On one trip to visit my parents at their Jersey Shore summer cottage, my gentile wife asked my mother if she was worried about “where your soul will go after you die if you don’t accept Jesus as your lord.” Mom was sputteringly angry when she told me about this, and I was likewise incensed. Why I didn’t run for the hills at that point, I don’t know.
I thought my parents would be pleased when I broke the news that I was engaged to Amy Hunter. Mom and Dad had just arrived on campus for my graduation and I was anxious to introduce them to my intended. I thought she was perfect: blonde hair, blue eyes, cute little pug nose. She was even a member of one of the snootier sororities; one which I’m certain did not accept Jews. Wouldn’t Mom be thrilled? No mouthy Jewish girls for her boy.
“Hunter?” my mother said. “That doesn’t sound like a Jewish name.”
“It’s not,” my Dad said.
“I never said it was,” I said.
“You’re marrying this girl?”
“Yes. I thought you’d be pleased.”
“Pleased?” Mom always turned everything into a question. “Why would we be pleased?”
“Because she’s pretty and nice. And not even Jewish.”
“This is what you think we want?” Mom’s mouth hung open. “That you should marry a blondie shiksa?”
“Yeah, I guess I did.”
“Do you hear what the boy is telling us, Meyer?” She turned her sour face to my father.
“I hear,” he said, but didn’t look at me.
“Well, I don’t give a shit what you think,” I yelled. Once again I had severely misjudged my parents’ wants and needs, and also apparently completely misunderstood the implied messages of my upbringing.
I’ve always felt confused about being a Jew. Not that I didn’t know I was one. That part was always pretty clear, even as a kid, though I don’t remember anyone specifically saying to me, “You are a Jew, Robert.” My parents never said, “You’re a Jew and here’s what that means.” I wonder what they would have told me.
My mom used to say to me, “You’re so handsome; you don’t look Jewish at all.”
“Whaddaya mean?” I asked.
“Nothing, you’re just a good looking boy, with those blue eyes and dirty blonde hair.”
“Jews don’t have dirty blonde hair?”
“Or blue eyes either.”
“So where did mine come from?”
“You ask too many questions,” Mom said. “It’s a problem with you.”
Of course, I pieced some idea of Jewishness together, like kids do. Mom not only thought I was handsome (Good), but also thought Jews were ugly, and maybe even a bit, I don’t know, coarse (Bad). Like my friends, Joey Cohn and Gary Earlbaum. Gary had a big honker of a nose that curved down almost to his upper lip. They both had dark curly hair and olive colored skin. I didn’t know they were ugly until I’d had that conversation with my mother. And then I figured out that all the Jewish kids in my school were not very good to look at and would be that way all their lives, except maybe some of the girls who would get nose jobs to straighten out their big Jew noses. At the same time, I began to notice that the gentile kids were mostly pretty good looking, especially the girls, with their long, straight blonde hair and nice way of talking, not all nasally and loud like the Jewish girls. Mom said, “You can always tell who’s a Jew. Even with your eyes closed.” Then there were the Italian kids, who looked sort of Jewish, but were Christian. So that was puzzling. My other good buddy was Charley Kapeghian, who looked like Joey and Gary, but Charley was Armenian. Mom said that was not so good either. Then she said, “Don’t go around talking about people’s nationalities. It’s not a good idea.”
“These are things you keep to yourself. Especially now.”
“Why? What’s going on now?”
“You’ll know when you’re older,” she said, which is something she said a lot.
I couldn’t tell what my father thought about being Jewish. It’s not something he ever spoke about. He didn’t speak about much of anything – especially to me. And he wasn’t an “observant Jew.” He didn’t go to synagogue, unless there was some special occasion – a bar mitzvah or a wedding. Or sometimes we went to services on Yom Kippur, and Dad would bring along his tallit bag, a small purple velvet pouch, with Hebrew letters stitched on the outside When we got to the shul, he would put on the tallit while mumbling Hebrew words and kissing each corner of the long silk shawl. So, I figured he knew something about all this Jewish stuff that he wasn’t telling me. I asked him, “When do I get a tallit?”
“When you’re bar mitzvahed,” he muttered.
Maybe they would all let me in on the secret at that point, I figured.
