Laurel Snyder Responds. I Was Inaccurate, and Mean-Spirited. (Oy)

A week or so back I did a snarky take on Laurel Snyder’s new book, Half-Life: Jew-ish Tales From Interfaith Homes and a reading she had at Makor , then walked away whistling. But after trying to comment on my post and being foiled somehow by the Observer’s system (apologies), Snyder sent me a (generous and fair and maybe wise too) response.

Here it is:

[T]hough I appreciate that you think I’m pretty, your physical description
of me didn’t make me feel any better and it didn’t seem terribly relevant.

If nothing else, I feel I should be allowed to correct the inaccuracies of
your blog post (i.e. that my son had a hospital circumcision , that I
“chose” Judaism, etc) I’m not sure how/where you got these ideas… but
they’re untrue , and anyone present at Makor on June 22 could tell you that.
I hope you didn’t just dream them up to stregthen your remarks about me.

That would be poor journalism I think.

In trying to look past your creative revision of the event at Makor, I’d
like to say that regardless of your dislike for me, I’m glad you enjoyed
Maya Gottfried’s reading. No matter how your blog might have hurt my
personal feelings, there are bigger things at stake with a book like this,
and if you got something out of the event, that’s far more important than
my little ego.

Maya is amazing and the Jewish world would do well to meet
her, so thank you for drawing attention to her work.

Regarding my status as a “natterpuss”, I’m not going to argue that you’re
entirely wrong. There’s a business to publishing and I’m admittedly trying
to learn it. But I’ll say that one does not take a year off from one’s own
writing to pour oneself into a project like this (on an indie press, for no
money, I might add) because one enjoys networking. Particularly not when one
has just become a mother, and would like to be home sitting on her nest).
One networks because one believes that the book (and the issue) deserves it.

If my mention of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (or BUST Magazine) bothered you,
I’m sorry, but I’ll remind you that they were mentioned only in my
introductions of the readers, in order to describe how I met each author
present. I hoped to communicate the idea that Jews from intermarriages are
“everywhere.” Specifically I was trying to show how Readerville.com and the
internet led me to find a “half-Jewish geography”… though maybe I
failed…

I did not mean to name drop, and if the mention of such institutions
distracted from the purpose of the event, I wish I’d presented each reader
differently. In fact, I appreciate your comment, as it will certainly affect
my future speaking engagements.

Regarding the “spirit” of the event: he topic of the evening was not
spirituality, though I’d happily meet with you for Torah study sometime. If
you knew me, you’d know that I care deeply about spirit, and Jewish content,
Torah, tradition, philosophy, and history, and it makes me sad to think I
presented myself as uninterested in such things. I can’t imagine why I’d go
to such trouble if there wasn’t a deeper love behind my work. More to the
point, I clearly remember stating several times that one must, when
discussing “how Jewish” a person is, consider that there are really two
distinct ways of being Jewish: cultureally/genetically, and religiously. I
think about this a lot, as I work often with younger Jews who consider
themselves “secular Jews.”

Honestly, I wish the organized Jewish community were more concerned with
spirit and less with bloodlines. Maybe if that were true, Maya’s story
would have been different.

I want to tell you I didn’t mean my comment on your blog angrily, and was
surprised that you refused to let me correct your inaccuracies, as a print
newspaper would have done. I would like to think that a blog is accountable
in all the ways print media is accountable. But maybe that’s not the case at
the Observer.

Again, I don’t know how you heard what you heard at Makor… but maybe you’d
do well to listen a little more carefully in future. To the “spirit” of what
someone is saying. A blog can be dangerous, as a deadline for criticism can
be harmful. The constant need for “something to say”, and a desire for wit,
leads bloggers (myself included) down a slippery slope.

P.S. [Per Weiss comment "Baltimore is Catholic"] Maryland was founded as a Catholic
Colony, and that (while there is a HUGE Jewish Community in Pikesville, a
suburb) Baltimore has an extremely large Catholic population, particularly
in the non-Jewish neighborhoods where I grew up. Not that it matters, but it came up.

Snyder gets big points in my book for responding with good humor and openness. I’m going to (crawl into a hole and) mull this, see if I have a comeback.