Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Always Jewish, Lately Palestinian

I am Jewish because the love of others made me so.
I am Jewish because I grew up on the south side of Chicago; there even my public school was Jewish.
I am Jewish because my grandfather was oh, so Jewish, and I felt it then and feel it now.
I am Jewish because angry Irish boys felt my Jewish nose at the end of their Catholic fist.
I am Jewish because we are commanded to remember when we were slaves in Egypt and I do.
I am Jewish because we are commanded to seek justice and because I believed my teachers who said we must do so.
I am Jewish because I have never felt any other way.
I am Jewish because dissent is my faith and my chosen fate.
I am Jewish because I learned Hebrew and then forgot nearly every word of it.
I am Jewish because in my grandmother's kitchen nothing would rise, but of everything there was plenty.
I am Jewish because the South Shore Country Club was founded by people who would not let us in.
I am Jewish because my Dad once slugged a guy at Comiskey Park who cussed a Jewish pitcher for the White Sox.
I am Jewish because the Jewish god is not diminished by my disbelief.
I am Jewish because Dad was thrilled that Grandpa lived to my Bar Mitzvah and a little beyond.
I am Jewish because I wouldn't have it any other way.
I am Jewish because Emma Goldman was Jewish, and so was Karl Marx and so was Groucho Marx and Jesus, too, for that matter.
I am Jewish because of the Maccabees and Masada and crusader violence and Spanish inquisitors and Cossack pogroms and the ghetto and the death camps and because I also planted trees in Israel.
I am Jewish because Jewish workers fight in labor struggles and because Jewish people resist racism and because, like all the world’s poor, poor Jews endure.
I am Jewish because being Jewish means never using violence against another except when life, itself, is directly threatened, and that principle must never be compromised.

I am Jewish because with that claim I also claim my humanity and in my humanity I find this:
I am Palestinian because I, too, have been homeless.
I am Palestinian because Palestinian yearning is so like Jewish yearning.
I am Palestinian because I have been uplifted by the love of Palestinians.
I am Palestinian because peace in Arabic and in Hebrew bestows the same gift.
I am Palestinian because we are all children of Abraham.
I am Palestinian because, although Sarah and Hagar are our separate birth mothers, we all live in the embrace of one mother, and will return to her.

I am Jewish because if you come for the Jews, why not me also?
I am Palestinian because if you come for the Palestinians, why not me also?

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Jeff. I don't know where I first read your poem -- guess it post-dates the Dayton Voice. But I loved it then and I love it now. Has it been published in Israel, by any chance? That would be wonderful.

    Yesterday I was reading about the Israeli Shministim (Hebrew for "12th graders") who are resisting military service. Your nephew might be interested in talking with them on his trip. He could find out more at

    Best wishes to you and yours over the holidays, and marvelous, safe travels to Abraham. Margaret