It sucked to be a Jew in America last week. First, the Pew Research Center came out with a survey of Jewish life and it turns out Jews are assimilating at higher and higher numbers. Apparently, each year fewer people identify as Jewish. If that weren’t enough reason to panic, in the same week, some genius clerk in a store called Hobby Lobby told some Jewish Patrons, in NEW JERSEY, that if they wanted paper dreidels, menorah making kits, and other Jewish-themed craft items, they’d have to look somewhere else, because Hobby Lobby doesn’t cater to the chosen people.
Here’s what I think: If you want to worry about assimilating Jews, don’t get your knickers in a twist about intermarriage, or Hannukah bushes. Instead, I’d ask what the hell Jews are doing in a store called Hobby Lobby in the first place.
Jews are not a crafting people. How the hell do you have time to decoupage a seder plate, knit a cozy for the menorah, or even worse, time to scrapbook a bris, if you always have to be ready to get up and run should a gang of angry Cossacks come knocking at your door? (One of the reasons there wasn’t Jewish art for many years was for this reason. If you’re a nomadic people, wandering hither and yonder, you’re going to pack light. A marble bust of Moses or a wood carving of the sacrifice of Isaac wasn’t going to make in onto the back of your camel or pack mule. Not when you could pack potatoes instead.)
I am not just saying this just because I am an un-crafty person who is easily intimated by the use of any small motor skills. True, I can barely tie my own shoes, and true, anything that I have knit looks like a toddler did it, with her feet, but I am incredibly suspect of the whole crafting business.
I think of all the women who came before me. Would they be horrified to know that it’s now hip to make your own clothes, not to mention bake your own bread? Didn’t we leave all that behind in the shtetl along with that giant pail they schlepped around to milk the cows. (I have a hunch the same pail was used to do laundry and provide the odd bath. Mark my words, people, that pail will make a comeback. A pricey, pricey comeback.)
I am suspect of all this crafting. (I am also suspect of mothers who send their children to school with cute bento box lunches and intricate hair braids in this category. Dodgy.) It seems like such a remarkable waste of time and the accumulation of such a tremendous amount of useless detritus, all so we can pretend that we have an ounce of shiksa-goddess-Martha-Stewart blood in us. People, Martha Stewart is the other kind of Polish, the kind that didn’t have to marry her cross-eyed, hunch-backed, hairy first cousin just because he had a visa and could get her out of Warsaw in a hurry.
We’ve never had the luxury of the time it requires to get busy crafting. (I’m sorry, but I can’t make a boiled wool purse with you tonight. I have to commit the Torah to memory in case the Greeks come back and burn it.) If we have it now, so much so that we’re boycotting stores that are dumb enough not to cater to us (in New Jersey!!), I’d say we’ve gotten a little too comfortable over here. I’d say it’s high time to step away from the glue gun.
And I didn’t need the Pew people to tell me that.