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Poetry

Reincarnated Lenny Bruce
Speaks of the Jewish Question

Lenore Weiss

“… Israel calls in public speeches and schoolbooks the Arab citizens of Israel a demographic nightmare and the enemy from within. As for the Palestinian refugees living under occupation, they are defined in Israeli History schoolbooks as a 'problem to be solved’. Not long ago the Jews were a problem to be solved.” – Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, Lecturer in Language Education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem anda member of Palestinian and Israeli Bereaved Families for Peace.


Before there was a Jewish Problem
there was a Jewish Question.
Maybe they were the same thing.

No one wanted the Jews to live in their country.
People hated them.
Why? Because they were different.

They wore yarmulkes,
striped shawls, and smelled of fish.
Fishy! Yech!

They spoke a different language,
and lived in filthy ghettos.

After years of being squashed
until their blood coated stones
along every road leading somewhere,

but not to the pub except
for the occasional schnopps on Shabbos,
no, they didn't traipse to the beer garden

where the National Socialists,
or Nazis as they later came to be called,
decided to solve the problem.

The Jewish Problem, was not as so many had said,
religious. It was racial, which gave the Nazis
a legal basis for everything. This was so brilliant.

Jews were now excluded from six branches of industry.
Properties were de-Jewdified.

Jews were prohibited from attending concerts, films, and theaters.
Jews were prohibited from attending German schools.
Jews were prohibited from bearing firearms.

You know what’s next.
We’ve all heard about the six million
who died in the ovens, and how the world

didn't want to know about anything
until it was too late, which is about when
the Jewish Question became the Jewish Problem.

Where do you stick the Jews
who survived the Holocaust?
You out there in the audience.
Where the fuck d'you put them?

There was a search party.
Everyone looked around.
Uganda was too far from where the Jews wanted to be.

The Jews became a People for a Land
for a Land without a People.
But that was a slogan, not the reality,

because it seems
there were many people
who lived in Palestine, the Palestinians,

primitive people, said the army men,
wild beasts with schmutzy teeth.

Fast forward to today when Israelis have a problem
with people who retain keys to houses
that are now occupied by families who light candles
and invite the Shekinah of peace into their homes on Shabbos,

while during the week Israeli soldiers order Palestinian women to strip in front
of their children for security reasons, and as jailers, torture and lock up young men without decent food or clean mattresses who run checkpoints that force old men to wait in line for hours without water.

Jewish life is filled with irony,
which some of you out there call a Jewish sense of humor,
but this is not funny.

And how can I, Lenny Bruce, who in my day
talked a lot of unfunny stuff,
not cry out as a Jew,
how can I not say that justice and mercy belong to us all?

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