Ear­li­er this week, Michael Wex, author of The Frumkiss Fam­i­ly Busi­ness, wrote about writ­ing about inter­mar­riage and being the kvetch guyHe has been blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

I had the mis­for­tune last night to turn on the tele­vi­sion just as some self-appoint­ed spokesman for today’s hip, young Jew­ish cul­ture was say­ing that cer­tain Jew­ish approach­es to the out­side world might have been all right, oh, for peo­ple of Morde­cai Rich­lers gen­er­a­tion, but this idea of the Jew as some­how out­side of main­stream North Amer­i­can soci­ety was –– winced the shmen­drick –– dat­ed, as rel­e­vant to today’s Jew­ish expe­ri­ence as coun­try music.

Well, I don’t know. I grew up in an Ortho­dox fam­i­ly in a small town in south­ern Alber­ta, not far from the Mon­tana bor­der, and spoke noth­ing but Yid­dish at home. My home­town was the kind of place where coun­try singers like Hank Snow and Wilf Carter were more pop­u­lar than Jesus — for the sim­ple rea­son that my father, who ran a fur­ni­ture store that also sold records, refused to stock any gospel L.P.s.

He liked coun­try and west­ern, though; he used to play it on the radio in the store to make the farm­ers feel com­fort­able, and before long he was lis­ten­ing to it at home. His record col­lec­tion con­sist­ed of noth­ing but can­tors and cow­boys, and I think he some­times lost sight of the dif­fer­ence: Dave Dud­ley Dav­ens Six Days On The Road and On Shab­bos He Dav­ens At Home.”

I still recall Sat­ur­day nights, right after hav­dalah, when the holy Sab­bath had just depart­ed, Dad would light his first cig­a­rette of the week and put on some Mar­vin Rain­wa­ter or Lefty Frizzell, while Mom bar­ri­cad­ed her­self in the bath­room and turned the taps on full-blast.

Tateh,” I asked him once, bist dekh a frimer yid, you’re a reli­gious Jew, for God’s sake. How can you lis­ten to this stuff?”

He picked up a copy of Hank Snow’s Great­est Hits. Look at these songs,” he said. “ I’m Movin’ On,’ I’ve Been Every­where’ – – they’re all about golus, about exile, about not hav­ing a home and not know­ing if you’re ever going to get one. And what’s most of the rest of it? Hurtin’ songs.”

You have to imag­ine this the way it real­ly took place, with my father still in his Shab­bos best, a leisure suit from eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry Poland, and hurtin’ songs” the only words not in Yid­dish. And what’s a hurtin’ song but a kvetch, a kineh – – a lament for some­thing that you’ve lost. And who under­stands loss bet­ter than a Jew?”

Let the shmen­driks with their vol­un­tary tat­toos go chase the up-to-date and snuf­fle for par­a­digms of change. I’m gonna sit home with a bot­tle of whiskey in my hand and a Gemara on my knee, while Tam­my Wynette tells me all about her gimel-tes, cause I’m just like every­one else.

Michael Wex is the author of The Frumkiss Fam­i­ly Busi­ness