My bar mitzvah only further muddied the Jewish waters for me. Before I could go through with the ritual, I had to go to Hebrew School to learn about our history and language and about the Torah. I had been looking forward to it, but the reality turned out to be quite gloomy. We met in the musty smelling upstairs classrooms of Congregation Beth El. I had to take a long bus ride there after getting out of my regular public school classes. It made for a tiring day. This went on for a full year before my 13th birthday, when I was to magically become a man. But, I didn’t much care about the Old Testament bible stories, which seemed like mean spirited fairy tales. And I didn’t have a clue about who this Adonai guy was supposed to be, unless He was some super-charged version of my own father: all-powerful, vengeful, always ready and willing to reign down His wrath on anybody who crossed Him. None of the Hebrew school teachers mentioned the Holocaust or Eastern Europe, and only in passing, did they nod to the new state of Israel. We were asked to collect dimes in little folders, the money to be used to plant olive trees in Israel.
Still, I was basically a good boy, so I kept going to Hebrew school classes and as the time got closer to the assigned date of my bar mitzvah, I began the tedious preparation for the actual ceremony. This included memorizing a long portion of the Torah in Hebrew, which I would chant on the day of my bar mitzvah, and then be feted at a big party that my mother was already furiously planning. Things were starting to feel loopy, and I was not one whit closer to understanding what it really meant to be Jewish. I even went so far as to ask the Rabbi, when I went to meet with him so he could check my progress on learning my haftorah.
“Rabbi Morris,” I said, “I don’t get what all of this means?”
“All of what?” Rabbi Morris had an untrimmed black beard and if you looked closely, you could see food crumbs stuck in there. His office smelled like old books and rubbing alcohol.
“This Jewish stuff. When I get Bar Mitzvahed, does that mean I’m a full-fledged Jew.”
“I guess you could call it that. It was different in the old days.” He stared up at the ceiling. I followed his gaze, but didn’t see anything up there. “Times change,” he muttered. “What are you gonna do?” He held his palms up, like he was asking for something. I didn’t know what. “Okay already, let’s hear your portion.”
So I would stumble through my haftorah, and Rabbi Morris would sit back and listen, and eventually I had it all memorized, and the big day arrived, and never had I felt more alienated from being a Jew than I did then. I was just bright enough to see through all the hypocrisy and pretense, though not yet smart enough to pick out what could have been truly meaningful. I sensed that the rituals I was participating in, taking the Torah out of the Ark, standing with the elders of the synagogue, wearing the tallit, did have meaning. But all I could focus on was that I had better do a good job, so my mother wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of all the family and friends she had invited. And then I’d better be a pleasant host, Mom warned, at the lavish party to be held in a local ballroom that evening, where all sorts of people I barely knew would congratulate me on becoming a man, and pass me envelopes with money in them. “Give those to your father,” Mom said.
That night Dad looked even less happy than I was, but Mom was prancing around like Queen Esther herself, wearing her new dress that had a collar made of “real mink.” Looked to me like a dead squirrel. But as Mom told me more than once during the lead up to that party, I was “an ungrateful and self-centered boy.” She was probably right. But I still didn’t like her dress or her party, and the following week I told Rabbi Morris that I wouldn’t be continuing in Hebrew school. He didn’t seem surprised. My parents didn’t care either.
That was pretty much the end of any formal connection I had to Jewishness for the next three decades. Why would I want to be connected with synagogues or Jewish institutions? Being a Jew was not a good thing. Mom (and Dad by his silence) had made that abundantly clear. And, like Mom had intimated, maybe I could even pass. I didn’t look Jewish. There was the problem with my name. Mom told me that some Freedmans changed their names to Freeman, leaving out the “d”, which automatically changed it to a Christian surname. Sometimes I would choose to introduce myself as Robert Freeman. Maybe when I met a new girl who I was interested in, or when I met her family, or when I was hanging out with other guys playing basketball. I did it often at college when I was particularly sensitive about my Jewishness.
There was a Jewish fraternity at the small liberal arts college that I attended. Perhaps I would have found common cause with those guys. But, instead of rushing their house, I stayed as far away from them as possible. In truth, I felt repulsed. A bunch of ugly, obnoxious, rich Jews, I made up; most of them from New York City or Long Island. I knew all the rest of the fraternities made fun of the Jewish guys. They especially loved to beat up on them in the intramural sports leagues. Jews, of course, were lousy at sports. I believed it too, despite the fact that I had played with lots of super-athletic Jewish ball players back in Philly. I’d lost all sense of Jewish identity at this point. Other than that I was a self-hating Jew. But one without even that self-knowledge. The next step? You guessed it. I married a shiksa.
