Yup, that’s right. I got Jew-bashed on the train tonight. Who’d a thunk that being a black Jew (in training) was such a big deal? I’ve been reading the Tanakh and I’m in Exodus. It’s getting good, although I’m pretty sure I know how it ends. I board the train at 14th street with my nose in my Bible. I squeeze passed a woman with her nose in her own book and find a little spot, hold on until the next stop where a passenger gets off and I squeeze myself into a seat. I’m just to the part where God instructs Moses to have all of the houses in Israel paint the blood of a lamb on their door posts when the guy across the way starts,
“Excuse me, miss, are you Jewish?”
“Yes, well, I’m converting,” I answer.
“You do know that Jews are black, don’t you?”
“Nowadays I think that Jews come in almost every color, but yes, the first Jews were black.”
He then starts to quote Bible scriptures that state that Jews are black.
I hold the belief that all first humans were black. Whether you believe in the creation story, which this new Jew does not, or you believe in evolution it is widely known that all humanity started on the continent that is now Africa. People in Africa are various shades of black from the brown-skinned Arab nations up north to the darkest of the black nations in the west. With migration of people overtime, their skin colors changed, the shapes of their eyes changed, the texture of their hair changed, their religions, beliefs, spiritualities, cultures changed. These things I seemed to have forgotten when the man was talking to me.
“And in this verse, ” he was saying.
“Look, I appreciate your opinion but I’m just trying to read on my ride home,” I said.
“I’m just letting you know that you don’t need to convert to Judaism because it says in the bible verse something I can’t remember as I reenact this for my readers that Jesus was the messiah…”
“Again, I’m just trying to read and get home so I appreciate your opinion…”
“It’s not an opinion, it’s there in that book that you’re reading! Jesus is the messiah! He died for your sins!”
“Okay. I’m annoyed now so, please, just stop talking to me.”
I went on reading and didn’t look in his direction. I sort of feared that he’d be getting off in my neighborhood but what would a Christian man be doing in a West Indian/Muslim/Hindi neighborhood?
Thing is, I suppose it wasn’t bashing as much as it was a difference in opinion. The thing about these encounters on the train or any time when you’re baited into a debate that you’re relatively unprepared for is that you always think of the zingers or the “right” things to say later. One of my favorite scenes in “You’ve Got Mail”, one of my favorite movies of all time, goes something like this:
Kathleen Kelly to Joe Fox via vintage AOL Instant Messager, “I know what you mean. Except what happens when I’m provoked is that my mind goes blank… What should I have said, for instance, to the bottom-dweller who recently belittled my existence? Even now, days later I still don’t know. ?”
I love Christians. I really do. My parents are Christians, the majority of my friends would say that they are, and it was Christianity that shaped me into the person that I am today-A Jew in Training. Thing is, and I’m sure I’ll find this in Judaism as well, people really fuck things up. I mean, I’m sure that this world that we live in today is not the world that Jesus had in mind when he passed on his message to the first Christians. I’m sure God curses the day when he/she promised Noah that he’d never destroy human existence again (I don’t actually think that story is true, either).
When I got gay-bashed on my 29th birthday outside of the Museum of Natural History by the awful and bigoted man disguised as a Christian I asked him, “Did not Jesus say ‘he who is without sin cast the first stone’ Did not Jesus befriend the sick, the diseased, the outcasts of the city? Did he not marry a prostitute named Mary (sorry, that’s just my opinion) The man didn’t listen and instead continued to damn me to hell for being who I am, all in the name of Jesus.
I’m sure this man on the train meant well. I’m sure he felt like he was doing his duty as a Christian and “spreading the good news” but, if the good news is, “I’m right, you’re wrong” I really don’t want to hear it. I actually love having discussions with people about religion and faith. Over the weekend I attended a PhD party with Mirs and had the best conversation with some Israeli Jews. Some of my favorite scholastic moments were in religion classes when people actually listened, appreciated, and learned from others. Thing about Christianity, Islam, Judaism is that they’re basically the same. Almost exactly the same, give or take a messiah or prophet. Yet it’s rare that “they” see eye to eye. That’s not to say that there aren’t people out there who appreciate, understand, and respect other faiths. I rarely hear those people. I was reminded tonight that many people who quote the very book I’m reading aren’t actually getting it. I can’t read that book and take it word for word because God gave me free will. The Bible says a lot of stuff that people tend to forget when they’re using it to make their points and it says a lot of stuff that works for them when they’re trying to make their points. I’m sure when the first brown Jews put oral words to paper that what we have and read today isn’t what they intended. I don’t pretend to think that I’m better than anyone else, and I definitely don’t have everything all figured out. I do, however, I appreciate an opinion and love hearing them, just as long as mine are heard, in turn.