by Dr David, Editor / Publisher
The Rabbi called Thursday asking if I could come Saturday morning to be part of the minyan, the quorum of ten Jewish men needed to pray the full Sabbath service. Seven Syrian Jews were coming up from Mexico City. (The tight-knit Jewish Syrian community has lived in Mexico City for generations. They didn't just, or even recently arrive from Syria.) The Rabbi himself made eight, then Dr Stein, a man true to his word, promised to come, so I made ten.
I showed up at 10:00, the appointed time, called up (the use of electronic doorbells is forbidden on the Sabbath) and was let in and greeted by the Rabbi and his three little boys, all smartly attired in matching outfits, except the Rabbi.
The Rabbi wondered where his seven guests were. I took the opportunity to tell him something I'd been waiting to say for a while, "Rabbi, you are the only person in town who is punctual."
The house is a sprawling place with a large inner patio where we would pray. The little boys had to be dissuaded from proudly showing me their bicycles, stored away for this occasion. Sure enough, five or ten minutes later in walked the first of the seven men, accompanied by his four young sons, although not as young as the Rabbi's.
One antisemitic myth is that Israel is a white, European colonial project. About half of Israeli Jews are Ashkenazi, or the descendants of European Jews. The rest of the Jews are people of color, mostly from the Middle East, Iraq, Iran and Africa. (Jews have been a persecuted minority everywhere for 2000 years. Claiming that Jews enjoy White Privilege in the United States is like claiming that Asian enjoy White Privilege in the United States.)
These first arrivals, the man and his sons, were quickly followed by a flood of others, whom revealed themselves to be all one large extended family. The seven males were the patriarch, a stylishly dressed man in his early sixties and his six adult children, or the husbands of those. They were accompanied by wives and over a dozen children and teenage girls.
The service, always a bit of a production, proceeded flawlessly, the men adding occasionally their unique Sephardic melodies to the prayers. The children participated with their parents beaming approval. Everything was kosher, enjoyable and charming.
The services over, having their own food waiting for them, rather than stay for the traditional brunch, the clan left. Those of us left, Rabbi and family, Dr Stein, me, a member of the Zavalah family and his daughter, sat down to eat. The conversation and the food was lovely. After an hour or so we finished, said grace and left.
Jealousy is not a good emotion. I wan't jealous. But that day in synagogue I admired, I envied those Syrian Jews their individual families and their extended family. Walking home from synagogue I imagined the warm bonds, the security, the context of such family relationships. My family is much more sparse. My brother and sister don't talk to me. Divorced, I have one daughter whom I speak to once a week, and a couple favorite cousins with whom I stay in infrequent contact.
Arriving home, I received a rather urgent request to contact that one daughter. I called. She said, "I'm ok, but I've sort of been shot. The bullet only grazed my butt."
At 9pm, after attending a friend's bachelorette party, she was sitting in her car in New Orleans waiting for the light at the end of the highway exit ramp to change when she heard at close range a series of gunshots and felt something like a wasp sting her between her left buttocks and hip. She called her mom, who called the cops. From their viewing the traffic camera recording she learned that a car pulled up next to her and, in a completely unprovoked, completely random act of violence, shot at her, at least four times. Apparently there was another similar incident that evening. You can learn all that she told me by clicking the image below and watching a news video reporting the incident. (On that page the article below the video is just a transcription of the video, so, if you watch the video, then there is no need to read that article.)
It's really a miracle that she wasn't seriously hurt. She averted grave injury by milimeters, catastrophy by inches. Of course I was compassionate, but inwardly my response has been one of denial and gratitude. I texted her the next day, "I can't believe you were shot, that you were shot at. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for being released from danger, please."
Click here to watch video.
My daughter and I don't agree on politics. In her news interview she says, "To me gun violence is a sign of desperation, so, we have to get to the root cause of why this happened." I have a contrary view.
I do believe that greater opportunities, especially better education, will make for more fulfilled, happier individuals. I do believe that whatever can be done to keep fathers in the home, including sentencing reform for petty crimes, will produce better, less violent young men. But unlike my daughter I suspect that government intervention generally makes things worse: restrictions on school choice weakens education; Welfare discourages men from taking responsibility for their children; efforts to combat anti-black racism by discriminating against non-blacks doom society as a whole, the middle class and poor of all colors.
When she told me this I wrote back, "At the risk of engaging in a political discussion I would note that lenient sentencing correlates directly with increased crime."
Many believe that nurture, how one is treated, will resolve the problem. I'm sure that's partially true, but I believe that violence is a part of human nature that must be suppressed by fear of legal consequences. The same goes for looting. I can imagine a world without violence and crime, I just don't think that it is this world.
That was Saturday. Sunday I went to the country with my girlfriend. You can imagine whatever you want to in the city, but nature has a way of keeping you honest. I realized I might have been romaticizing the joys of a large family. I thought about the effort it takes to raise four boys, and maybe more on the way. My own, relatively solitary existence showed in a better light. Be careful what you wish for...
It was a very restorative afternoon, a great weekend, except that they shot my daughter.
Dr David has created Lokkal, a social network that is not commercially-driven (just being launched starting here in San Miguel) as an alternative to the abuses of social media.
"Whether it is to be utopia or oblivion will be a touch and go relay race right up to the final moments." - Buckminster Fuller