Of course, they didn’t want me to marry a gentile girl. Over the years to come they made it more and more clear that they didn’t think Amy was either bright enough or accomplished enough to marry into the family. And even if my wife had been a brilliant scientist or a concert pianist (she was neither) she still would have been rejected for one very simple reason: her non-Jewish blood would water down and diminish the future generations of our family, my future children. With a gentile mother, my children would not be considered Jewish, even if Amy were to convert. I thought it was all ridiculous, if I even thought about it at all. I don’t think my mother could have articulated her position; it was something deeper than logic with her, something that allowed her to hold her own self-hating, anti-Semitic views, while at the same time embodying the tribal needs of an entire race of people. Apparently, there were many young men like myself, who only wanted to marry shiksas. We had been taught well, but little did our parents realize what the results would be, a diminishment of the whole culture, both in numbers and belief, leading to complete assimilation and loss of identity.
But my parents were misguided in their assumptions. They were wrong not to explain exactly what it did mean to be Jewish. And when we were old enough, certainly we should have heard the painful story of our European relatives and other Jews who had perished in the Holocaust and why that happened, and what became of the survivors, and how about Israel? Tell me something, anything, please. So my first experience of learning about the concentration camps doesn’t come in a high school social studies classroom watching a grainy 16mm film showing piles of human bodies bulldozed into ditches, Jewish bodies, skeletal, frightening, beyond belief. What does a young person do in the absence of coherency, the absence of information about who one is? Some of my classmates giggled during the showing.
Now I realize that my parents’ experience was shaped by the depression in the 30’s and by World War II, and especially by what happened to the Jews in Europe during that war. My dad had served in the Army Air Corps overseas, yet he never once mentioned anything about all that horrible stuff that happened to the Jews over there. If he told any war stories at all they were about the sights he’d seen in Egypt and India. He made it all sound like a sightseeing trip. Once I heard my Uncle Jack, who’d also been over there, ask my dad about “the camps.” “What was it like, Meyer, when you got there?” but Dad just shook his head to show that wasn’t something he would talk about. I didn’t even know about the Holocaust until I was in high school. Even Bubby and Zayda never said anything about what happened “over there.” Maybe it was all just too painful. Or they thought, this isn’t something kids should hear. I was horrified when I finally did learn about the attempted extermination of the Jews, but by then it felt distant; I didn’t understand that it was my tribe, parts of my family who had suffered and died there. Maybe my family’s tactic of not speaking of the Holocaust spared me some pain, but it also further separated me from my roots, my heritage. Maybe that was the unstated intent. Build a barrier between us American Jews, who seemed to be prospering and doing well and those other Jews, the six million and the survivors.
Dad’s parents were religious in an old-fashioned way. They even went to a synagogue that was way more strict than our Conservative place. I went there with them a couple of times, but it wasn’t much fun for a kid. The services droned on for hours and Bubby had to sit upstairs, in a little balcony, separated from the men who sat in front of the Ark, and who said all the prayers and kept jumping up and down and bowing and chanting. I didn’t get what any of it meant. Bubby and Zayda were no help. Bubby barely spoke English, but she was a good cook and I liked going over to their dark little apartment where all Bubby wanted to do was fill me full of stuffed cabbage and cluck over me. I wondered why they acted like they were still living in some other country, or like they were hiding? In their apartment there were always heavy drapes pulled across the windows. I wish I had been smart enough to ask questions then. I guess I didn’t know that kids could do that. I think Bubby and Zayda would have answered my questions or tried to. My first question would have been: “What makes someone a Jew?” My second question would have been, “Is it something you get to decide about yourself?” And then I might have asked, “So, why don’t people like us?”
Meanwhile at home, Dad was busy being a doctor with a family practice and Mom was the doctor’s wife, a role she was clearly proud of. Though I didn’t know the word then, they were assimilating, and that seemed to require both a rejection of the past (history of the Jews) and a rejection of the perceived stereotype. Mom said that we (children) shouldn’t act like Jew Bunnies. I thought that was pretty funny, imagining little rabbits bouncing around with yarmulkes on their bunny heads. We always had to be careful to speak well (which meant speaking like the people on TV), be dressed nicely, not be “pushy”, and never seem like we were tight with our money.
