In her last posts, Melis­sa Broder con­duct­ed a Jew­ish vs. Goy­ish lit­mus test” for the year in review, shared the B‑Sides of her forth­com­ing When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Moth­er (Feb. 6), and imag­ined being in Hebrew School with John Stew­art, Bob Dylan, and Rahm Emanuel. This essay was pub­lished in col­lab­o­ra­tion with MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

Dear Miri­am Schwebel,

Where are you?

It was sup­posed to be an exchange pro­gram, but you could nev­er come to my part of the world, the triple-treif land of cheesesteak-munchers.

I was Jew­ish only on high hol­i­days and by hair iron, and I found myself in Boro Park ask­ing your moth­er if schul meant school, call­ing your lit­tlest broth­er a girl, turn­ing on all the wrong lights.

It seemed like you had 20 sib­lings. On Fri­day after­noon the youngest ones tore toi­let paper and unwrapped every kosher Twinkie in the box. There was whole roast chick­en and kasha, though you were on a new all-cake diet. Thin was in every­where, even Boro Park. You were try­ing, but not very hard.

Over kosher piz­za you told me you had nev­er kissed a boy, not so much as even held hands. What did you do at a Bar Mitz­vah par­ty? There was no Elec­tric SlideHump­ty-HumpRoger Rab­bit, or Doin’ the Butt.

But here’s what there was: sepia shad­ows in dou­ble can­dle­light, sweet wine in sil­ver kid­dush cups, whis­pered gos­sip at the mik­vah, hard­cov­er books, radio sta­t­ic on Sun­days, braid­ed raisin chal­lah, plum-cheeked girls named Ariel­la and Liat.

I could have stayed there for­ev­er and grown hap­py-fat. I could have writ­ten pen pal let­ters to treify girls from Philadel­phia, and on the back scrawled: Don’t look under the stamp! Under the stamp, I could have writ­ten: Nosy­body!

I could have sat sep­a­rate every Sat­ur­day; surfed a cur­rent in the air with my eyes shut. I could have called that cur­rent god. I could have a bless­ing for every­thing. I could have served cholent.

Miri­am Schwebel, how many chil­dren do you have by now?

Yours tru­ly,