I promised this thread on social media. It’s open for 8 days altogether – use the date on the post as a guide. How am I counting the days? It’s seven days for my timezone and eight days to allow people on the other side of the dateline to also get their seven days of questions.
This is open to anyone who has questions to ask and anyone who can answer. If you ask and the question is hurtful, I will try to answer it if I can but if it contains too much hatred I’ll probably delete it. If you answer someone else or reply to me and the answer calls for it, I may explain your answer back to you. I’ve taught for 30+ years and am very emotional this week, so think back to your high school days and to a passionate teacher who’s in a bad mood but trying really hard to be helpful. That’s me this week.
This question thread is not about the murders this weekend. This is your chance to ask Judaism 101 questions and Jewish history questions and talk about those things more comfortably so that people who are hurting don’t have to deal with them as well as their own pain. This is also not about the Shoah/Holocaust. This is not about mass murders of any kind of any period after 1600, in fact.
It’s for the questions to which you suddenly need to know the answer, because you’ve not thought about how Jewish boys get given names, or whether anyone in your community is likely to have suffered antisemitism without you knowing, or what 1290 looked like to English Jews, or what the stuff Assassin’s Creed (the film, not the game) ignored looked like for those who had to endure it, and what ‘kosher’ actually means, and how I can still be Orthodox and seldom go to synagogue, and whether I agree with Christian afterlife beliefs and … all the stuff you have stored and want answers to but that you can’t let flood social media because you need to respect peoples’ pain.
I am particularly good on the subjects of food and of history and of food history. I am not an expert in the religious side, but can answer most of the basics, because I was well brought up (which in my branch of Judaism means something quite specific), and because I do a lot of work with non-Jewish writers who want to write Jewish characters. I also wrote the Jewish chapter in The Middle Ages Unlocked. If this isn’t clear (for it’s written under emotion – my mother’s at a funeral right now for someone who died a natural death after a long life but spent her youth in Nazi Europe, while everyone she loved die around her) ask me questions about asking questions.
For anyone who has been sent in this direction and who has no idea who I am: I’m a novelist and an historian. I used to do work with the Jewish community, including the guides at the Jewish Museum in Melbourne and with the women of the National Council of Jewish Women. I work far more with the wider community than the Jewish community these days, and am the person who wrote the first ever (as far as we can find out) Australian Jewish fantasy novel.
Why am I opening a question time? Because every time virulent antisemitism has raised its head in my life, non-Jews have used this as a reason to ask me basic questions. At a time when I need support, they turn to me for help. I’m not American. If you are, then every simple question you ask me, here, won’t be asked of those who may need your support. If you aren’t, then you’re adding to your understanding of things Jewish which is not a bad thing.
For those who want my chicken soup recipe, for this is a time for chicken soup… ask away.