Jerk Chicken

Using the quotation below as a jumping off point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world:''Some questions cannot be answered./ They become familiar weights in the hand,/ Round stones pulled from the pocket, unyielding and cool.''1- Jane Hirshfield, poet, Princeton Class of 1973


I prodded the chicken with my fork. The rest of the table was heatedly arguing about health care while I wondered how much longer the school fundraiser dinner would last. Then, an idle comment uttered by a boy I didn’t know made my head jerk up.

“…It’s all because of those Jewish bastards in Congress,” he finished.

Silence dropped like a hammer on a nail. I stared.

A friend glanced at me and said, “She’s Jewish, you know.”

I was paralyzed. Questions flickered through my mind. Chief among them was simply: “Why?”

Why intolerance? Why again?

My mouth moved. “You're the bastard, if you think that saying that is okay,” I said. My calm, forceful words surprised me. I felt like a marionette, lips and limbs moving at the whim of an outside force.

He flushed. “I wasn't insulting you.”

I went on a brief, terse rant, wondering all the while whose tongue was uttering my words. The boy stared at me, but wouldn’t apologize, and I stood and left the table. The hollow disdain in his eyes haunted me. Later that night, I reflected on his words.

I’ve always known that Jews are rare on the Eastern Shore. In elementary school, someone once asked me what a Jew was. The questions have evolved since then: What’s the story behind Passover? What makes...

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