One of Ours

Sometimes I wonder if other people’s ears perk up as mine do upon hearing a Jewish sounding name on T.V. or when coming across one elsewhere. I don’t know why I do it so routinely. Could this be considered a fetish? All I know is that I swell with pride when one of ‘ours’ does something commendable such as win a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. On the other hand, I cringe when a guy with a Jewish sounding name gets arrested for one thing or another. I take it so personally!

This all may stem from my upbringing. I remember Bubbie kvelling (glowing with pride) about Bernard Baruch, "that Jewish genius who tells Roosevelt how to run the country." Bubbie announced to us all "he’s mishpocha (family), you know." She was, of course, using mishpocha in the broadest possible sense. When we went to the movies, she told me who my "kinfolk’ were. Melvyn and Kirk Douglas belonged to us as did Lauren Bacall. That good looking John Garfield did, too, but we weren"t all that comfortable with the gangster roles he and Edward G. Robinson played. I think my folks thought it might reflect badly on all Jews. Wow! Talk about paranoia!

I’m sure all this stemmed from knowing how our people had been persecuted throughout the ages just because they were Jews. Unfortunately, the last couple of generations were painfully aware of what it meant to be a Jew in places where Jews were terribly oppressed.

I guess their thinking rubbed off on me. I don’t think my children and grandchildren look at who’s Jewish and who’s not. Except maybe at Oscar time when Billy Crystal talks lovingly about his rabbi. I know I puff up with pride while my kids laugh at his shtick. I’d like to think that, along with that laughter, they’re thinking "Hey, man, he’s one of ours."

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