Thursday, February 11, 2016
Thursday, April 16, 2015
I want to write her name in the sky.
And watch it blow away in the wind.
I want to scream her name with joy
Pronouncing every syllable
Savoring each sound like fine wine
Or rich chocolate cake.
I want to fold perfect paper airplanes filled with each letter
And fly them into space.
I want her name in a bottle
Across the sea.
I want her name to mean something in this world.
I want to know it is more than a whisper from my mouth
Or a dream inside my head.
I want the idea of her to be
Honored and exalted.
She is holy and her name is holy
Her name is my love
Her name is forgiveness
Her name is my devotion
Her name is my secret
My heart is broken but when they cut it open, no matter how they poke and prod,
her name will remain in my swishing heartbeat
in the oxygen that fills my body
Lifting my exhaustion.
It is her name that pulls at my heart
Making it beat faster
She's the angel that pushed me down to earth with my broken heart
The only sign of her remaining in the indentation
of her fingertip above my lips.
Her fingertip that erased my memory
leaving me with a lifetime of searching for the answer
to some foggy thought I can't quite catch
She's the piece that will mend my broken heart
not enough for perfection, but enough for life
So, she doesn't have to save me again
Her name is a blessing
She is my blessing
May her memory be a blessing
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
When I was editor of the Jewish VOICE, I wrote a reflections article on my problems with Passover. As Passover approaches, I thought it would be good to share.
By Shoshana Kohn, Editor
I spent a long time staring at a blank page. Why? Because as a part of a greater Jewish community, I realize that we are hold our own beliefs and these beliefs mean everything to us. However, I think most of us struggle with something in Judaism, and if we don’t talk about it, and share it, we may never get over that struggle. So, let me start by saying, while you, dear reader, may not agree, I, Shoshana Kohn, am a Biblical skeptic. Therefore, as I grow older, I find myself more and more troubled with Passover.
When it comes to historical fact and the bible, the academic world is very complicated. We know King Solomon was real. We know there was a Kingdom of Israel and a Kingdom of Judah. Clearly, we know there was a Babylonian exile. However, other stories are historically murky. The Exodus is one of the best examples of historical murkiness. According to Prof. Israel Finkelstein in his book The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts:
There is no evidence that the Israelites were in Egypt, not the slightest, not the least bit of evidence. There are no clues, either archaeological or historical; to prove that the Israelites built monuments in Egypt, even though the biblical description of the famine in the Land of Israel may be accurate. We know from archaeology that there was a migration of Canaanites to Egypt in the first half of the second millennium BCE, that these migrants built communities in the area of the Nile Delta, and that the Egyptians afterward expelled them from there. Perhaps that is the ancient memory, I don't know.
Many other archaeologists would agree that there is no physical evidence in the Sinai: no bones, no food refuge, no trash, and no tools— nothing that proves a people wandered through the desert. More so, the Egyptians didn’t speak of us in their stories. So, archeologically speaking, it didn’t happen.
Of course, this begs the question: just because we aren’t aware of the evidence, does it mean that it doesn’t exist? I would argue that the scope and breath of the investigation is so great that the archeologists are pretty spot on. Think of slaves in America: the books, the sales receipts, the physical remnants of slave labor throughout the south; the evidence goes on and on. While yes, the story of the Hebrew slaves happened thousands of years ago, however, we know the kinds of records the Egyptians kept: the elaborate burials, the pyramids, and yet, the Israelites aren’t part of their narrative. Someone might argue that they wanted erase the narrative, but we possess too much information about the history of Egypt to assume something has gone missing.
Frankly, to me the greatest wonder of the Torah is that an intricate, complicated piece of literature has sustained itself all these years. Its power is in its stories. Its humanity, its characters, its life lessons. It is not simply a roadmap to how to live our lives, but a mythology that speaks to the very essence of what it means to be human. We grapple with those tales together. We analyze these characters we argue their words, their actions, their motivations. It is a millennial long conversation that keeps going.
And yet, at Passover, I take pause because through the recitation of the liberation from slavery, these stories morph from myth into historical fact. We recite so that we never forget what it meant to be slaves. However, in my mind, I fear we have created a liberation theology without liberation.
This stops me dead in my tracks. How dare we call ourselves slaves when we live among the grandchildren of slaves? How dare we call ourselves slaves when women and children are sold into modern slavery?
But then- where did many slaves gain courage liberate themselves? The Exodus from Egypt. It is our story that we cultivated over time, our stories that we told and retold over thousands of years, that we, the People of the Book, upheld, carried, passed down over generation after generation. It is our stories that even with the creation of a new religion among other nations, was kept alive.
Why? Because it struck them just as it struck us: as worthy, as life giving, as strength.
No, we weren't slaves in Egypt, but we've been captives and wanderers, we've been tortured and broken- only to rise up again and again. We use our book to build community. We use our book to build a great democratic nation-whose own strengths and weaknesses are a reflection of the stories that have come before.
When Harriett Tubman led slaves through the Underground Railroad, they called her Moses. When slaves secretly learned how to read, they read the Bible, and in it they saw a people, not only yearning to be free, but a people who found their way to liberation.
Our stories are a light to the nations not because they are fact, but because it doesn't matter if they are fact. They are power.
As we sit down at the Passover table, we are giving our children the power of these stories. And maybe, just maybe, we can keep using our stories to bring about liberation until no one else needs to be freed.
Monday, March 2, 2015
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
I am unsure what hurts more: the baby at the next table or him.
Both of them hold someone else's joy and on another day, in another week, in another year, neither would grab my attention with such strangling unyielding force.
And oddly, it's his force that pulls me more than the baby. Because, well, through all of this, my lack of a partner has left me emptier than I've ever known I could be. Even while pregnant, the loneliness grabbed me and pulled me down forcing the howl out of my throat.
And don't tell me about the kind of loneliness you feel when your partner isn't really your partner. I know every nook and cranny. I know every sharp edge.
But I can gather as many family and friends around me as I want. And they can give me strength, but this loss is mine and mine alone. There is no other hand to hold, no other heart that's broken, no one to even feel annoyed at because they aren't grieving the way in want them to grieve.
I don't even know how to grieve.
But I know how to want and wish. And that ordinary looks so good. It looks safe.
And I am no longer numb.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Try again very soon. That’s the big fat cosmic joke of it all. I’m an unemployed single mother. I have no partner or independent wealth. This was a happy accident. But, trying again soon is an impossibility. My third child will have to wait until undetermined time in the future that I cannot even fathom: a time where I either have a partner or am in a position to realistically and smartly do this alone.
cannot howl. I am numb and I pray that I can sit inside this numbness until I am ready.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
“I want to wear a yellow star above my left breast where each and every Holocaust victim was forced to don one. I want to walk around with a yellow star on every solitary piece of clothing I own. On my American Apparel V-neck, my Nike sweatshirt, Ralph Lauren sweater, my Champion hoodie, my Diesel button-down, H&M jacket, Adidas jersey and Gap blazer. I’ll wear it at the beach on my bare chest if I have to.
I want to walk down the streets of Paris and confront people like this. Outside the White house near these friendly haters confronting an ex-marine. In Brussels, the Netherlands, the mosques of Berlin, in streets of Canada – and England especially – to meet this idiot. I’d like to go to campuses in the States, like this one at the University of California, San Diego to talk to this girl here – I’ll be wearing my yellow star."