“If you marry that shiksa and have children, they’ll only be half Jewish. If they marry out of the faith, those children will only be a quarter Jewish. What’s the logical conclusion? We Jews have been set upon for centuries but we’re still standing. We’ve flourished despite the waves of hatred and violence that have washed over us. And now, when it’s easier to be Jewish than at any other time in human history, you’d throw it all away? You have an obligation to something greater than the self. Where is your sense of belonging?”
“I won’t turn my back on the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with to one day maybe, maybe, find someone who meets with rabbinical approval. You’re a staunch traditionalist but when was the last time you read the Bible? Many of the ancient laws have been dismissed as barbaric. The faith is already being watered down without my help. And your demand for racial purity sounds frighteningly familiar. It’s the same philosophy that Nazism was rooted in.”
An argument for the ages. For all nationalities. Those paraphrased words aren’t mine, but I sure wish I could write like that. It’s two days later and Joshua Harmon’s new play Bad Jews is still rattling around inside my head. Two people screaming at each other in a confined space (the theater only has 62 seats) for 1:40 without an intermission about what it means to be Jewish. It doesn’t necessarily make for a pleasant evening, but it makes for a great one.
It ended on a somewhat contrived note that took me out of the story, but that’s a minor quibble. What preceded it was really powerful stuff. Not for the faint. I don’t know if I’d recommend it to everyone because it’s exhausting, but if you’re in the mood to dig down deep, it’ll challenge you.
They’re both right, you know? There’s no winner in that argument.
The girlies disappear into a corn maze (a maize maze!) at the annual autumn festival in suburban New Jersey.