The Unbearable Banishment: Two BAD JEWS

Friday, October 26, 2012


"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.

I follow behind to insure they don't get "lost." Don't tell them but it freaks me out a little bit. I have a touch of claustrophobia and am relieved when we come out the other side.

Gratuitous autumn greeting card/calendar shot:


Anonymous daisyfae said...

the emergency rescue trick for corn mazes, or labyrinths for that matter: keep one hand (right or left) on the wall and follow it all the way through. you may starve to death, but if you don't, you'll get outside eventually.

October 26, 2012 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

daisy: Leave it to a scientist.

October 26, 2012 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Gorilla Bananas said...

The whole mixed marriage debate was made redundant by Mr Spock in Star Trek, who was a Jewish-Vulcan-human hybrid, yet chose the identity of a pure-bred Vulcan. He was either ashamed of his human blood, or pretended to be ashamed of it to annoy McCoy (unintended rhyme).

October 26, 2012 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger mapstew said...

I'm expecting a big win on the lottery next week. I'll call as soon as I get the money and you can accompany me to that play. We might even have a drink afterwards. :¬)

October 26, 2012 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

GB: It really gets sticky when you enter into the cross-species discussions. People get very squeamish. I like to keep an open mind.

map: I would convert my lottery get into a seat at your dinner table to savor your famous tomato sauce. AND the Bubble & Squeek. Hell, yes.

October 26, 2012 at 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quite fancy turning Jewish, for the food mainly.

October 26, 2012 at 11:29 PM  
Blogger HesdedJim said...

I have to tell you yet again, how very much I enjoy your blog. It is unlike any of the other blogs I read, and yet I probably enjoy it more than any other. Your emotions are ALWAYS right out there. Your love of family, the pathos of life, your enjoyment (and hate) of things New York. Your love (and hate) of your job situation, architecture, restuarants, working life in the 21st century, etc. But doggone it, every word you write, be it about your children, wife, job, the city, art, plays, drama etc. just emotes so much with me. Please do not think your blog is not making a difference. I love how well you write and share, and deeply hope you will continue for years to share it with us. Most sincerely, Jim

October 27, 2012 at 4:06 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

looby: Is that one of your witticisms? I've heard people say let's go out for Italian or let's go out for Chinese, but never let's go out for Jewish! Come to think of it, I've never heard anyone say let's go out for British, either.

Jim: I always appreciate your kind words. If you email your address, I'll send you $5.

October 27, 2012 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Joe Jubinville said...

Sounds intense, and so much harder than being a bad Catholic. Natural-born storytellers, the Jews, as a buddy of mine once observed. And the Irish and Russians.

Student: “Why did God make us?”
Rabbi: “Because God loves stories.”

It’s the cosmic grand opera, pilgrim.

I like that mazes are big immersive puzzles, but one must beware of the minotaur or Jack Nicholson. But then when you beat it, YES! AMAZING!

So to speak...

October 27, 2012 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

Hmm..interesting view on being Jewish. I've never been that introspective, tending to live day by day, but it must have been a gut-wrenching experience sitting through that play.

The Scottish version would probably have two drunks swearing at each other.

Like the maize maize, but it's a bit corny.

October 28, 2012 at 12:28 AM  
Blogger Ellie said...

Completely get you with the fear of the maize maze. A bit creepy. But I love the enthusiasm with which they rush in!

October 28, 2012 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Jeaux: I never thought about it in those terms but you are correct. Being Jewish does seem like a much greater challenge than being Catholic. Ha = amazing. A play on words

TSB: I don't prefer a steady diet of the gut-wrenching stuff -- I'd rather laugh than cry -- but once in a while it really wakes your ass up. These two were not far removed from the Scottish version. Minus the drink is all.

Ellie: ALL kids have that level of enthusiasm. As they get older, it tends to be dampened by life's little disappointments. But it's great to watch the undiluted version.

October 28, 2012 at 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

UB: I wasn't joking about the food. One of my favourite cookbooks, from which I have entertained my former tenants this very evening, is loosely based on Jewish cookery.

October 28, 2012 at 7:31 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

Two people screaming at each other in a confined space - sounds like one of my favourtes - 'Whos afraid of Virginia Woolf?'

October 30, 2012 at 7:44 AM  

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