Being a Jew is largely an inherited condition, so much so that it seems perfectly adapted to being an “–ish”. There aren’t many other things you can be born into where you can choose to live the “–ish” version. Jew-ish is a bit like being the Larry, Larry David, plays in Curb Your Enthusiasm – he enjoys the culture, the humor, the hypochondria, the Yiddish-isms, the argumentativeness.
One of my granny’s friends told me recently that, ‘‘you have the soul of my yiddishe bubbe.” Clearly my Orthodox roots are not straying too prodigally far. I think that might be called ‘sustainable schmaltz’ and is hands down, my favorite new expression. It turns out that my ancestors really knew what they were doing. Have you ever read Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth? It’s about a young Jewish man’s onanistic habits, and throbs with desire for guiltless shikses in a world of crumpled Kleenex, slabs of liver and inherited angst. Oooh la la.
Preservation followed by improvisation? The settings of these subtexts in my head range from successor, to sexual, Jewish, Catholic, post-colonial, existential, suppressed, sublimated and so forth: when it comes to “–ish’es”, there’s a variety for everyone. Guilt unzipped I’d call it, and compelling enough to turn off those quiet Jew-ish voices in my head.