November 25, 2011
Jews we were, Jews we are.
I`m walking down the streets of Paris with a cream cheese and salmon bagel in my hand. Yesterday`s hangover - conversation with my husband - comes back to me like a flash: he told me one of those stories about his mom (unfortunately my step mother!). She is the perfect example of “Kvetschen”* : single German women who always have problems without solution. Her mother died year ago. She belonged to the same type except that she’d lived in Germany during the Holocaust. She managed to escape Germany by joining Belgium and then came to France.
As you can see, my family is inseparably bound with what happened during WWII. But all the Jews are, aren’t they? Of course, I think that it’s a part of our identity. As well as Israel? The candelabrum? Bagels?
Everyone has his own definition of what “being a Jew” means. Therefore you get a different one from a French, an Austrian or an English person. It will differ between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. Left alone inside and outside the Jewish community… Being a Jew is a very big problem! Another one! Like Facebook, psychoanalysis or relativity… Other famous Jewish concepts!
Every concept is based on reflection, theory and, of course, history. Let’s imagine a woman. In her thirties, green-eyed, wearing a little black dress with a red pashmina covering a stylish hairdo. She’s waiting at the front door of a synagogue and she’s smoking a cigarette on a freezing Friday night. It’s time to drive back home, to have the familiar chicken Sabbath soup. I’m not sure that she thinks of her great grandma who ran out of grilled chicken for want of cash and Kosher food stores in 1946 Romania. But still, this 30 years old woman will have a special dinner on Sabbath night. She also has three children who regularly return from holydays on Jewish youths movements camps ; a husband involved in Jewish renewal in the French community, and friends currently entertaining a blog concerning Jewish pop culture, too.
Like everyone else, she is unique. But, contrary to everyone else, she knows that she has something special about her, because she is Jewish. Maybe it is the way she eats ,or maybe they are the songs she listens to, like “Sound of Silence” she has just downloaded on youtube, maybe it’s in the way she felt when she heard about the liberation of “Guilad Shalit”.
Today she has the choice she did not have yesterday :.the possibility of choosing which way she wants to live her identity. Today, the concept of a “Jew” is more personal and various than it has never been before. The Holocaust is in the memory of every Jew , and will remain there. But Jews are still alive! And everyday small fragments are added to the one million pieces puzzle of the Jewish history.