WANTING TO BE WHO WE'RE NOT
 

Creative Nonfiction by Queer Writers
Edited by Jim Tushinski and Jim Van Buskirk
Now available from Harrington Park Press

 
 
 

AT THE MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE (excerpt)

by Jim Van Buskirk

     I had been looking forward to visiting the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust since I read about it some months previously. As I approached this new museum with the cumbersome name in Manhattan's Battery Park, I noticed the unusual hexagonal-shaped structure with its six-tiered roof, and was reminded of the six points of the Star of David and the estimated six million who perished in the Holocaust. The first time I tried to enter, the museum was inexplicably closed, so a few days later I tried again.
     I wound my way through the peculiarly circuitous security leading in to the museum. Upon entering the first hall I heard music and followed it to the rotunda, where images were being projected on to walls all around the large room. Color and black-and-white, contemporary and archival, the still and moving images of the Jewish experience, traditional and modern, flooded and flowed across the walls. I watched as a bridegroom smashed the glass under the chuppa, as a fiddler played in a Polish shtlel, as well-dressed children dance and romp, as an old woman wrapped herself in a prayer shawl. Suddenly I began weeping. What was it, I wondered, that was affecting me so?


     I am familiar with aspects of the Jewish tradition.
     "Are you Jewish?" a visitor once asked, noticing the brass Menorah on my windowsill.
     "No," I answered. "I've just had one too many Jewish boyfriends."
     But I had to confess it is a question that has haunted me most of my life. In addition to having had several Jewish boyfriends, the preponderance of my women friends are Jewish. I have counted out the plagues at Passover Seders, eaten oily latkes at Hanukkah parties, been moved by the Kol Nidre at Yom Kippur services. I enjoy eating matzoh brie, blintzes, humatashen, challah bread, and gefilte fish. Yiddishisms inadvertently sprinkle my speech. I light candles over the eight nights of Hanukkah and struggle through the prayer: Baruch ata adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam... I confess, I've been accused of being a "Macca-wanna-bee."