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September 28, 1984 - Image 95

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-09-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

for the bus to sweep me up, I bitterly
resented them for forcing me to attend,
and I resented being Jewish.
That visit was the last time I saw
my sister alive.

ar Mitzvah.
My father employed our rabbi,
B
who now spoke a little more English,

to prepare me for my bar mitzvah. It
was after my sister had died quite sud-
denly, unexpectedly. I studied dili-
gently for almost a year, or so it
seemed. I liked the private lessons, the
individual attention. I felt important.
For some reason I wanted to be-
come bar mitzvah. It mattered to me,
not just to my parents. Perhaps its
meaning lay deep in that ancient
Jewish ritual, the coming of age.
Ceremony, when it had personal rele-
vance, had always spoken deep within
me. It still does.
I felt prepared and excited when
the awaited day at last arrived. Ritual
at last had found personal meaning, a
home in my life.
But it did not last.
After my bar mitzvah, I continued
to lay tefillin for two full years. For
some unremembered reason I pledged
that to myself and I kept that pledge. I
recited the ancient daily prayers of
benediction. For awhile I became more
Jewish than my parents, but the daily
observances gradually lost their
meaning for me because the old re-
sentment had returned. I had to reject
what had been forced upon me. I stop-
ped laying tefillin and never resumed.
While I continued to enjoy Chanukah
and Passover, increasingly I found
myself ambivalent about the High
Holy Days.
Being Jewish was once more
thrown into conflict.

C

ollege.
In my late teens the resentment
pushed me further from my Jewish-
ness. I remember that fateful day dur-
ing my first year of college when I de-
cided not to go to shul on the High Holy
Days. I trembled when I told them my
decision.
And when I reached for bread to
eat that Yom Kippur, breaking the
fast, I feared lightning would surely
strike me. I had only known that kind
of God. My mother would often say,
"God will punish you," so I had learned
to live in dread of God, not in awe.
When lightning failed to strike, I
even wondered whether God existed.
He was nowhere present in my life.
And I could not pray to an absent God.
I felt estranged from the meaning of
God and the meaning of Jewishness in
my life.
I walked on alone.

M

arriage.
Conflict returned to my life
unexpectedly when the first woman I
loved happened not to be Jewish. The
prospect of marriage was real and re-
awakened for me my connection to
being Jewish.
It was not rational or thought out
or even spoken. I felt it in my blood.
"Blood Knowledge" as D.H. Lawr-
ence called it. My blood called to me: I
was Jewish. I remember crying when I
listened to Jewish songs of my past.
They spoke to me of belonging to a
people centuries old.
I did not understand what I felt. I
had few words for it. But something
deep had awakened within me, calling

to me from the past and from the fu-
ture.
When my parents realized the
seriousness of our feelings for one an-
other, they rose up in a furor. I was
abandoning them, abandoning my
heritage, my people.
I felt oppressed on all sides, espe-
cially from within. I needed to be free
to discover what being Jewish meant
to me.
We did not marry. She chose an-
other man and I grieved the loss.
Two years later,. I married a
Jewish woman. We both wanted a
Jewish home without knowing what
that meant.

Congregation.
A New When
I first read the an-

nouncement that a new Jewish con-
gregation was being formed in our
community, I was intrigued. I yearned
to give expression to what lived in my
blood. It was to be a participatory con-
gregation, encouraging women as well
as men to read from Torah. It was an
experiment in Jewish religious ex-
pression.
That I found exciting and became
part of it. Throughout those early
years of our new congregation, I tried
to belong to it, to feel a part of it. But
somehow I always felt like a stranger.
I read Hebrew poorly, and under-

1 do not want my sons to
have Jevvishness forced
upon them as it was done to
me. I want my sons to know
their heritage, to feel their
particular Jevvishness.
Gershen Kaufman

stood none. I felt uncomfortable simply
being there.
I did not feel closer to these people
for being Jewish. Of course they were
friendly and social, chatting at kid-
dush freely, but I stayed by the food
and often kept to myself. The past still
haunted me. I could not freely embrace
what I still resented. And so the serv-
ice itself ceased to engage me.

F athering.
Being a father with two young

sons has further confronted me with
the question of what precisely do I
wish to pass on to them about the
Jewish experience of Holiness. As a
family we celebrate Passover and
Chanukah, the two festivals of special
meaning in my earliest years. We read
about the history of these ancient
ritual observances, to renew their
meaning for our present lives. And we
have attended synagogue on the High
Holy Days. This is how we are living
our Jewish life today.
I do not want my sons to have
Jewishness forced upon them as it was
done to me. I do not want them to suffer
from having too much. Neither do I
want them to suffer from having too
little.
I want my sons to know their heri-
tage, to feel their particular Jewish-

ness, as well as our common humanity,
and to experience connection with the
Sacred. But I have not known how to
pass this on to them. I have been too
ambivalent. Being Jewish still is
shrouded in mystery.

