I was listening to Dennis Prager’s radio show today.
He’d just returned from his fifth trip to Australia, my homeland.
Dennis said that Australia was over-regulated and rather reserved.
An American woman phones in. “Australians are reserved. Timid. When I lived there, I had to change my own enthusiasm. When you’re enthused about something, they shut you down. Even when you’re feeling good, they make you aware of how you speak. When you live there, as an American, you have to tone yourself down. I can not be myself.”
Yes! That’s right. When I lived down under, we said about anyone who got too enthusiastic, “He’s raving like a Yank.”
So that’s where I’m from – a reserved, British-type Protestant-influenced country.
I was raised a Seventh-Day Adventist. Protestant. Reserved. Nice. Not grubby. Not worldly ambitious.
Seventh-Day Adventists suffer from nothing akin to anti-Semitism. I never went to a church that required security guards outside. There’s nobody out to torture and murder Adventists.
Adventists believe in fearing National Sunday Laws and the persecution at The Time of the End, but they have no empirical reason to fear anyone hurting them in the here and now. I didn’t grow up with that.
So over an early dinner tonight, I watch The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and suddenly much of my Jewish experience (I initially converted Reform in 1993, then Orthodox in 2009) started to make sense.
According to imdb.com: “The younger son of a working-class Jewish family in Montreal, Duddy Kravitz yearns to make a name for himself in society. This film chronicles his short and dubious rise to power, as well as his changing relationships with family and friends. Along the way the film explores the themes of anti-semitism and the responsibilities which come with adulthood.”
Until I went to a Hasidic shul, I’d never attended synagogue where people didn’t go to college. I’d never met Jewish plumbers. I didn’t know they existed. I wasn’t used to Jews with muscles and working class Jews and Jews without money. All the other shuls I went to, everybody went to college. They were mainly professionals — doctors (highest status!), lawyers, accountants, professors, teachers, dentists, and the like. They were polite accomplished educated members of wider American society. They were concerned with how the goyim viewed them. Much more concerned than the Adventists I knew. “What will non-Adventists think?” was never a phrase used in my childhood.
Somehow, I have a big part of me that loves the street. For two years during college, I worked construction and part of me loved it.
Then I moved to Los Angeles in 1994 and felt compelled to chronicle its dirtiest parts such as the porn industry. Here I met a different type of Jew — one not concerned with the acceptance and approval of the wider Christian society. One not afraid to get dirty, to traffic in human flesh and drugs and organized crime and the like. A Duddy Kravitz type of Jew who’s not afraid to bang shiksas.
The polite Jews scorn the dirty Jews. I know. By immersing myself among the dirty Jews, I became a dirty Jew in many eyes. I’ll never have an upstanding reputation. I’ll always be grubby on Google.
I’ve never been comfortable with grubbing for money. That’s part of my reserved Protestant heritage. My academic heritage. Being a preacher’s kid. We don’t chase money. We’re intellectuals. We read books. We write books. Even if there’s no money in it.
So the Modern Orthodox Jews I know are polite Jews. Middle-class Jews. They’re part of the wider society and they’re concerned about how the goyim view them. The Hasidic Jews and the porn Jews and the Hollywood Jews, they don’t care so much about polite society. They’re mainly concerned with their little world. They’re not worried about what will the goyim think.
I’m not sure where I belong. I do like it in the gutter, but I don’t want to live there.