Religion & Beliefs

Y’all Come Back to Judaism Now, Hear?

"Is you a Hebrew?" "So y’all believe in Jesus, right?" "You can’t eat pork? What about ham? Or sausage?" You’d be surprised how often I get asked questions like this. It’s funny being one of the only Jews in your … Read More

By / September 17, 2009

"Is you a Hebrew?" "So y’all believe in Jesus, right?"

"You can’t eat pork? What about ham? Or sausage?"

You’d be surprised how often I get asked questions like this.

It’s funny being one of the only Jews in your small town outside Metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. In a forty five minute car ride, I can be in the Jewish ghetto with a kosher grocery, a Judaica shop run by a bitchy Orthodox Yenta and every flavor of shul known to humankind. 

But when I’m out at the bookstore, eating Chinese, getting my car repaired, I’m "it". 

It starts out harmless. Someone sees my Star of David tattoo and can’t help but ask what that means. Or in the headache inducing haze of red-and-green-December-cheer I get the balls to look for menorahs at Target, only to have the friendly sales associate laugh at my Jesus-less request.

I recently posted an article about finding my beshert (soul mate) and the overwhelming response was that, if I wanted to get lucky with a sassy punk rock Jewess, I needed to leave the Confederated States. While I have not found my beshert just yet (though I have some hot leads since coming home from the Limmud conference), I will say that, if given the option of being another "hip Jew" of Brooklyn, LA or San Fran or a Lonely-Man-of-Faith in Dixie, I think I’ll take latter…and for very Jewish reasons:

-There are PLENTY of Jews in the South. Charleston at one point in US history had the largest Jewish population in America (and that is where my first relative from the Old World settled). Atlanta is particularly Jewish, with Chabad on every corner like McDonald’s and a Birthright Israel office that just opened in Midtown.  

-In the South, Jews actually have to TRY to be Jewish! It takes work to resist deep fried catfish and the lure of bacon wrapped steak at Golden Corral. It’s hard to find gelt mixed in with leftover Easter candy. While NY Jews bump into each other on every street, Jews in the South relish each other. "Jewish Geography" is so much more meaningful when there are actually six degrees of separation between people, not just one or two. Israel means "to wrestle" and it’s hard to wrestle when you can get a bagel any time of day.

-Southern Jews have their own culture. Memphis is the home of the Annual Kosher BBQ Competition. Ever had someone say, "Shalom, y’all"? It’s awesome! 

It may be easier being a West Coast Jew or a New Yorker…but being Jewish isn’t about life being easy. It’s about the thrill of the fight and the struggle to survive. With lower taxes, cheaper real estate and so many financial opportunities, the South is the Land of Milk and Honey. We just have to civilize it from the Southern Baptists. And that, to me, is incredibly Jewish.

 

Coming soon: Jewcy editor Lilit Marcus, herself a Jew from Raleigh, NC, has her own take on Southern Judaism.