Dear Darcy,

What a fantastic article! You are a tremendous writer — & you are writing on an important issue. I’m not talking just anti-Semitism, but the Otherness, as well as general malaise & intolerance. When the manager didn’t move the Jewish food — or the dog food, for fuck’s sake — the message was clear.

One of my favorite passages in our shul’s prayer book is on the opposite page of prayers. That is usually reserved for comments, commentary & poetry. It starts with “I am a Jew because…” I’ll send you the photo I’ve taken of it.

I remember, when I was 9 years old, being with two blond Russian girls in a Russian grocery store, in Minsk. I heard a little old man swear under his breath in Yiddish — my grandparents’ first language. I thought it was funny, because I understood him & I was a kid (swearing is funny to kids). I turned to my two friends, smiling, & saw that while they heard the man, they didn’t understand him; they weren’t in on the Jewish swearing. That was the first time I felt like the Other, but also smarter & suddenly older. I was in on something adult & the other kids weren’t. But after that, I never lost the feeling of being different from my Russian friends. Not worse, not better (well, maybe a little bit better, after all I did understand another language), but always different.

In Minsk, any adult Russian (or Belorussian, whatever) would look at me & immediately peg me as a Jew. I was explaining this to a friend who’s black, & she had trouble with that concept, because to her I looked like an average white person. But I swore to her that it’s true. In America, I became Russian, when I go anywhere else in the world I am American, but in the Soviet Union I am & always have been a Jew.

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Writer and storyteller, immigrant, wife, mom, knitter, collector of jokes, lover of cheap, sweet wine.

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