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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 06 | volume II | January, 1999



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 06January, 1999
Prose

Dial-A-Jew

/5
p. 1
Konstanti Gebert

    The caller was usually quite embarrassed.
    – You don’t know me – he or she would stutter out – but I got your phone number from so-and-so who said you could help me. You see – again an embarrassed silence – I am of Jewish origin, and I don’t know whom I can turn to…
    Being Jewish in Poland in the Eighties was something of a problem. The two officially tolerated Jewish organizations had a joint membership of about five thousand, average members’ age around sixty, and did their best not to be noticed – not by the authorities, not by population, not by anybody. Anyway, my callers usually would not dream of turning to them. One, the Jewish Socio-Cultural Association was tainted by its unwavering loyalty to the Communist party line in a time when the entire country was in revolt. The other, the Orthodox kehilla, seemed way too remote to people who had been brought up in assimilated families, often were children of mixed marriages or had made such marriages themselves. All they knew of their yiddishkeit was the guilty knowledge that they are “of Jewish origin” and, try hard as they can, they cannot make it go away. We called them “the shipwrecked Jews”.
    Anti-Semitism usually was the decisive factor in making them interested in exploring their roots. True, some of the “shipwrecked” had managed to conceal their identities from most of their acquaintances, others were accepted by their milieus, their Jewish origins notwithstanding. Still, offensive – if not necessarily ill-intentioned – comments and jokes, occasional articles in the press or comments in Church sermons, all that made them forever cautious and wary. They always had to be prepared, to know how to react, to continuously strike a balance between self-preservation and self-esteem.
    Others, living in happier circumstances, were nonetheless intrigued and tantalized by references to a heritage they knew was somehow theirs, and yet they knew next to nothing about. The more they read – sometimes a hodgepodge that could include both Shalom Ash and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – the more intrigued and disoriented they felt.
    Others still simply wanted to know what the whole fuss is all about.
    So had we.






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