- The Meaning of the Word Semitic
Over six feet tall and black in a classroom of young Ashkenazim, when someone at the Chanukah workshop asked how you speak Hebrew, you replied "With my tongue."
The leader, a woman rabbi, told about the Maccabees who saved "The Land" for the Jews. Angry, I spoke up, telling how I recently heard Professor Hanan Ashrawi
proclaim the Palestinian State at Folk City. I recounted how in the bathroom at Folk City, a young woman thinking she recognized my lover
greeted her in Arabic, and regarding her in the mirror, waited for a response. Before I could finish speaking, you pushed yourself out of your chair and asked the class, [End Page 98]
"You think Semitic means they look like you, how come you never think you look like us?" As you adjusted your dress neatly under your legs,
you gave me a sharp look and your mouth tightened, as if I had betrayed you: I did not see reflected in your face the sacred lamp, the letters—shared, impossible light.
Sandra H. Tarlin is Assistant Professor of English at Bronx Community College, CUNY. She received her Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Houston in 2001. She is in the process of completing her first book of poems, The House on Fire. Most recently, the 2005/2006 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Awards for Poems on the Jewish Experience granted her second place. She was born in 1957 to first generation American parents of Eastern European Jewish origin who were making the transition from sacred ritual time to an intellectual life. "My grandparents blessed me with Torah and Tolstoy. My parents presented me with Euripides and Whitman, women's rights and desegregation. I gave myself the gift of Rich and Lourde, Klepfisz and Bulkin and embraced the link between writing, teaching, activism, Judaism, and feminism."