“The Golem of Rabbi Lowe” by Johnny Townsend from Queer Fish: An Eclectic Anthology of Gay Fiction (Volume One), Pink Narcissus Press, 2011. Edited by Margarita Bezdomnya and Rose Mambert.
I’ve said it before and I’ll surely say it again: one of the main reasons I read is to learn about perspectives different than my own.
I also say I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, and when I do I often get the impression that people don’t fully grasp what I’m saying. Like they think there was one Jewish family and I’m trying to be all “Look how worldly I am”. No, when I say I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood I mean that in the brick townhouse across from ours it was the Brimms, and next to them, the Epsteins, and next to them, the Diamonds, and next to them, the Begas. I can’t recall who owned the last house in that row, it’s been too many years, but across from them (so in our row, but on the opposite end from our house) it was the Rosenbaums, the Goldblums, the Harrises, then us. Behind us, their tiny cement patio separated from ours by a narrow sidewalk, there were the Sangermans, and next to them the Goldsteins, then the Wassermans, then the Namordis, then the Blairs, and finally the Foxes. Further down the block were the Margolises, the Weinsteins, the Hockwerts, and just catty-corner from all of us, in an apartment building, was Eric Levy, who I took mime class with at the YMCA and on whom I had huge crush for a time. On the other side of the park, which was five houses away from our house, was my grammar school, where I made friends with, had crushes on, or was mortal enemies with even more Jewish kids. Mandel. Schwarzberger. Tecktiel. Horowitz.
Yada yada yada.
Growing up with people is not the same as looking through their eyes, of course, but it helps. It also makes one interested in reading stories told from their perspective. I read Rich Man by Sharon Pomerantz in one of those I-did-nothing-else-all-weekend deals. What can I say? She opened with a description of the main character’s neighborhood, like this:
For as far as the eye could see were miles and miles of Jews, families of four, five, and more packed into long, solid brick rows—so many ‘Steins and ‘Vitzes, Silvers and Golds—each house with its own narrow scroll of front lawn and a cement patio big enough for exactly two folding chairs.
Five hundred pages later I looked up again.
This story was also quite compelling. Set in the 1500s, it tells the tale of Rabbi Lowe, a devout man who strives to do his best to counsel his people. He’s also a very lonely man, because he’s gay, and loath to sin, and he believes the Torah declares homosexuality to be a sin. He is human, however, and he tries to find a compromise that would be pleasing to God. Although he is married, he entertains the idea of asking God for a golem—a reanimated corpse, and soulless—to be a companion to him, and ease his loneliness. It isn’t until their area is attacked by narrow-minded, blood-thirsty gentiles, though, that he beseeches God to create the golem, and then he asks on behalf of his people. Keeping the creature around after the attack is thwarted is icing on the cake.
One last thing. You may recall what I wrote in one of my earliest posts, about the impact that my mother’s becoming good friends with gay activist/actor/director/writer Michael Kearns had on nine-year old me:
After getting to know Michael, in all his glorious complexity, I started noticing – and challenging – anti-gay propaganda. I knew it was bullshit because what they said didn’t match up with who I knew.
Yeah well, that goes here, too.
Happy Rosh Hashanah.