P rayer.
While I was camping on the

shores of northern Lake Michigan, one
night offered an especially vivid view
of the stars. I stood there, all alone, at
the very edge of the waters lapping the
shore. Trees shadowed the silent be-
ach. Gazing upward into the sky was
like falling into Eternity. I felt awed,
in wonder at all its splendor. Suddenly .
an impulse to pray came over me.
I looked about me and imagined
the Sacred present. Then I sought to
see myself truly, even to jduge myself
in my own eyes. I searched to feel con-
nection with the Holy One. Was God
present there for me? This question
found no answer that night. I had tried
to pray, but did not enter into prayer
because I had never known how.
I, too, am still searching.

Beginnings

Each of us has felt crippled by our
past, one by being given too little, the
other by being burdened with too
much. Yet there is another side: along
with the ignorance of too little there is
a certain freedom, an openminded-
ness; and along with the resentment of
too much there is a measure of famil-
iarity with ritual, Hebrew and Torah.
Sharing our very different encounters
with Judaism has clarified and
deepened our search for a personal
Jewish identity.
We read Lawrence Kushner's
Honey from the Rock and were im-
mensely struck by his vision of
Entrances to Holiness: You do not
have to go anywhere to raise yourself.
You do not have to become anyone
other than yourself to find entrances.
You are already there. You are al-
ready everything you need to be.
Entrances are everywhere and all the
time."
Kushner helped us understand
prayer as preparation, as an Entrance,
as an inner opening to union with God.
With this intense and hopeful aware-
ness, we wanted to share the experi-
ence of prayer and so we attended serv-
ices one Shabbat morning at a congre-
gation in our community. We were
both surprisingly ill at ease with the
service. The atmosphere was social,
not devotional. There seemed no place
for concentration on prayer. Even dur-
ing the Torah reading, people talked or
made jokes. This was ironically under-
scored by the strength and beauty of
the congregation's singing. For us, the
service had not seemed serious
enough, which made us wonder if
many American Jews have become so
educated that they feel subtly embar-
rassed by the ideas of devotion, rever-
ence or worship. Do we consider our-
selves too intellectual, too sophisti-
cated or refined, too modern for the
mystery of prayer? If we are ashamed
of prayer, then we can only have ritual
without kavannah, prayer with our
tongues, not with our hearts.
Where does that leave us? With a
set of deeper questions, now that we

Friday, September 28, 1984

47B

have begun to face and understand the
impact of our Jewish past.
As Jews, what is our relationship
to the Holy One? What is unique about
the Jewish experience of the Sacred?
How do we enter into prayer? To
paraphrase Jacob Bronowski, it is not
answering those questions which is
what Judaism is about, but living
them. One thing is certain, however,
prayer also opens us to union with our
people, everywhere and always. We
experience belonging, identification
with being Jewish, and that is a be-
ginning.
We have been living those ques-
tions this past year.
We have not found final answers
for ourselves.
We are still searching.

The prawn:
treife fish becomes
hot Israeli export

BY JAMES CHESKY

Jerusalem — Just ten yeas out of
the streams and rivers of Hawaii and
Taiwan, the freshwater prawn is
rapidly becoming a prime Israeli ex-
port, even though dietary laws pro-
hibit the consumption of the crusta-
cean fish in the Jewish state.
Tons of the giant shrimp are being
harvested annually from commercial
ponds of kibbutzim and finding their
way to fish mongers in France, Spain,
Germany, Holland, Belgium and
England, where they fetch up to $11-
$15 a kilo ($5-7 a pound).
Freshwater prawns have been
cultivated in several tropical coun-
tries, but, in only a few short years
Israeli scientists have developed a
technology for growing the shrimp
profitably, according to Dr. Dan Co-
hen, of Hebrew University's Depart-
ment of Life Sciences. Dr. Cohen attri-
butes the rapid Israel success in the
shrimp industry to the high standard
of university research, the proximity
to European markets and the readi-
ness of the Israeli farmer to implement
research almost before the findings
are out."
In comparison to the cultivation of
prawns in the Far East, the Israeli
prawns grow faster and have a higher
survival rate than any others raised as
food. This is due to a system developed
to allow the prawns, which need ,con-
stant temperatures of 25-30 degrees
centigrade (77-86 F) to survive the cold
Israeli winter nights which average
5-12 degrees centigrade (41-53 F).
Since Israeli fish ponds are run
very efficiently, they easily meet the
needs of the domestic market, leading
to pressure for export projects. Dr.
Cohen maintains that prawns are the
means of taking full advantage of the
economic potential of fish ponds. We
have proved that prawns, which are
bottom dwellers, need no extra feed .. .
Therefore prawn production costs the
farmer only six cents plus harvesting
costs."
Israeli prawn exports last year
were some 70,000 pounds to Europe.
Dr. Cohen expects production to dou-
ble annually until it reaches a
maximum of about 3,000 tons a year.
He is also building a complete produc-
tion system for prawns, similar. to sys-
tems in the Philippines and Jamaica.

Israel Ministry of Tourism

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