Yom Kippur in Amsterdam


This trip was to have been Erin's first time on the Riviera, and Jake had wanted the trip to be an eye-opener. A travel expert that he was, he had never planned his own vacations as thoroughly as he did this time. Every day was to be a novelty for Erin: lemon groves in Menton, high society in Monte Carlo, Picasso at Cape d'Antibe and Renoir in Cagnes-sur-Mer, movies in Cannes, perfumes in Grass, fishing in Saint-Tropez. Jake had reserved a room in a quiet four-star hotel, the former residence of the Russian imperial consul, only a five-minute walk from promenade des Anglais.

By the end of April every detail of their fortnight on the Riviera had been meticulously planned; tickets and reservations had already been deposited in Jake's top desk drawer at work. And then came summer, even hotter and swampier than usual in the Baltimore area, and the closer they got to their departure date in September, the more he felt trapped in his own doubts. The whole thing all finally came together-like a simple geographic jigsaw puzzle on his computer screen-after a trip to Erin's hometown in central Pennsylvania. Erin's uncle pestered Jake with idiotic, kindly questions about Schindler's List. Her elder sister referred to the yarmulkes of Hasidic Jews she had seen in Pittsburgh as "beanies." And then came Sunday, when he spent the morning alone in the house playing with Scarlet the dachshund while the entire family was in church. Erin had never shoved her Catholicism down his throat; she knew he would choke. Nor did Jake ever try to proselytize-he found the notion intellectually offensive and very un-Jewish. Yet the personal experiences of his friends who married non-Jews as well as the various statistics he had obtained suggested that Erin would be likely to convert were he to ask her. He did finally ask her in the car on the way back to Baltimore, only to discover Erin's stern loyalty to her faith-a loyalty that he had never imagined to be so absolute. Bovine tears glistening in her eyes, a pony tail pulled through the back of her "Navy" baseball cap, Erin stroked his hand on the gear shift and kept repeating again and again: "Jake, I'll give you children, I'll help you raise them Jewish, I'll learn things, but I can't leave my faith. Why can't you accept me?"

Jake drove on silently, shaking inwardly with anger, tossing over in his head images of the pope greeting a Sunday crowd in the Vatican; black and green plaid skirts on the subway in D.C.; half-a-dozen Catholic weddings he had attended. He had previously lived his life believing that in a Christian world a Jew ought to honor the ways of the majority without losing his own face. And now he had found himself so enraged with, so antagonistic toward the church, as though it was somehow its fault that his future happiness now laid in ruins.

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