So I refused to think about what I saw in that newsreel film and I didn’t ask my parents about it or my grandparents or anyone else. I was left carrying two warring versions of what it meant to be a Jew. On the one side, I was led to believe that Jews were smart, smarter than gentiles. And we Jews were very successful. From early on, I was told that I was going to be a doctor like my father. And all my (male) cousins were also expected to be doctors or lawyers, or, failing that, C.P.A’s. Jews didn’t drive trucks or work with tools; leave that to the goyim. The other side of the equation, though, had us as inferior in all-important ways to the Christian world – status, attractiveness, likeability, access to power and position. I buried it all in my subconscious, deep down, all of which added up to a raging sense of inadequacy, shame, and anger, and drove me away from Judaism for the next 30 years. My time in the desert.
Part of the impetus for my rediscovery was my divorce. I had stayed married to that same non-Jewish woman for 20 years, and despite our many differences, did manage to lovingly raise two wonderful daughters. Neither of the girls received much in the way of religious training. My wife and I initially agreed to avoid any religious or spiritual training or indoctrination. Amy, as the years went by, however, moved back into a close relationship with a form of fundamentalist Christianity (the Foursquare Church). I found this hard to countenance, especially when she proselytized to my mother. Instead, I consciously decided not to think about my situation. We were staying together for the kids, I told myself. I had given up any sense of optimism and adventure. I had settled into being old and hopeless way before my time. It wasn’t good for me, or for Amy, and certainly not for the girls.
After that summer trip, and one of our most fearsome arguments, Amy agreed not to proselytize, and not to take the girls to the Foursquare crazy church with her. And I settled back into making a living and focusing on my daughters. We would light candles on Hanukah and have a tree with all the decorations on Christmas. Not very deep down, I felt besmirched by that tree. It brought back memories of being asked to sing Christmas carols in elementary school, and the intense feeling of shame that these carols engendered. Mom told me, when I confessed how upset I was, that I should sing the songs anyway, but silently mouth the word “Jesus” every time we came to it. How had I now bought into experiencing this same moral confusion on a daily basis? Walking around, silently mouthing the words to my life.
After the divorce, I knew I had work to do on myself, though a return to Judaism was still far from my thoughts. And, after a few months, when I tentatively waded back into the dating pool, it was not Jewish women that I was looking for or attracted to. Jewish women were scary. My core anti-Semitic feelings were still in play. I became involved with another gentile woman, a naturopathic physician named Cathy. She was different from my ex, I told myself. She was much smarter, not particularly religious, and we mostly held the same humanistic, counter-culture values. We would make a good match, and I guess, I still believed that a man needed a woman to be complete. Or maybe I wanted to be with a woman who was stronger than I was. Like my mother. Cathy fit that bill to a tee, and, after I gave up my home and job in Portland (both of which I loved) to follow her to Seattle where I had neither home nor work, she became increasingly critical of both our relationship and me, neither of which seemed to live up to her imagined and untenable ideal of psychological perfection and honesty. Painful and costly as it was, I wouldn’t allow myself to get trapped into another long and soul-deadening relationship, and I abruptly cancelled our engagement and moved out, stranding myself in Seattle, living in a basement apartment with only a hot plate to cook on.
But, after a long period of unrelieved depression, I began to feel somewhat lighter, and started to recognize that there had to be something else to live for, something greater than my own neurotic needs. That something greater could not be embodied in a relationship with another person, at least not until I could bring to that relationship myself – with a sense of my own identity, my weaknesses and strengths, and my history. After an aborted, though interesting, foray into Buddhism, it occurred to me that maybe I needed to get back to my own religious roots. Or, at least, give it a proper shot. I began checking out the local synagogues.
I signed up for classes in Judaism at a Conservative Temple in Mercer Island, a very upscale suburb of Seattle. The classes were in basic Judaism – pretty simplistic. As I looked around the classroom that first evening, what I quickly realized was that I was the only single man there. The other students were either couples or solitary women. All were there, I learned, because they were interested in or studying for conversion. When it came my time to introduce myself and explain why I was there, I said, “I was born Jewish but I don’t truly know what it means to be a Jew.”
