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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Sabbath Elevator, Part II

Remember this post of mine?

I do. (Vaguely.)

Penned in the heady autumn of 2009-- before I was thirty. Before I was a father. Before I could no longer string together a cogent thought or coherent sentence secondary to the exhaustion that comes with becoming a diaper-changing machine.

I read this old post of mine with a mixture of intrigue, apathy, and amusement. Such vitriol spewed forth from me. Such offensively pulchritudinous platitudes.

Such piss. Such vinegar.

Sometimes I think I've mellowed out, now that I'm thirty-one and the father of two ardent squishies. Other times, though, I think I'm probably just getting warmed up.

I thought, when I read the infuriating "New York Times" article about the bizarre concept of the Shabbat elevator three years ago that I would write my blog, express my rage against my upbringing, my faith, my fellow crazies, and that would be that. The "New York Times" would move on, My Masonic Apron would move on, I would move on, the Jews in their insipid, self-congratulatory perpetually-motioned elevator would move up and down and up and down and up and down and the world would keep spinning on its charming little axis.

Unfortunately, as I thumbed around on my Blackberry's trackball on (shitty mobile edition) I realized that we're not really moving at all. We're quite assuredly standing still, though the elevator numbers of life continue to rise and fall with oh such cunning deception. My weary eyes glazed over the headline and my heart fell:

March 6, 2012

"On Jewish Sabbath, Elevators Do All the Work"

And all I could do was shake my head. And, no, I didn't say, "Oy," but thanks for asking.

We're still talking about this? Really? Part of the reason I stopped blogging hyperactively in the first place was because I felt like I was repeating myself, and here is the "New York Times" writing about this subject matter as if they'd just discovered it? Maybe the "New York Times" should throw in the towel, too.

When I last wrote about the Shabbat elevator, I was angry-- angry about hypocrisy and illogical practices and self-righteousness. Three years later, I feel the same way. I'm angry about the same things, I'm angry that Judaism's absurd inanities are fodder to entertain businesspeople on their iPads on their way to work on the subway. I can't imagine the "New York Times" would allow one of its staff writers to pen an article titled,

"On December 25, WASPs Don Ridiculous Sweaters and Sing Cloying Songs in the Cold"

But it's more than that. I'm not really angry at the Times, though I do kind of think they're beating a dead (Jewish) horse, I'm angry at Jews. Yeah, my peeps.


We're immigrants. Foreigners. Outsiders. We came to this country in droves prior to the turn of the 20th century, and then again after World War II. My father came with a few of his hooligan, Jewfro'd friends in 1972 to get into textiles, never dreaming that it was perhaps an unwise choice. And I remember the line from "Cool Hand Luke", "What we got here is a failure to communicate."

Maybe what we've got here is a failure to assimilate.

Assimilation is often said and viewed as a poisonous word-- the dilution of culture and pride and faith-- but I posit that a little bit of assimilation is necessary for survival. It's healthy, it's normal, it's... well, okay. When I read about Orthodox Jews requiring special elevators to accommodate the Jewish requirement that you "not make spark nor fire" on the Sabbath, I guess that just makes me feel a little hinky. I mean, when you see a bunch of Jews crowding into one elevator and the rest of the world getting into another one, does that... I don't know... remind you of anything in particular?

WHITES ------------------------ COLOREDS

And ne'er the two shall meet.

Segregation is segregation, whether it's mandated from without or within. I think it would benefit the people who utilize these elevators to think about the message it communicates to the rest of the world-- and "the rest of the world" is something that I don't think Orthodox Jews give much thought to on a regular basis-- and that communique might be "we're special", "we're different", "we're... chosen." And I wonder, chosen for what? Chosen to be ostracized? Chosen to be identified and looked at askew and to be regarded as queer or suspicious or funny or weird? Chosen to be pondered over in America's most significant newspaper as an oddity, as something quaint or strange? I wonder about that. And I wonder, too, how the Orthodox Jewish community would feel if their special elevators were identified by a big yellow star, inscribed with the word "JUDEN".

You know, just to make them easier to find.


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