Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

David, Goliath & Egg Fu Young: On Being Jewish in Chicago at Christmas Time, in the Fifties…by Robert M. Katzman

© December 21, 2013

People of the Book

Wandering brown-eyed

Through silent dark streets

Alone among the millions

Each December 25th

For Millennia

Tinsel-less

Sleigh-less

Tree-less

Santa-less

Outside and looking in

No chimneys filled with myth

No stockings to hang

No mistletoe for kissing

 

Reminded yearly of their

Infinitesimal numbers

An ancient people

Existing as an asterisk

And resisting the urge to blend

Uniqueness of philosophy

Has its price

Even their heroes invisible

Yet such fidelity offers an identity

As the prize

Christmas in America

Storied and sung

Bethlehem, Wise men

A Manger, Mary and Joseph

Frankincense and gifts

Peace on Earth

Once, all of them us

Good and bad

Kind and cold

A moment in time became

A super-nova of separation

And the Jews, its asteroids

Drifting on their periphery

Chanukah?

NOT Jewish Christmas!

Guerrilla warfare

Elephants and Greeks

Maccabees and miracles

The endless battle to remain apart

When?

Two hundred years before

The death of Christ

Yes, we intersect

Did Christ have a menorah?

I hope so

Eventually, all of this existential history

Boiling down to:

Nowhere to eat on Christmas

Distinct we are, yes

But hungry among the Christians

The cost of resistance

Came the Chinese people

A quarter of the Earth

The greatest Diaspora ever

Peacefully e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e

Quietly present

Wherever I traveled

Seeking Chinese restaurants

The Chinese spoke Chinese to each other

But always, also:

From Norwegian to Czech

The language of wherever they were

Plus English

 In this way, they conquer the planet

An invincible force

Goliaths to our Davids

Armed with irresistible weapons

Hot and sour soup

Both innocent to see and

Deadly to experience

Crunchy egg rolls

Mongolian beef with

Green peppers & scallions

Shrimp egg fu young

And this seductive fare

Gentle Chinese Delilahs

 are but the

Vanguard of their Juggernaut

Sometimes relations evolve

Over tens of centuries

Inexplicably leading to a once

Impossible to envision

Embrace of David and Goliath

Allies within Christendom

Though Jews are but a whisper

 In the overwhelming

Screaming and shouting of the planet,

That whisper permeates everything

Like celestial vapor

A Biblical people

Lingering through time

Saying:

We still matter

On Christmas day,

When Jews wander through darkened cities

Surrounded

By mile after mile of muted neon

Still, after two thousand years

Still looking for a welcoming Inn

Joseph and Mary: Where art thou?

Our hearts warm when at last we see

Those Chinese Sentries

Sturdy Szechuan Synagogues

Doorposts to our shared community

Welcoming us home

Saying in bright colors:

We are waiting for you

Always waiting for you

Please come in from the cold

Into our fragrant warmth

Every day

and

Any day

of the year

The Chinese word for Jews is:

You Tai Ren

Me?

My word for them is:

Mensches!

*

(Merry Christmas, everybody…seriously)

*

Mysterious Post Script added years later on December 25, 2017:

What are the magical substances that help keeps a remnant of a mysterious wandering Biblical people from disappearing into the burning desert sands, taking the immortal Secrets of the Universe with them?

Ok, quick, write this down before that strange black cloud hovering in the distance can overtake me. This is it:

A cup of Chicken Fat from a wise chicken raised in the Lower East Side of San Antonio, then a sprinkle of caraway seeds snatched from a peasant’s field in Finland–um…how much is a sprinkle? Oy, better ask your Lithuanian Grandma–then, and very important!–three dreidles full of sweet and sour sauce from this certain basement in Western Shanghai’s Uzbeck quarter, then, please write faster!…and this is all you’ll ever need…OH MY GOD! THE CLOUD!! THE CLOUD!!! THE CLOUD……………….!!!!

********

Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $29.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.

