Smile Politely

Pleading For a Jewish Deli in C-U

And now, back to lamenting like King David over the lack of Jew Food in Champaign-Urbana.

I recently stopped in to the newly refinished Hillel Foundation on John St. to settle a ten-year internal debate. A woman, who resembled every one of my mother’s female relatives, was waiting at the desk.

“Would I have been eligible for the Birthright trip to Israel despite the fact that my parent’s both converted to Christianity before I was born? After all, my blood is purely Jewish nonetheless.” I asked her, politely, honestly.

She gave me a look of utter disbelief and disgust. “Why would your parents do something like that?”

I told her, “Well, I guess they were on the post-hippie downslide, and you know, since Jesus Christ kinda represents all that is good in the world, I don’t really see the problem with it. They aren’t nutty evangelicals; they just felt that his teachings were right-on, you know?”

She retorted, just as snide, “Well, that’s sad.”

“But you still haven’t answered my question, ma’am,” I pressed on. “Would I be allowed to take the trip?”

She breathed a heavy breath and looked over at her student intern, who seemed to be as annoyed with my parents as she was: “I guess…”

My ass has always been sore from sitting on the fence with my Jewishness. Because of my parents’ decision to attend Christian church prior to my birth, and because I never went to Hebrew school or had a Bar Mitzvah, I have always been left on the outside looking in when it comes to the other Jews out there, for the most part.

I am what is called a Messianic Jew, and evidently, for lots of my people, that just isn’t acceptable.

But I can’t help being who I am. I don’t know where I stand religiously. I think I am a Christian Mystic or a Gnostic or something that most evangelicals would classify as heretical. But that doesn’t change my blood or my family’s history.

And in that history is a long line of people who like a huge fucking corned beef sandwich.

And that’s what this town needs: a fantastic Jewish deli, right here on campus, to serve as comfort food for the kids from Highland Park, as well as the local Jews, including that cranky, holier-than-thou Jew at Hillel. We all need a quick bowl of matzo ball soup, some homemade gefilte fish and a pastrami on rye the size of your head. We need a bagel with schmear and a choice of lox, regular or nova. We want a fat boy kreplach in a bowl of Jewish penicillin and a plate of brisket so large that it would make a grown man weep. We want to sop up the salty juices with a huge challah roll as well. We need the option of having beef tongue, too and something to wash it back, like a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda.

We need it all.

So, what’s say my Jewish brothers and sisters? What is so hard about cutting up over half a pound of freshly cooked corned beef and slapping it down between two pieces of Jewish rye? Won’t someone do me the favor?

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