A Poem: To Be a Jew by Choice (For Those of You Who Aren't)

Form inspired by Patricia Smith’s “What It’s Like to Be a Black Girl (For Those of You Who Aren’t)
First, it’s like knowing the answer in Hebrew school
when other’s don’t
and still being afraid to raise your hand.
It’s reading the Haggadah at Pesach,
feeling more wicked than wise,
like everything from matzo brei, Manischewitz, and the magnificent kingdom of David is for
but not for
because they were saved.
It’s like being a Semitic subspecies,
born of the blood of the diaspora,
but still only a Jew by Choice.
It’s Hebrew haters hatin’ on your d’rosh,
spittin’ like your commentaries are more Midrash than Rashi.
It’s like being told you’re not Jewish enough
to marry within the State of Israel.
It’s having the beis din check the validity of your circumcision
long after you’ve paid the fleshy price of admittance.
It’s like status without dignity,
second-class citizenry,
existential questioning,
wanderin’ through the desert,
looking for Canaan.
But it’s not for lack of trying.
Because, you see,
when I get asked on Shabbos
to do Hagbah
instead of leining,
what are my natural-born brothers and sisters saying?
To the lost tribe of Semitic wannabes
Searching for a way to be
Found in a world of mystery
Longing to be free
Like the Exodus from Egypt
It’s our chosen destiny.
Even Moshe was an adoptive son.
Rabbi Akiba learned the aleph-bet at 40.
And I was given my Hebrew name
long after my eight days.
A proud Semitic south sider with a soul.
So where’s our sanhedrin of justice?
Our land flowing with milk and honey?
Our temple mount?
What’s to be our share in the world to come?
For as long as the long lost brothers and sisters of
Abraham, Isaac Jacob, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah
let this be an unheard diatribe
from the lost tribe,
we can’t write a new Hebrew narrative…for all.