an excerpt from the novel Matzoh and Meatballs
by Adam Rabasca
In a town of Gentiles, a town of BMWs and Benzes, a town of quaint Main Street shops, colonial homes, and a Frostian pastoral paradise, I was and always had been a sorry excuse for a Jew. I was what I was but would have been somewhat more content with a name more akin to my whiter schoolmates. Friends came over, built wooded forts camouflaged by rocks, thorny bushes, and piles of twigs and sticks, and during highly intense make-believe missions to rescue our scantily-clad girlfriends charged with the sensuality of enormous breasts, wild blond hair, and long silky legs, I assumed the waspiest name I could conjure up: Scott, Neil, Rob, Jack. As long as it didn’t sound like Adam, I was content. Hell, Adam was the first real Jew! Every Adam I knew of was a Jew. Adam Arkin, Adam Duritz, Adam Sandler, Beastie Boys Adam Yauch and Horowitz. Why Adam? Really. How is it possible for an incognito Jew to remain anonymous if his name is Adam? Aaaaaa-dumb! A-DAMN! Adam broadcasts to the entire world that I’m a Jew! And then, to follow it up with Seth! I was doomed from the start. Upon my birth, choosing to use the first initial of my mother’s dying father not only served to enshroud my middle name in the morbid mist of sadness but fused my future to Jewish Pride. Grandpa Stanley hadn’t even yet passed; I was born into death and my ultra-Jewish name immortalized the gloom of that year. I know we’re honoring him and all but couldn’t we have gone with Stephen? What, are we competing for the Super Yid of the Year for 1977?
Why not Scott? That’s a nice goy name. Scott. Short and sweet. Got a good ring to it: Scott Caposella. Why don’t we throw in “Theodore” for good measure. Scott Theodore Caposella. Perfect, no more Jew. The Italian’s acceptable but we finally got rid of that nudnik Jew-name, Aaaaadam.
Regardless, although I wanted no part of being Jewish, I wanted part of something. In fact, my attempt at secession from Abraham’s line would eventually be bolstered by the fact that my new Jesus-freak girlfriend, Jill Dietrich, having indoctrinated me into the Son’s holy love through the carrot of sex, sex, sex, convinced me to sign up for the Emmaus retreat weekend.
All throughout high school, simultaneously envious and contemptuous, I espied the Emmaus candidates off their weekend hideaway as they returned to school with their wooden crosses dangling from friendship necklaces and adorned with gold-plated dove and crucifix and fish and footprint pins. Eager for acceptance into an institution that would further widen the ocean between my ancestry and me, I joined, my fragile mental opposition weakened further by daily access in between Jill’s smooth x-rated legs. That weekend at the retreat, I complied: I cried; I loved Jesus; I confessed. I was brainwashed.
It was there, on the road to Emmaus that yet again the Judas in me handed the Jew over to the Romans. The weekend’s lead pastor was a Baptist minister, tall, stern, stoic, a graying beard; he looked like an Amish Abe Lincoln. On the night of confessions, a younger, hipper, more-with-it minister resembling Johnny Depp fresh off of Jump Street, the Pied Piper of the local Christian Life youth group, also showed up. Both would hear confessions. Johnny vs. Abe Lincoln. I chose Abe.
“Abe,” I said, “I’ve never done this before.”
“That’s okay,” said Abe, “Just say whatever it is your thinking about.”
“Well, I think I’m a sinner,” I began.
“We all are,” Abe replied.
Mr. Lincoln, you don’t know the half of it, I thought.
“I do a lot of bad things, think a lot of bad thoughts. I’m not proud of the things I think or do,” I continued.
“It’s okay, young man. You’re in Jesus’ arms.” In the recesses of my chest, I felt a sharp pinch as Grandpa Stanley rolled over in his grave, the shame of my middle initial stabbing at my heart.
“I don’t treat my parents well. I should be better,” I began to weep as if on cue.
“Do you love Jesus, young man?” asked Abe.
“I love Jesus, Mr. Lincoln,” I declared, Grandpa Stanley dying a second time, this one more painful than the first.
“Then you’re forgiven; you’re saved,” Abe affirmed.
No way! I thought, my hands gripped firmly in Abe’s massive paws. That’s all I had to do? Get the fuck outta here!
Throwing the Jew under the bus, I confessed my stain. I rejoiced. Jill rejoiced. Abe rejoiced. Jill and I rejoiced together in an erotically unholy manner. Grandpa Stanley soaked the bedding of his coffin with tears. Avi, upon her next visit, rebuked the offensive nature of the two crosses – twice the Christianity – I displayed proudly from my neck and wrist. My parents, Ellen and Michael, asked each other, “What the hell’s the matter with him?”
In that Gentile confessional, my outpouring of sin was committed. I was saved! The demonic Jew, finally, after torturing my psyche for eighteen years, was exorcised from my body. “Out, Jew, out!” I prayed, still comforted in Abe’s arms. “The power of Christ compels you!”
And, so it was. I was freed from the depraved condition consecrated by God’s covenant with Abraham. The past could not be undone but the future unencumbered by self-loathing, neurotic shame, and collective ostracism of my former state held hope within its Christianized hands. Lincoln and the other Christly do-gooders embraced the repentant, extricating me by the scruff of my neck from the wilderness. Now, I, too, could praise Christ’s holy name. “Look at the sinner I once was,” I would proclaim to other Jewish transgressors, “a Jew, like you. You can change this, like I did. We were unsuspecting babes brought into this world under Judeo-bondage. Never again!”
Indeed, I was assimilating. I was undoing six thousand years of sin. Good-bye, Adam. Hello, Scott. Scott Judas Caposella. That does have a nice ring.