Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Negroes, Jews and Stories

I am proud to have helped rescue 500 people during the New Orleans flood. Physically, the saving was done by three Rasta-looking guys with a boat who call themselves “The Soul Patrol.” But emotionally, psychologically, spiritually it was me… and of course, you.

The Soul Patrol are just a few of the fabulous Americans, most of them negroes, who performed heroic rescues of those left behind by their government.

These folks did not wait for help but provided it. They exemplify the best in us all and we get to claim their stories. The rabbis would say we should.

If there is one thing we Jews do better than just about any people on earth, it is remember our stories. From the binding of Isaac to the madness of the holocaust, everybody the western world knows the Jewish legends and we Jews ceaselessly retell them, because we are our stories. At Passover every Jew is required to feel and behave as if she had personally been freed from Egyptian slavery. Every summer we are bound by law to be sad and mournful because our great temple in Jerusalem was destroyed two thousand years ago.

That’s how I’m approaching the hero tales of the New Orleans flood, as my stories. Like the guy and his wife and kids who stole a truck full of water and delivered it to a group of survivors camped in hot sun in the middle of an abandoned highway. The family then loaded the empty truck with as many seniors and kids with their moms as would fit and blessed those who remained as they and their charges escaped the locked down, flooded city. I’m all over that, I was right there!

When I remember tales of Revolutionary minutemen who pursued guerilla war against a vastly more powerful occupier, I will also recall the gang bangers and thugs in the convention center who, moved at the sight of elders left hungry and sick, formed on-the-spot militias to protect the old and the vulnerable along with teams to “loot” nearby flooded stores for food and dry clothes.

And when I brag to my European pals of New York’s storied 9/11 firefighters I will also boast of New Orleans’ legendary “Soul Patrol,” grey-bearded colored guys who, through literal hell and high water, rose or rowed to the occasion, saved hundreds and inspired thousands.

Like a good Jew, I will tell and retell all the tales because as an American and a human, all those stories are mine and all those heroes are me… and of course, you.


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