Half a dozen of the other, or: Jew by David Bogomolny

Jew performing Hasidic prayer

Tassels swinging as they walk

to the Wall on Saturdays;

      perhaps not. It depends,

      you know. Some wear frock

      coats so you wouldn’t

      know it;

      plus- tassels probably don’t swing much under heavy polyester.

I went abroad

to teach a group of secular Jews

      from Russia

      in Georgia. The

      country. I wore my skullcap (that’s

      not what I call it) and

      only ate kosher food. They asked me all about ultra-

Orthodoxy. I’m no authority. No

insider. Most of that community sees

      me as no

      different than secular

      Jews, perhaps “worse”.

      Complicated to explain

      without getting into theology.

Hard to explain even

to Jews. Moving

      on –

      I live

      with them in holy Jerusalem;

      a large group assembles on Saturdays

      near my former downtown apartment to block

traffic. My secular father found

this fascinating, as he did

      nearly everything; my wife

      found it degrading. Me too.

      Most who protest weekly

      wear those frock coats,

      indicating membership in a Hasidic sect. Those who

wear modern black

business jackets 

      are of the “Lithuanian” ultra-

      Orthodox persuasion, which, only several centuries ago,

      vehemently opposed

      Hasidic ways.

      Now they’re united in Israel’s parliament

against serving in the

defense forces, despite

      living under their protection.

      Difficult not to let

      bias show like my epidermis.

      I’ll try

      to stick to the facts, Sir, Ma’am. That’s what I am

here for. Not so sexy

writing about Jews; not

      something the world cares to know about.

      Write what

      you know.

      Some, mostly Hasidic,

      will never, ever see my words online because their rabbis

forbid Internet access. Oh.

Those tassels are actually fringes,

      tzitzit in Hebrew,

      which I wear, sometimes

      for months at a stretch, until I tire

      or struggle

      through a religious crisis. Those frock coats? 

Bekishes. Never worn one, nor

do I

      want to. It’s ironic (


      that they adopted the dress of non-

      Jews in the Czarist

      era and claim today that it’s authentic Jewish garb.


I wouldn’t wear that, even to cover

      my epidermis,

      but I’m not trying

      to. Ultra-Orthodox

      women don’t wear pants and cover their hair upon marriage.

      Some wear wigs; but some heed rabbis who rule:


Personally, oh-

      never mind. Just the facts, Ma’am, Sir.

      My skull cap is a kippah; that’s

      Hebrew. Means

      dome. Many call it

      yarmulke. That’s Yiddish. The majority who speak Yiddish

are Hasidic. The majority 

who speak modern Hebrew

      are Israeli.

      Jews’ exteriors once mattered more

      to me. I saw wisdom in beards;

      now I have one;

      it’s meaningless. I once asked a rabbi why he didn’t have one.

He’d never thought

about it; I felt foolish. Still

      do. If tzitzit are concealed

      by bekishes, you’ll

      note ear locks swinging as they

      walk to the Wall on Saturdays;

      perhaps not, but most Hasidic males have them. I

don’t. I do

have insight into their

      lifestyles, as I’ve studied

      them; we share

      a heritage and religious texts.

      The rub is that most

      of the world sees me and assumes I am one. I



In Hebrew, ‘ben’ (בן) means ‘son’ or ‘son of’.

David Bogomolny was born in Jerusalem to parents who made Aliyah from the USSR in the mid-70’s. He grew up in America and returned to Israel as an adult. He works as an advocate for religious freedom in Israel. He and his wife and daughter live in Jerusalem.

Visit The skeptic’s kaddish – of a son to read more of David’s wonderful writing.

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. Terveen Gill says:

    David’s poetry reveals the various facets of secular and orthodox Jewish religious identities. His words create a vivid imagery for the reader enabling one to observe and understand the fine line that divides liberal from conservative. I believe these differences are prevalent in every religion and an individual must decide their own stand. Objective thinking or blind faith?
    Congratulations David!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. KK says:

    Congratulations, David 🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barbara S says:

    beautiful – the voice of an insider observer and a unique one at that –

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cassa Bassa says:

    Thanks for the glimpse into your culture, religion and life. Always praying for Jerusalem’s peace and prosperity.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jim- says:

    Nice work boss. It was entertaining and taught me a little more about the the twists of Judaism.
    Those tassels are actually fringes”. I read this as a play on words, is it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Michele Lee says:

    Congratulations on your publication with Masticadoresindia, David! Your writing entertains, informs, and educates. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations David! I love your insight, honesty, simple truths and joy that question that infuses your poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. jonicaggiano says:

    Congratulations David on this publication. Thank you also for the education and your lovely sense of humor too. It is always interesting to read your work. You express your feelings in a lovely way but also show that sense of humor I love so much about your writing. I also enjoyed reading your Bio as well. Have a blessed week David. Love to you and your family. Joni

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congratulations, David! Welcome to India. 🤗
    Thank you for sharing the facts. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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