I've always considered myself a friend to Jewish people. Growing up I couldn't help but feel a strong connection to the Jews. I mean, who can read The Chosen and not come away loving Reuven and Danny? The Jews always seemed cool because they have so many different sects--Orthodox, Reform, I could go on--and they have all those customs and languages, and outfits, and beards and long curly things on the sides of their heads (well, some have those). They don't eat pork, and I have a real sympathy and admiration for anyone who can withstand the temptation of bacon. I mean who can just not eat bacon? Maybe it was reading all those books about them, or maybe it was the fact that all the seminary teachers at Provo High taught us that we Mormons aren't so different from Jewish people--except for the whole "Messiah" thing. I mean, Mormons and Jews are virtually the same! Heck, I know all the words to "Hava Nagila!" Michael Chabon is my favorite author! Fiddler on the Roof? FANTASTIC! My favorite Christmas album happens to be sung by Neil Diamond. I own the soundtrack to the Jazz Singer! I even wrote a sympathetic poem about the Jews and it won an award and everything! And, as Bono yelled on the stage at the last U2 concert I attended, we are all sons of Abraham. I believe this to be true.
So, you can imagine how excited I was when I found out that not only had my cousin converted from being a Mormon to being a Jew, but that she was also having a Bat Mitzvah! When I heard this, I immediately told my mother that we should do whatever it took to attend the Bat Mitzvah to show our support. Finally, I thought, I can meet some real Jews and become friends with them and show them that I like them a lot, and we can talk about Chaim Potok and Michael Chabon and Neil Diamond, and Golems, which rule.
Well, the moment arrived, and there I was at the Bat Mitzvah, which was impressive and interesting--just like I thought it would be. And then afterwards there was what we Mormons would call a "munch and mingle" with food and what not. While I have to say that some of the food was a little upsetting to me--anchovies, liver paste, etc.--most of the food there was really good and it's not like we don't have our own culturally specific and equally strange Mormon food--jello salads with shredded carrots, etc. So my cousin takes me over to meet some of the people from her synagogue--don't you just love the word "synagogue"?--and here's what happened:
I got all excited and was so happy that my moment had finally come, so I wholeheartedly shook these peoples' hands, telling them how much I enjoyed being included in the Bat Mitzvah, etc. I was so. . . respectful. Then they asked me where I was from.
"Utah," I said proudly.
"Oh, I'm so SORRY," was their response. Then they went on to explain what a backwards and terrible place Utah is , and how bone-headed and closed-minded we Mormons are. I think there may have even been a feigned Utah accent--I believe the word "fark" might have been tossed around a few times--and the mention of jello salad with carrots floating in it. Well you can imagine my bitter disappointment. I had just spent the last twenty years loving these people collectively only to discover that they did not love me back. I guess it's high time they had the chance to ostracize and marginalize somebody, only why did it have to be ME? I spent the rest of the afternoon huddled in a corner with my mom while people cast disapproving glances our way.
Sigh. I still love the Jews, but now I feel like I'm not good enough for them. Why can't they love me too? [Stay tuned for my next post: "African Americans Hate Me (But I Love Them)"]. . .