Yes, There Are Jews In Texas!

We’ve been here the whole time. Believe it or not, Jews were in Texas long before Hurricane Harvey turned our Houston neighborhoods into extensions of the Gulf of Mexico. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate the outpouring of support that’s come our way from the Jewish Community around the world in its aftermath.

I do appreciate it. And we need it.

That said, I do have a request.

To many of our, shall we say, less urbane brethren on the East Coast, the idea of a Jew in Texas has historically been anathema. Who ever heard of a Jew riding horses?

Well, nobody has heard of a Jew riding horses. Let’s get that out of the way. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been in Texas this whole time. I can say that for my branch of the Lerner family, 2017 marks 100 years in Texas. That’s 100 years of people from out of state assuming we do in fact ride horses when we tell the where we’re from. Being from Texas is awesome like that.

But, no, we are not ubiquitous like the Jews of New York who have congealed into a Seinfeld-shaped totem defining what a Jew is within the national psyche. We’re just people who know where to go if you actually want to get a good bagel in Houston, Dallas or San Antone.

We have lost so much in this flood. Just how hard Houston’s Jewish community got hit by Harvey is still becoming clear. And it’s getting plenty of coverage. The healing has begun, we will rebuild, and yada, yada, yada (the Seinfeld Totem shaped me too. Let’s not make a thing of it.)

But here’s what I’m requesting. Just a small note of empathy if you take nothing else from the plight of Jews in Texas in all of this. From now on, when you meet one of us, don’t immediately ask,”There’s Jews in Texas?” Yes, we’re here. We’ve been here since Texas fought for its independence (Maybe. I’m not looking it up. I’m operating out of a hotel. Flood victim. Mic drop).

The point is, we’ve been here a long time and it’s annoying to always have to hear that refrain, what an old Yiddish Texan would call “horse shit.”

I once had an openly gay, African-American Anthropology Professor at the University of Texas at Austin ask me ,”There’s Jews in Texas?” when he found out I was Jewish.

Yes! And we also have openly gay, African-American Anthropology professors at our universities! There are all kinds of people in Texas. And Jews are some of them!

Do some Googling and you will quickly see many consider Houston to be the most diverse city in the US. Texas Jews were a big part of that from day one, sucka!

Look, believe me, I realize we have bigger problems at the moment. But so what? Jews know from problems, and we’ll figure this one out.

The point is, we’re more than just victims. And we’re not just some statistical anomaly that barely keeps the mohel sector viable in the Bible Belt.

We are here. We’ve been here a long time. And we’re not going anywhere. Probably. Let’s see what happens with this crazy weather.

This story "Yes, There Are Jews In Texas!" was written by Mason Lerner.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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