The Rabbi who would be our teacher asked, “Could you be more specific? What is it you want to learn?” He seemed perplexed.
“I don’t really know that,” I said. I saw that everyone was staring at me now, puzzled like the Rabbi. “I guess I just want to feel what you feel. I want to be part of something bigger than myself. I want to know who I am.”
The Rabbi chuckled. “Maybe you should be going to a psychologist.” Most of the rest of the group laughed along with him.
“I’m doing that too,” I said, and sat down. I didn’t get too far with that initial foray into Jewish life. I did go to a Friday night service at the Mercer Island Synagogue, and was not surprised to find many of the unpleasant reinforcing negative stereotypes. The women dressed to the gills and flashing heavy jewelry. The men, comfortable burghers, reeking of money and cigars, a clear hierarchy in place. I sat way in the rear. The service didn’t speak to my needs. And the Rabbi never even said hello, though I knew he recognized me. I felt out of place, and ready once again to run screaming from the Jews.
Two years later I returned to Portland and a teaching job in a Catholic high school. Teaching in the Catholic school began to subtly push me more toward identifying as a Jew. I had no choice. I could have lied about my religious affiliation, like I had those times when I was younger, but that no longer felt like an option, and when asked about my religion, I didn’t hesitate to claim my Jewishness. In fact, on occasion, I was asked to address a religion class about Judaism and had to do some much needed studying to make a coherent presentation. It felt good, both the studying and the claiming of that part of who I was. I felt, strangely, in that Catholic environment the first stirrings of real pride in being a Jew. Maybe it took a religious environment, even if not a Jewish one, to lead me towards an appreciation of my own religion. To say, out loud, this is who I am.
The final hurdle was crossed in the same way that the last one had been breached. I met and fell in love with a Jewish woman. In the years since returning to Portland, I had finally accepted and learned to appreciate living by myself. I was finally happy with my solitude. I had a nice house and friends, and went on the occasional date, even had some romances, but for the most part had accommodated myself to the idea of living the rest of my life alone.
Then along came Mimi. We met in a performance art class. I was at that time becoming more involved with presenting my writing in this new format. Mimi was small and dark eyed, with a mop of curly black hair. I was drawn to her almost immediately. I noticed too that she wore a gold chain with a Star of David around her pretty neck, and despite my lifelong shyness around women, approached her after class and asked if she was Jewish.
“How’d you know?” Mimi asked, seemingly surprised.
“The necklace kind of gave it away.”
She laughed. Her hand reached up to touch her throat. “You too?”
“Yep,” I answered, never more glad that I was born a Jew. At that very moment something long dormant was let free in me.
Soon we were taking long walks together after class. Never in my life had I met anyone like her, someone who I could speak to so openly and so easily. Mimi had a great sense of humor; we laughed a lot together, and even when I told her about some of my deepest fears or anxieties, she seemed to completely get it. I felt no shame or hesitancy around her. I didn’t have to hide anymore. We discovered that we had much in common – both from the East Coast, Mimi from New York, me from Philadelphia, and both from non-observant, but culturally Jewish families. We’d experienced much of the same anxieties and shame around our Jewishness growing up. Mimi, though, had come much further in her connection to our religion and culture. And she had recently gone through a two year program to study Judaism at the Melton School in Portland and convinced me to sign up for classes. I didn’t need much convincing. Not only did I want to study and learn all I could now about Judaism, I very much wanted to please Mimi. This romantic connection with a Jewish woman, where we were actively processing our relationship around that core was breathtaking. At some point we told each other we had found our soulmates. There was only one problem: Mimi was married. And had an eight-year-old daughter.
Despite the intense physical attraction we had for each other, we had to hold back. It was difficult. Mimi had reached a stage in her marriage where she felt unseen by her husband who didn’t share any of her interests. She told me she was considering divorce. Still, she needed to think about her daughter. I told her that I understood.
Mimi and I decided to do a show together, a compilation of interwoven scenes from both our earlier lives, many of them having to do with our shared culture and immigrant Jewish families. Maybe it was the intensity of preparing such a work for public display that heightened our attraction to one another, maybe we both simply realized that this might be a once in a lifetime connection – bashert, fate had brought us together, and how could we continue to ignore our deep feelings of love? We were barely able to keep our hands off each other, and were not always successful, though we did not allow it to go further than kissing. I wanted her to go ahead with a divorce; she said she was seriously considering it, and I believe she did. But after a very successful run of our show, when I was feeling both artistically and romantically elevated to a place I had never been before, Mimi informed me that we had to stop seeing each other. She said that she owed it to her daughter, and to her husband (who she had now told about our “almost” affair) to try again to make the marriage work. I accepted her decision, though I felt completely devastated. I had let myself imagine an ongoing life with Mimi, and now wondered how that ever could be replaced. One didn’t get a chance at two soulmates in a life, did they?
