On Mon­day, Avi Stein­berg wrote about Kaf­ka in Tel Aviv. His first book, Run­ning the Books: The Adven­tures of an Acci­den­tal Prison Librar­i­an, was just released. Editor’s note: the fol­low­ing post uti­lizes what the Ashke­nazi Jews call sarcasm.

It cer­tain­ly has been a mon­u­men­tal few weeks in the his­to­ry of humil­i­a­tion. With the help of Wik­ileaks, we’re learn­ing so many new things about our friends and neigh­bors. Who knew CNN’s Ander­son Coop­er dyed his hair white? Actu­al­ly, to be hon­est, I had sus­pi­cions. All the signs were there. But still, there’s some­thing star­tling about hear­ing him admit, and so blunt­ly, that he also uses a mir­ror to prac­tice that sig­na­ture move of his, the pur­pose­ful side­long squint — and all of this preen­ing just so he can look more like seri­ous news­man.” Ander­son, you’re boy­ish­ly hand­some. Just own it, babe.

But I don’t judge. I’ve got my own Wik­ileak grief. I present the fol­low­ing Wik­ileaked doc­u­ment, which involves, well, me. It catch­es me say­ing some things that I’m frankly not too proud of. Since it’s going to be cir­cu­lat­ing out there any­way, espe­cial­ly among Hasidic blog­gers, I fig­ure you might as well hear it from me first. It’s a memo from me to my book’s pub­li­cist. Oy, so embar­rass­ing. Here it goes…


Hey Gretchen!

Whazzzup. I write to you with a mar­ket­ing con­cern. What can we do to – how do I put this – to fan charges of anti-semi­tism against my book? Does that make any sense? Let me back up. As you know, nobody from the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty has accused my book of express­ing anti-semit­ic sen­ti­ments. No review­ers, no inter­view­ers. Noth­ing. I can’t even get a blog­ger to make a snarky com­ment on the sub­ject. This is no good.

When my book came out, my mother’s main con­cern was, will I still be able to show my face at the Butcherie?” At the time, I smug­ly advised her to stock up on Meal-Mart horse­rad­ish because she was nev­er going to shop at the local kosher mar­ket ever again — not on my watch. Well, guess what? My moth­er shows her face at the Butcherie every Fri­day before Shabbes, like noth­ing hap­pened. Even the surly Russ­ian check­out lady seems entire­ly unaf­front­ed. And my moth­er, mean­while, feels com­fort­able enough to kvell about the book as she waits in line. WTF? How is word of my self-hatred ever going to spread this way? I swear, I’m nev­er going to sell books in the Jew­ish community.

Now, I know what you’re going to say: It’s your fault, Avi. You had your shot. Why didn’t you write a book with more anti-semit­ic con­tent? You went kind of light there in that chap­ter about Ortho­dox wed­dings. So, big deal, you got punched in the face dur­ing an out-of-con­trol hora. It was an acci­dent. And, as you say, you deserved it any­way. There wasn’t even that much blood. You wan­na write a blood libel, show me some blood. Give me some of that thick red stuff, kid. A pint, half, any­thing. Some of that good Jim Caviezel vin­tage, then we’ll talk.

All true. But here’s the thing, Gretchen. You’re very gen­tile. It’s won­der­ful, but there’s some­thing you don’t under­stand. Being called anti-semit­ic by the tribe is like get­ting whis­tled at by con­struc­tion work­ers. Yes, it’s irri­tat­ing. But then, one day, when they stop doing it, you’re like, What, I’m invis­i­ble here? You don’t even care about me?” The anti-semi­tism accu­sa­tion is a shout-out. It’s a form of affec­tion. It doesn’t make your day exact­ly, but the absence of it is worse than excommunication.

I wish you could have been there for the good old days, back when I’d be accused of anti-semi­tism in the com­ments” sec­tions of arti­cles I’d writ­ten, denounced on Face­book. I hard­ly had to lift a fin­ger. I guess there’s no use liv­ing in the past. But, yeah, I’ll be hon­est, I’m kind of hurt nobody thinks I’m a self-hat­ing Jew.

My last hope is that the Jews aren’t buy­ing the book because it’s too anti-semit­ic. I know, I know, how fool­ish­ly roman­tic of me. In real­i­ty, I know it’s because they’re cheap.

Any­way, I hope your Christ­mas tree shop­ping is going well. Mine is kind of, eh, blah. So hard to find one at a rea­son­able rate, no? I say to the tree guy, So, how much for a tree?” “$85,” he says. And I say, “$85?” And he says, Yeah. $85. Do you want the tree or not?” “$85,” I reply, is $85.”

Maybe if my fel­low Jews weren’t so stingy, I’d have enough mon­ey for a prop­er Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion. I hope you’re hav­ing bet­ter luck. And, seri­ous­ly, if you have any ideas about rais­ing my anti-semit­ic pro­file, let me know.

Yours in Christ,
Avrum Stein­berg

Avi Steinberg’s first book, Run­ning the Books: The Adven­tures of an Acci­den­tal Prison Librar­i­an, was just released.