I’m sitting in the Kansas City airport as I write this, waiting for a flight home. Unlike the road missives of Dadwagon’s traveling stalwarts (which is like a Wilbury, but with less guitar), this isn’t a post about how much I miss my son while on the road. This was JP’s mother’s weekend, so I wouldn’t have seen him anyway, and I scheduled my trip–reporting for my book on weird Jews–around that.
I won’t go into all the details of what Hebraic oddities I’ve encountered here in the midwest (for that you must buy the book), but I will say that I went to Sunday school at a Classical Reform synagogue this morning, and spent the whole weekend with the rabbi.
My book is about Judaism, and much of the writing (for pay) that I’ve done involves the topic. This means that I’ve talked to lots of rabbis, spent plenty of time among observant Jews (I’m not), and I know the sales pitch. There may come a day when I join a congregation, but right now isn’t that moment.
But I have respect for those who lead a religious life, or more importantly, are willing to commit to a religious community, particularly one in which the stakes for joining are rather high.
For example, the congregation I visited had in the past been picketed by followers of Fred Phelps. Phelps is a lovely gentleman, best known as the defendant in a Supreme Court case which will determine if he and his co-bigots have the right to picket the funerals of U.S. military dead with signs that read “God Hates Fags.” This, apparently, has something to do with Phelps’s belief that the military should not allow homosexuals to serve. Phelps, it seems, isn’t much on Jews either.
I couldn’t help thinking about the children in the congregation who got to witness actual sectarian hatred being directed at them. According to the rabbi, the kids weren’t scared of the protestors (local christian groups staged their own counter-protest), but they were curious about why these people were carrying signs claiming they had been condemned by the supreme being.
Anti-semitism is a serious issue, and it’s perhaps better dealt with in a more serious forum than this blog. But a will share a single thought I had today while at the congregation: a real world exists beyond the shelters we construct for our little ones; this reality of which I write is often unpleasant, occasionally hostile, and potential dangerous ; and we can’t entirely protect our children from it, no matter how much we would like to.
That, unfortunately, is the way it is. As for the headline above, it’s a Groucho Marx reference, and I invite you to read it here. Make of it what you will.