Strange Fire: Jewish Voices from the Pandemic (Paperback)
A daring exploration of UnOrthodoxy in a moment of global crisis
A century ago, the Philadelphia Jewish community held a Black Wedding to ward off the 1918 flu pandemic. A destitute bride and groom were chosen from the community and married off in Mount Moriah cemetery. A thousand guests attended, standing between and among fresh graves, waiting for the chance to give the deathly couple gifts according to their means.
Needless to say, this was not religious orthodoxy. At best, one might call it tradition steeped in kabalistic myth, at worst, heretical nonsense, "benighted superstition" likely to bring about Christian scorn and judgement.
Heretical nonsense, though, is the very best kind.
100 years after 1918, we face a new crisis. And, as with the Black Wedding, our responses are hardly orthodox.
In this anthology, award-winning essayist and cultural critic T.S. Mendola presents a collection of previously unpublished art, poetry, essays, and short stories that explore our more-or-less heretical relationship to Judaism in times of crisis. Strange Fire: Jewish Voices from the Pandemic leans into the crack between the faith we are supposed to practice and the faith we do.
From a Jewish sex worker's essay exploring her relationship to her work as holy, to art poems made from pages ripped out of the artist's childhood siddur, to death magic one step removed from witchcraft, Strange Fire is by turns defiant, tender, and blasphemous.