In her last posts, Alli­son Amend wrote about Jews in odd places and about Jews and farm­ing. She has been blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

I’m cur­rent­ly attend­ing my brother’s wed­ding. It’s a des­ti­na­tion wed­ding (in Hawaii, where the bride is from), and is there­fore small. Only the couple’s clos­est friends and fam­i­ly are invit­ed. Every­one attend­ing the wed­ding has flown in, and we are all stay­ing in beach-side bun­ga­lows. We are, in effect, form­ing our own community.

My moth­er men­tioned that one of the themes she found most inter­est­ing in Sta­tions West was the for­ma­tion of fam­i­ly. As immi­grants, the char­ac­ters in the nov­el are start­ing from scratch, with­out the ben­e­fit of (or the bur­den of, depend­ing on your fam­i­ly) rela­tions. What I found inter­est­ing about the char­ac­ters was that, in the absence of blood rela­tions, they cre­at­ed their own fam­i­ly, with ties every bit as strong.

As much as Judaism stress­es fam­i­ly, we have been forced so many times to cre­ate ad hoc fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. In nascent Okla­homa, the small com­mu­ni­ties of peo­ple who decid­ed to call them­selves Jews (there were oth­ers who lived lives unat­tached to the eth­nic­i­ty and reli­gion — Okla­homa his­to­ry, as else­where, is unsure where to cat­e­go­rize these peo­ple) often lacked a reli­gious leader. Sev­er­al com­mu­ni­ties would share a rab­bi; some went with­out. The rites and rit­u­als were observed as peo­ple remem­bered them, and were some­times a hodge-podge of var­i­ous loca­tion­al vari­a­tions. When a rab­bi did come to town, sev­er­al cer­e­monies were per­formed at the same time. A bar mitz­vah/wed­ding/Shavuot cel­e­bra­tion would not have been strange. And because these com­mu­ni­ties were so small, peo­ple of dis­parate lev­els of ded­i­ca­tion to the faith, dif­fer­ent coun­tries of ori­gin, and dif­fer­ent lev­els of edu­ca­tion were forced to wor­ship together.

Shy­locks of Okla­homa City Have State by the Throat.” The Guthrie Dai­ly Leader. 1 Nov. 1912: 1. The Jews of Okla­homa. Hen­ry J. Tobias. Nor­man: Uni­ver­si­ty of Okla­homa Press, 1980. 59. Print.

The com­mu­ni­ty formed in Okla­homa was large enough, in some places, such as Tul­sa and Okla­homa City, as to be sig­nif­i­cant seg­ment of the larg­er soci­ety. Espe­cial­ly between world wars, the Okla­homa Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty served as a rich vot­ing block. Politi­cians court­ed Jew­ish votes and busi­ness­es active­ly adver­tised in Jew­ish papers. This, more than any­thing else to me, proves a lev­el of assim­i­la­tion into the cul­ture of the South­west: the exis­tence of such a com­mu­ni­ty as evi­denced by its own source of news, with enough souls to com­mand polit­i­cal clout.

The Dai­ly Okla­homan. 27 Mar. 1921: 4. The Jews of Okla­homa. Hen­ry J. Tobias. Nor­man: Uni­ver­si­ty of Okla­homa Press, 1980. 59. Print.

My broth­er gets mar­ried on Sat­ur­day. The cer­e­mo­ny will be sec­u­lar, offi­ci­at­ed by one of their friends, and a new com­mu­ni­ty of immi­grants (although tem­po­rary) will be there to wit­ness and wish them well.

Alli­son Amend’s first nov­el, Sta­tions West, is now available. 

Alli­son Amend, a grad­u­ate of the Iowa Writ­ers’ Work­shop, is the author of the Inde­pen­dent Pub­lish­er Book Award-win­ning short sto­ry col­lec­tion Things That Pass for Love and the nov­els Sta­tions West (a final­ist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture and the Okla­homa Book Award) and A Near­ly Per­fect Copy. She lives in New York City.