Ear­li­er this week, Slash Cole­man wrote about the first Jew­ish super­hero in his fam­i­ly. His mem­oir, The Bohemi­an Love Diaries, is now avail­able. He will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

A few weeks ago I was asked to give a keynote address at a mid­dle school. My ever-proud Jew­ish moth­er insists on attend­ing. As I’m wait­ing to be called to the stage, the prin­ci­pal and I start talk­ing. He finds out my mom is in the audi­ence. She’s been a teacher in his dis­trict for over forty years. He asks if he can go on a tan­gent before he intro­duces me. His eyes light up when he says the word tan­gent.

Dur­ing his intro­duc­tion he asks my mom to stand up and then he announces that she’s a Holo­caust sur­vivor. Peo­ple applaud. This is the worst thing ever. It’s like pin­ning a bull’s‑eye to my mom’s fore­head. (If you don’t know, she’s the one in my book who reminds us each Hanukkah just as she wraps our meno­rah in an old rag and hides it in a mop buck­et under­neath the sink, Don’t tell any­one your Jew­ish. They will find you. They will kill you. You will die.”) In some way, I know this is my fault. I’ve breached not only our fam­i­ly con­tract, but some­thing more — I’ve put her sur­vival at risk. 

From back­stage, I imag­ine my mom hunch­ing over and fig­ur­ing out how to make an exit. Final­ly, she stands up and runs out of the school. 

When I call her after­ward she says she’s sor­ry she couldn’t stay. 

The prob­lem with being Jew­ish is they make you do stuff,” she says. I’ve heard this before. She’s quot­ing her favorite Jew­ish author, Eliez­er Sobel. When­ev­er she wants to prove a point she turns to a cer­tain page in his book Minyan: Ten Jew­ish Men in a World That is Heart­bro­ken.

To make mat­ters worse, Sobel is my friend, so when­ev­er she quotes him it’s like she’s spoon­ing on the Jew­ish moth­er guilt. Eliez­er says there are prayers for every­thing — upon ris­ing, upon going to the toi­let, upon eat­ing fruit, upon smelling a new smell, upon see­ing a deformed per­son, for bak­ing chal­lah, for build­ing a sukkah.”

I most­ly tune her out and this gets me think­ing about the 614th com­mand­ment that was added to our already long list of com­mand­ments that reads, Jews are for­bid­den to hand Hitler posthu­mous vic­to­ries.… They are com­mand­ed to remem­ber the vic­tims of Auschwitz, lest their mem­o­ry per­ish.… They are for­bid­den escape into either cyn­i­cism.… and a reli­gious Jew who has stayed with his God may be forced into new, pos­si­bly rev­o­lu­tion­ary rela­tion­ships with Him.”

My mom says she doesn’t care about doing stuff any­more. She says she’s leav­ing that up to me and my nephew, Cody. She calls us The Walk­ing Jew­ish Exhibitionists.

She refers to me in this way because of my first solo show, Slash Cole­man has Big Mat­zo Balls, which debuted in 2007. In it, I attempt to come to terms with my mom’s sur­plus of per­plex­ing social behav­iors. Dur­ing the show, I give birth to a mat­zo ball, have sex with a Jew­ish Fairy God­moth­er, do a stand-up rou­tine dressed as Jesus, and talk to a sock pup­pet named the Super Cock. 

The show man­ages to offend just about every­one. Many Jews said I didn’t have a right to tell the sto­ry because it didn’t belong to me. Chris­tians threat­ened me. The review­ers hat­ed it. Mem­bers of my syn­a­gogue dis­missed my work say­ing, He’s one of those (mean­ing a 2G). Let him do what he wants.” And, my mom hid in her room. She had spent a life­time hid­ing her con­nec­tion to any­thing Jew­ish and I was out­ing our fam­i­ly in the most pub­lic of ways.

When I hang up the phone, I call my nephew, Cody. He tells me he’s got­ten anoth­er tat­too. This one, on his wrist, a Hebrew inscrip­tion — one of the most famous trans­la­tions from the Torah. Moses asks God for his name and God answers Eh-yeh Ash­er Eh-yeh” It means I am that I am” or I am what I am.”

I think that things have come full cir­cle now. 

A gen­er­a­tion of silence. A gen­er­a­tion that ques­tioned that silence and a gen­er­a­tion that refus­es to be silent.

When my mom finds out about the tat­too she calls and jokes that she needs a cootie shot. I think about hold­ing her hand and draw­ing a cir­cle and a dot on the back of it and repeat­ing the phrase, Cir­cle. Cir­cle. Dot. Dot. Now, I’ve got my cootie shot.”

The prob­lem with being Jew­ish,” I say to her, is they make you do stuff.”

There is, as expect­ed, only silence on the end of the line.

Slash Cole­man is the author of The Bohemi­an Love Diaries, the per­son­al per­spec­tives blog­ger for Psy­chol­o­gy Today, and an advice colum­nist at how​doi​date​.com (Ask Uncle Slash). He wrote, pro­duced, and starred in the PBS Spe­cial The Neon Man and Me, which also won the Unit­ed Solo Award for best dra­ma and is cre­at­ing The New Amer­i­can Sto­ry­teller for PBS. Vis­it his web­site here.

Slash Cole­man is an award-win­ning sto­ry­teller and per­son­al per­spec­tives blog­ger for Psy­chol­o­gy Today. A reg­u­lar Sto­ry­telling mag­a­zine con­trib­u­tor and per­former on the nation­al sto­ry­telling cir­cuit, he appeared most recent­ly on the NPR series How Artists Make Mon­ey. He lives in New York City and is cre­at­ing The New Amer­i­can Sto­ry­teller for PBS.