 Twitter handle: bob_katzman

11 Comments »

Comment by Helene

December 22, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

Hate hate hate chinese food and never had it on Christmas growing up and never as an adult.

But very cute. Love where it leads.

Comment by Don Larson

December 23, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

Bob,

I celebrate Christmas but I am not a Christian. The holiday holds no religious significance to me.

Having been blessed by so many Jewish people in my life, I hold no bias to those of that ancient race and religion.

I wish you and yours the best celebrations of your faith and contributions to those you know.

Sincerely,

Don

Comment by Bright Spencer

December 23, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

thank you for another wonderful read, such rhythm and grace, such flair and good taste, especially when mentioning Chinese!

Happy Holidays, Robert. May God be with you all your days.

Comment by Bob

December 24, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

Just a little clarification. Since Jerusalem, etc is actually in Asia, and the term “Middle East” coined by Britain to solely describe its own geographic location in relation to that part of the world, and which therefore has absolutely no other meaning whatsoever for anyone else, then it follows that Jews are actually: Asian.

But then, since all of Europe is actually a relatively small penninsula off of the western part of Asia, the Greeks, French, Germans and Italians are all Asian, too.

If people enjoy my Christmas/Jewish/Chinese poem-story, that makes me very happy.

Comment by Paul Eisenbacher

December 24, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

Bob
I spent one Christmas in Taipei and had a fabulous Chinese diner. In fact during Chinese New Year Chinese restaurants close for a week. We ate native Taiwanese food. Which was very good as well. I found that no mater where you are in the world some type of restaurant will be open on any given day. I never went hungary on any holiday. How lucky I have been to say that. When so many others go without. Have a great holiday season no matter what religion or spiritual beliefs you have. I learned in China one expression of great importance. “We are all brothers under the same sky”. What separates us is us. See you in 2014. Paul

Comment by Bob

December 24, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

Paul, a note from you is always a present to me, any time of the year. I revised the poem (again) and changed the ending, when I learned something new today. take another look. It may make you smile.

I have this irrational hope that this poem, this time, may float around the world and really be read.

So, in China, are the Jewish restaurants open on Chinese holidays?

My best to you, my friend.

Bob

Comment by Anonymous

January 1, 2014 @ 1:56 am

Comment by John Steve Adler

December 24, 2015 @ 11:52 am

Bob, I am sure you understand that it’s “Chinese AND a movie” for a holiday celebration.

Comment by David Griesemer

December 25, 2015 @ 7:17 pm

Fascinating piece. Strewn everywhere, as usual, with the perfect original turn-of-phrase and metaphors. Describing the split between Christians and Jews as a super-nova. “Gentle Chinese Delilahs” – this is classic Katzman, titillating us into understanding. But also, as usual, revealing the human condition through narrative. Making unexpected connections (“Embrace of David and Goliath/Allies within Christendom”) is the mark of an educator.

Comment by Brad Dechter

December 26, 2017 @ 9:04 am

Bob- you can add Dominos to your list of Jewish Friendly places with food on/ for Christmas. I couldn’t find a decent Chinese Restaurant close to my house that delivers, but Dominos rose to the occasion! I am fairly sure the Meat Lovers wasn’t Kosher, but I did eat a warm, tasty meal fairly cheaply.
Happy Holidays!
Brad

Comment by Herb Berman

December 26, 2017 @ 6:44 pm

Your verse makes me very sad. Though I grew up in Louisville as a rather obvious minoriity, I never felt singled out as a Jew or ostracized in any way. I went to Hebrew School and was bar mitzvahed at our Conservative synagogue, but had both Jewish and gentile friends. I palled around with Don Carmichael, David Daugherty and Mark Johnson as well as Gerald Marx, Stan Berman and Mike Kaplan. We were just kids having fun, playing baseball and footballl and going to Saturday matinees together. We went to different “churches,” but never thought much about it one way or the other. Maybe we were just blissfully ignorant. If so, God bless ignorance. My parents never commented on my friends except to say, “they’re all good kids. You”re lucky to have them as friends.

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