Over a period of many months, I was finally able to let go of any hope that Mimi and I could get back together. We would run into each other from time to time, especially since we lived in the same general area, traveled in similar social circles, and both continued to work on our performance art careers and attended each other’s shows. Each time I saw her, though, was tortuous. Eventually I was able to accept the realization that there could be no relationship. I didn’t, however, feel angry with Mimi or blame her. We had what we had and I thanked her in my heart for all the ways that I had grown because of our relationship. Due to our time together I found a more fully realized, cemented, connection to my Jewishness. I will always be grateful to Mimi for helping me embrace that. Besides the classes we took, we shared many books about Judaism, many of which spoke to a modern spirituality, like the books of rabbis Michael Lerner and Abraham Joshua Heschel. I also met many other Jewish seekers like myself; both Jews by birth and Jews by choice, and even those still perplexed. Judaism, I realized, could pitch a big tent.
All of which is not to say that I still did not have my doubts, my skepticism, not only about Judaism, but about any religion at all. Frankly, I still found it difficult to accept the idea of a supreme, all-knowing, all-controlling God. Though studying the ways in which Jewish scholars are able to explore and interpret biblical law and Torah stories, gave me new appreciation for religious scholarship and for the ways in which that could be applied in the real world, I still wondered why I had such a hard time sitting through Shabbat services, and why I didn’t feel as moved by the prayers and rituals as others apparently and visibly did. Maybe I would never be able to call myself a religious Jew. Maybe my connection was simply one of culture and politics and a sense of personal identity. Which is a lot. Maybe even enough.
I keep looking. Keep going to services, talking to our Rabbi, who has become a good friend. When I look around the shul during Shabbat services or during social or political gatherings, I feel a swelling of pride and belonging, a sense of being among my people that I never had growing up or during my many years of estrangement. It doesn’t mean I like every person in the room – far from it. We Jews are a prickly tribe, prone to edginess and argumentation. But I do love (as opposed to like) all the people in that room and am overjoyed to be among them, to be carrying on some ancient task. Maybe that’s what my parents thought that I would understand without them having to explain it. You’re a Jew because you’re a Jew. And that’s all there is to it.
I’ve been called up to the Torah for an Aliyah on Yom Kippur, I’ve given a drash during the High Holy days about Jonah. I teach a class in memoir writing from a Jewish perspective at the Reconstructionist synagogue I attend. And my wife and I went on a trip to Israel with some of our congregation.
Yes, I said my wife. I did eventually find that other special soulful, dark-haired Jewish woman. Beverly and I met late in life, in our fifties. Bev had never been married before, having devoted much of her adult life to a career in progressive politics. She had even run for the governorship of the state shortly before we met. I was, of course, impressed by her accomplishments, but even more impressed by her optimism and generosity of spirit. Like me, she had at times sought answers about her spiritual life. She even belonged to a synagogue and was not shy about claiming her heritage. At this point in my life, I knew that if I were to have a long-term relationship with a woman, she would have to be Jewish. Bev was the one who was truly my bashert. The woman I will spend the rest of my life with. We had a Jewish wedding under the chuppah, sealed with a proper Ketubah we wrote ourselves. We committed to not only a life together, but also a Jewish one. I wish my mother had been there to see it. She finally would have been pleased.
A long time writer and teacher, Rob lives in Portland, OR and Cape Meares with his wife, Beverly. Rob published, the autobiographical novel, “Fancypants” in 2008. His short prose works have appeared in numerous publications, including: “Drash,” “Tikkun,” “Philadelphia Stories,” “Still Crazy,” “Under The Gum Tree,” and “Portland Magazine” and one of his short stories was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Since his retirement from high school and college teaching he has facilitated writing workshops for Write Around Portland (some at Inverness Jail) and at Havurah Shalom and now teaches memoir classes at the Multnomah Arts Center.