Monday, October 29, 2018


I got this screenshot after the tweet itself had been deleted, for obvious reasons: the doctor hadn't really meant to argue that fabricating quotations is OK as long as one's intentions are genuine. So I don't actually know what it's referring back to. But I think it's such a precise representation of the intellectual spirit of the Trumpery, in which Anthony Scaramucci can tell us that Trump deserves special regard because he's not an ordinary liar but lies "intentionally", to troll the left. 

It was the Hebrew Immigrants Aid Society, I realize, that met up with Aleksey Yastreblyansky, may his memory be a blessing, in Galveston early in the 20th century, a couple of years after he survived the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, and suggested that he might want to call himself Alec Bloom instead, to make himself a little more digestible for American society. In family mythology in the second and third generations, we just called them "German Jews", that is representatives of an earlier wave of immigration, with a slightly resentful sense of how they didn't trust their eastern European brethren to be wholly civilized ("My zeydi spoke more languages than your zeydi!"), but it was definitely HIAS, and I'm making peace with them, with effect from right now. They were right about Yastreblyansky, how would anybody even have spelled it? And they were right 20 or 30 years ago when they began broadening the scope of their work to include distressed and abandoned and persecuted people from everywhere, of every religion, putting the Passover commandments into the most powerful possible effect. They are the best.

Sunday morning, I had the honor to be present when another Jewish child from a yet later wave of immigrants, those who survived the far more murderous concentration camps of the Nazi empire in eastern Europe, received the name of her great-grandmother, one of those survivors, may her memory be a blessing. I can't tell you how present it was to everybody that the previous day's slaughter in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, had taken place at another baby-naming, another welcoming of a new life into the Jewish community; or how essential it was, by the same token, that our joy not be compromised. One of the great-aunts had lived in Squirrel Hill quite a while, bearing two kids there, and a couple of decades later her daughter, doing an ob-gyn residency, did the same. The mohel (also a nurse practitioner and midwife, I've seen her style in two circumcisions and she's always great) said, "Frankly, I'm feeling a little insecure right now." Her anger was both intense and delicate, and that was the tone we needed.

The tiny girl's grandfather told a couple of stories about his mother, and her passion for justice, one of which I'd heard before (visiting wealthy relatives in Argentina, she noticed a refrigerator with a lock on it, asked "What is this for?" and was told it was to keep the servants from stealing; "What, somebody would be hungry and you wouldn't let them eat?" she asked, astonished, and still astonished when she retold it 30 years later) and one I hadn't (newly arrived in the 1950s, she became a passionate baseball fan, and when some years later her son, born just weeks before the 1956 World Series, asked her, "Mom, we were living 20 blocks from Yankee Stadium, why did you decide to be a Dodgers fan?" she told him, "Because they hired the black player," which made them obviously more deserving of love than the heartless, money-oriented team in the Bronx).

The food was great. It was lovely seeing everybody, especially the little kids. I think that adds up to what I wanted to say right now, though perhaps not in an obvious way.

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