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  • LIFE IN CAIRO, ROSH HASHANAH 5775 NOAH CHASEK-MACFOY

    WORSHIP SPACE: 1012 Eighth Avenue * Brooklyn, NY 11215 ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE: Kolot Chayeinu * 540 President Street, 3rd Fl. * Brooklyn, NY 11215

    718-395-9950 | www.kolotchayeinu.org | info@kolotchayeinu.org

    Building a progressive Jewish community in Brooklyn

    I never really had problems being a Jew in Cairo, because, in Cairo, I was a non-religious Christian. Or at least that is what I told anybody who asked. As long as I have been in the Middle East (3 of the last 4.5 years), I have been very fluid with religion. I remember the day in Jerusalem that I was Christian, Jewish, and Muslim all in one day: The day started Jewish in the free Orthodox youth hostel where I was staying. Sitting at a Kebob shop in the Arab quarter chatting in Arabic later in the day, I was the familiar non-religious Christian. Finally, in order to get into the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, I had to not only tell the guards that I was Muslim but recite the first Sura of the Quran which I had memorized for just that purpose. My fluidity began out of necessity, though [it may have persisted out of convenience]. I had been rejected as a tenant my first week in Syria two years previously because I told the landlord I was Jewish. But a conversation I had about my easy fluidity with Kolots own Sue Oren took me aback. Far from being the sign of cosmopolitanism I took smug pride in, Sue made me confront the possibility that that easy fluidity reflected of the insubstantiality of my sense of self, of my convictions and beliefs. Others , surely, wouldnt so nonchalantly accept the casting aside of their religious identity? And while I am forced to reconsider what it means to me to be Jewish, it is just as important [to me] not to let the conviction of religious identity blind you/me to a compassionate understanding of others. I dont fear and hate Arabs or Muslims (or Arab Muslims for that matter); that is important to me. That state, whether acknowledged or unconscious, I have realized with dismay, is the state in which many fellow Jews and Americans live. I have seen the blindness of hatred on both sides. How it is inborn and unchallenged. I have had a friend say to my face, calmly, that Jews will be exterminated eventually, even if it takes 2000 years. I have heard a number of very hateful things about Arabs too. But for me, having understanding means understanding the world in which I am entering and how impossible it can be to see outside of ones own world. I dont hate the guy who talked about exterminating the Jews. I am a little disturbed and a little amused that he doesnt know I am Jewish. But if I approached him with anything other than a willingness to meet him where he is at and start the conversation from there, I would never get to know and understand him. I remember first coming to Cairo, starting to meet and get to know people, and thinking Oh, how I wish the US and Egypt werent on either side of the globe so we could get to know each other, only to end up later thanking God that we were on opposite sides of the world, so little did the average man or woman on either side seem to understand or sympathize with the other and so unreconcilable did their worlds seem to be. Israel is, for all intents and purposes, a western culture thrown upon the borders of Arab lands, and negotiating those borders has been tough. So while watching the Gaza war this summer, arguing about who should be morally outraged hasnt appealed to me much. I guess you dont need to speak Arabic, see it first hand, or speak Hebrew for that matter to be outraged by the death of a civilian or the intent to kill. It is a much more interesting goal for a spectator like myself to work on understanding the people at whom we are morally outraged - to work on remaining open-eared and open-hearted.

  • LIFE IN CAIRO, ROSH HASHANAH 5775 NOAH CHASEK-MACFOY

    WORSHIP SPACE: 1012 Eighth Avenue * Brooklyn, NY 11215 ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE: Kolot Chayeinu * 540 President Street, 3rd Fl. * Brooklyn, NY 11215

    718-395-9950 | www.kolotchayeinu.org | info@kolotchayeinu.org

    Building a progressive Jewish community in Brooklyn

    Noah on a farm.

    Noah at Cairo University.

    Noah on a boat on the Nile.