‘Who Is a Jew and What Kind of Jew?’

Poetry

By Sami Shalom Chetrit

Published January 21, 2005, issue of January 21, 2005.

An American Jew dies and he leave no children.

In his will, the following is written:

“I hereby decree that all my money and property

be given over to the State of Israel and my last

wish is that I be buried in the Land of Israel.

The undersigned, Isaac Cohen.”

The attendants sent the deceased and his money,

according to his last request, to the Land of Israel,

to eternal rest. The clerks of Zion collected

his money and transferred the corpse, as a matter

of course, to the burial society of the Ashkenazic Jews.

They turned his papers upside-down but found no authorization

to determine whether or not he really was an Ashkenazi.

Because of their doubts they deferred, sending him

on to the eternal resting place for Sephardic Jews.

The Sephardic sages sat down to take the matter

under advisement and, in conclusion, their answer

was formulated like this: “The name Isaac Cohen could

be either here or there, and given that this is so,

if he is a Sephardic Jew, then we have been privileged

to fulfill a wonderful commandment; and if he is

an Ashkenazic Jew, then we will gladly bury him!”

The above is excerpted from “Who Is a Jew and What Kind of Jew?” a poem from “The Schocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature.” Sami Shalom Chetrit is an Israeli poet, filmmaker and political activist who was born in Qasr as-Suq, Morocco.



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