel  and thanksgiving."

My dad responded, "I and your brothers are not Jewish. It is not going in my window."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Untitled Novel, Part 6

I once shocked my grandparents during one Hanukkah when I was still little. I told them that I considered that Jesus might be Messiah. They looked at me apprehensively and asked, "Are you sure?", and I knew not to discuss whether Jesus is or isn't the Messiah further. Then they continued the reading and discussion of the parsha l'hayom.

When I took this trip to Northwest Baltimore then to Sugar Notch to compare the lives of my Jewish family and the mysterious Crypto-Jewish family about which I'd heard in relation to Mom's great-great-grandparents, that matter didn't end as well. My dad mockingly sat shiva for me, and my mom couldn't understand why I had to compare Yehudim and Anusim to better understand my heritage and get a clearer picture of the Jewish community at large.

So first, I Googled the Northwest Baltimore shtetl. I'd read enough in the "Baltimore Jewish Times", and heard and seen other material regarding the Jewish Marylander haredit kelliat. Besides, since the Lewjes lived there, I had to see where my mom's family even still live-- although as I said, they sat shiva for her; so they wouldn't talk to her, let alone me.

Like most shtetlach, the Northwest Baltimore shetl is in a "Heights" area-- Upper Park Heights. There also is the Reisterstown Road shopping district, but I was looking for the Park Heights shtetl; and so I went to the Park Heights shtetl in Fallstaff.

My grandparents faithfully walked to B’nai Israel Congregation of Baltimore from their home in the Fallstaff shtetl and drove only in emergencies-- for example, when one of the children or one of themselves was sick or unable to walk, but no so ill or debiltated that he or she could not observe Shabbat at the shul. They awoke three hours earlier than they had to, to walk the nearly-three hours that getting to the shul took them. When they drove, they arrived there in 20 minutes to an hour.

Their affectionally-called "rav" was Samuel "Sh'mu'el" Pilskin. According to B'nai Yisra'el's website, "Rabbi Pliskin was meticulously Orthodox, but he did not question the level of observance of his congregants. He said, "When a long-lost child comes home, parents do not ask questions.'"

Of course, the Lewjes never had to worry about any questioning from anyone, as they were shomrim-Haredi Yahadut. They will remain shomrim until they die, being buried in B'nai Israel Cemetery as soon as humanly and Jewishly possible after they die. Meanwhile, the family of Rachel Helen Lewj Umani is not invited to any of the Lewj levayot.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

An Untitled Novel, Part 2

My mom's great-great-grandparents came across the Mexican border illegally in the 1900s. However, they-- unlike an interesting family who I once heard about-- did not decide to become Anusim to assimilate into Anti-Semitic America (I once asked my mom if our family did that. She said "No. I know what you're referring to, and I wouldn't be surprised if that family's story was more common than you think. But my great-grandparents remained haredim even at the risk of getting killed either in Poland or in America.").

Unlike that family, however (who became Anusim to try to avoid the pogroms, got kicked out of Poland by their families, and came to America as Anusim via Ellis Island), Mom's great-grandparents never once even thought about being Anusim either in Poland or in New York (where, like that family, they were intending to head but-- unlike that family-- stay)-- and they couldn't have been as convincing as that family, anyway; which is part of why pretending to be ethnic Poles and Catholics would've been hard for them.

And thanking G-d that they weren't caught by a Polish Catholic at the border (because who knows what they would've done then?), they had to deal with the Pole who caught them-- an ethnically-Jewish Pole who had become a naturalized American and an Immigration and Naturalization official, and happened to be stationed at the border when they were crossing it.

"Where are you from?" he asked in Yidish, being able to tell that they were fellow Jews.

"We are from Polinyah." they returned. Then they explained that they had first tried to make aliyah to Palestinian-occupied Yisra'el, deciding to follow the Zionist lead. But they were denied the opportunity to go "el Ha'Eretz" because they weren't haredi enough-- or maybe they were too haredi.

The fellow Jew understood; eventually helping them go through the immigration and naturalization process in Texas, then helping move them to Brooklyn in New York.

They remained haredim up to my mother's generation, and deliberately moved to haredi Northwest Baltimore when they moved. Then my mother moved out of the haredi community in Northwest Baltimore and met a New Yorker who was studying at Morgan State University-- my dad.

And that's when my mom's family were no longer haredim-- at least the generations since my mom's haven't been; and so far, my siblings and I are of the only generation that's proceeded from the Lewjes of Suwalki, Poland and Brookyln, New York.