So the last couple days have been Jews at the Casino - a semi annual celebration of birthdays and friendship and Jewishness by myself and two other Jews in the South - specifically in Bossier City, Louisiana. This is a reflection on the reality of being a Jew in the South - as opposed to other regions of the US - and not being shy about it. We three Jews are not shy, we are waving our Jew flags proudly, and we're not afraid.
More below the dooblydoo.
Now by and large Louisiana is a truly Roman Catholic state. Parishes rather than counties, large Cajun families and the only people who go to public schools are the ones who can't afford Our Sisters of St. Whomever the Very Dead and Holy school - or the evangelical protestants.
So for the most part in Louisiana, I don't get bothered. No pestering about conversion, no invites to church, just the occasional question about whether or not I attend the local "Jew church" - yes, they really call it that - and a sort of bland assumption that I have my things to do that really aren't all that vaguely different from any other Catholic. They just don't care - and our mutual disinterest in each others religious matters allows for normal life - which is a pleasant relief. Evangelical protestants are an entirely different matter.
Bossier City (that's BOZE-yer, not Boss-EE-yay) is not far from Texas, about equidistant from Lafayette where I live and Dallas where my friends live - a mere 3 hour drive to mini Vegas. We like to stay at the Horseshoe, a Vegas style casino. We have dealers we like to see who remember us, we have our personal favourite games - they play poker and slots, I prefer roulette exclusively - and we have a good time.
I am the oldest, JB is next and Tiny is the youngest. JB is the most successful financially and grew up in a religious home from birth. All three of us live with our parents and are single - JB is comfortably gay. His brother is married, has a growing family and has made aliyah - so his parents are cool with his gay singleness - and he helps them deal with their various health issues - all of our parents are older. We all have health issues of our own, but primarily the larger health issues are the parental ones on a day to day basis, even in my case. I am the only one determined to get back to living on my own, the others have accepted their fate as caregivers.
But back to being public Jews in the South. I am the only one who is actually Southern born, but with the least Jewish background from childhood, being raised strictly Army and unaware of the truth of my Jewish heritage until adulthood. Lafayette has a historic Jewish connection being a commerce city, but no orthodox anything, while Dallas has a thriving orthodox community with choices in shuls, easy access to kosher foods and religious needs. So we have very different experiences being orthodox in our day to day lives.
We are all kind of crap at it in some ways. I pray more than the others - the only one who actually brings my tefillin and tallis (also the only one ever married) on these trips and uses them, we eat at the buffets and restaurants. But we wear kippas (JB prefers the baseball cap, which I think is just Jews trying to look non-Jewish and failing) go during the weekdays rather than on Shabbos, we eat kosher style - no pork, shellfish, beef and dairy on different rounds through the buffet, no cheeseburgers - and we are unabashedly Jewish.
We talk about our experiences as Jews, we talk about the things in our communities that irritate us, that amuse us and challenge us - and we talk about our experiences dealing with non-Jews, particularly Christians. The vast majority of the Christians who make a point of having religious oriented contact with us are evangelical protestants - we're like crack to them.
Some want to impress us with their "knowings" of the Jewish faith - which being based on their understanding from their own religion are wrong. Some want to try and convert us, and some just want to be able to say that they appreciate our willingness to be sacrifices in their religious end game - though most of those who do the last are unaware that is actually what they are doing, or that we know what their version of our role actually IS.
For a long time in the US, Jews as a group felt they needed to be polite and non confrontational of the notion that our job is to die for the Christian cause and go to hell, or convert in kind of a last minute grand admission of racial error - because that pretty much IS the evangelical end game play for Jews. We're supposed to pretend it doesn't exist because if we acknowledge it - Shoah in America or something. And the three of us - well, we don't really feel like playing nice about it.
All three of us read Hebrew and Aramaic. All three of us have had some years of Jewish education, JB went to a boarding yeshivah high school with an excellent reputation, Tiny is a religious historian by training, and I was studying to be a rabbi. We are all nerdy, proud Jews and frankly think it's some bullshit when confronted with the smug self righteousness of the evangelical Now I Know I'm Really Right biblical literalist kind of believer.
So we were at our table in the buffet having our usual rousing discussion of upcoming holidays, ridiculous things Christians have said to us recently and the Role of the Jew In the Coming End Times - because that is some seriously entertaining shit when you realise just getting seating arrangements settled in a shul is like herding cats. And the Hairy Eyeball started.
You could feel the glaring heat coming off white men around us clearly eavesdropping on our conversation. The words "uppity Jews" and "we'll get the last laugh" were uttered - more like projected - at us. There were clear indications that the POX spews and their current "War on Christians" crusade was of great concern - why here we were, dirty Jews actually daring to vocalise that we were not only not impressed by our Holy Duty to sacrifice ourselves, but fully not intending to go along with it. In their very midst! How dare we not understand that we had been removed categorically from G-d's list of People Who Do Not Suck!
And we found it highly amusing.
We know that the vast majority of American Christians are not actually crazypants types of evangelical literalists. We know that the mainstream protestant movements generally disavow replacement theology. I'm not talking about them - so I don't need a long reply about how YOU aren't that kind of Christian and YOUR church isn't like that and blah de blah - because this isn't about you. This is about the people who think it's ok to attack baptise Jews. Who think that the "prosperity gospel" is a valid theology. Who believe Jesus talks to them personally on a daily basis about trivial matters like what shirt to put on. Who are actively seeking to justify their own egotistical belief that they MUST be the Last Generation because surely the "Lor-Dah" can see that things have NEVER been worse in the history of humanity with all this daring to not allow them the sole cultural soapbox to berate people and control them from.
None of these angry white men actually had the balls to speak to any of us directly - because they're afraid. Afraid of what we might say. Afraid of the little seeds of doubt we plant simply by being amused that ethics only come from fear of eternal punishment. Afraid that we might actually know scripture better than they do - because they don't know Hebrew, they only know what they have been told through translation what it says. They are afraid of three Jews at a table they can't bully.
G-d bless America.