Present Company ExceptedApril 6th, 2009

Yesterday I attended a song fest with a crowd of strangers, most of them Jewish. The event was organized by somebody I know from the anti-war movement, and it was a musical and convivial assembly. Even so, I became uncomfortable after awhile. Something is happening to me that I don’t like.

I’ve always had Jews in my life. The ones I gravitated toward were secular in outlook, free-thinking, maybe a little impatient with religious observance, even their own. Liberated, in a way. Among ethnic groups, Jews struck me as more studious and cultured and humorous, and I appreciated them for this. I was always pretty aware of who was and wasn’t Jewish, and there were many Jews who changed my life without being in it: Einstein, Freud, Leonard Bernstein, Carl Reiner.

And yet I was uncomfortable in this crowd of Jewish singers. The source of discomfort was my awareness that some of the present company approve of what Israel is doing to Arabs. Not wanting to find out who’s who, I found myself confronting a gulf. Even the anti-war crowd seems to be making an exception for Israel, and the word is that you’re anti-Jewish if you accuse the Jewish state. This makes me afraid to know what Barbra Streisand thinks of Gaza and nervous around Jews. I suppose other non-Jews are getting this feeling and trying not to mention it.