Dear Haim: Thanks for Being Unapologetically Jewish

In a time when antisemitism is on the rise, it feels so good to see these Jewish women be so alive.

In her new book, “People Love Dead Jews,” Dara Horn finally put down on paper a suspicion I’d harbored for years – that the world likes their Jews dead. It’s about time someone said it, or wrote it, because a lot of us have whispered it for too long and now we can all talk about it out loud. As Horn writes, “Thousands of Holocaust books and movies and TV shows and lectures and courses, museums and mandatory school curricula make abundantly clear, dead Jews are most popular of all.” She holds up Anne Frank as one example. Frank’s famous diary has sold over 30 million copies. As we all know, people adore quoting one line in particular, “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

No Jew wants to see themselves in that attic, though we all do. This is why I was raised to always have my passport ready and enough money to buy a ticket out. I do the same for my children. I think if Frank had the chance to go back and edit her work, she probably would have cut that line because three weeks later, Frank met people who weren’t good at heart. She saw the real world. And I think she would have wanted to erase any absolution she mistakenly offered.

But while I don’t want to forget our past and Anne Frank, I’ve been trying to find my way back for a minute, to a better future for Jews still alive.

This is where Haim comes in, the pop indie band of three Jewish sisters I always needed.

Este, Danielle and Alana, you are saving me from the weight of dead Jews, a weight I’ve been carrying my whole life, and I need to thank you for it.

Haim, I think you’re the way to stop the obsession with dead Jews and embrace a vibrant, alive future Jewishness. And even though we’ve never met, I feel we’re cosmically connected. I’d always suspected it, but when I saw your cover for “Women in Music Pt. III,” I knew it for sure. The three of you stand behind the counter at Canter’s, an old school Jewish deli, your childhood haunt. You’re flanked by a sign indicating Now Serving #69 – and hanging salamis.

My grandmother also hung salamis in her kitchen – like Canter’s. Surely the coincidence is a sign that our connection is real. Either way, the more I Insta-stalk you and follow your careers, the more certain I am that I’m right to look to you for guidance toward my own future and how to be a proud Jewish woman writing unapologetically Jewish infused books.

Ladies, you said once that when you were growing up you never knew of any hot babe Jewish women. I didn’t either. I knew famous Jewish women who kept their Judaism private or embraced stereotypes I didn’t want. I couldn’t see myself in them – but now I have you. I have the hot babe Jewish women I’ve longed for.

In your videos you don’t quite pour all the coffee into the cups, or don’t always have the perfect lipstick, but you rise up and walk into a studio, diner, or any room like you own it. You literally carry each other, help each other. You’re who I want to be when I grow up.

As I edited my most recent novel, “Atomic Anna”, I played your song “Now I’m In It” on repeat. My middle character, Molly, is a comic book artist who draws a team of three female superheroes. I thought about you every time I described them. In the music video to “Now I’m In It,” Danielle changes her dress in the fog like a superhero changing into her uniform, regaining her strength. The way you all strut fearlessly in your videos is the way my character Raisa struts into a math competition where she’s the only girl in the room.

Everything you do embodies a celebration of living and you’re rocking it – literally. You’ve been nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Performance and Album of the Year. You leap around, grinning so wide I can feel your joy as you promote your dream coming true – playing Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl.

Your spunk and unabashed Jewishness is the antidote to the weight that sometimes drags me down. You show us all Jewish women can be strong and brilliant and alive.

I’m not saying we should forget the dead. I’m saying I’m with Dara Horn. It’s time to love our living Jews as much as we love the dead because we’re here. Now. And there’s so much we can do if we just look forward.

I can hear it and I can feel it.

So, any chance you need someone to carry your guitars or drums around anytime soon? Or adopt a new sister?

Rachel Barenbaum

Rachel Barenbaum’s (she/her) second novel, ATOMIC ANNA, received a starred review from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and was called "masterfully plotted," by the New York Times. Her first novel was A BEND IN THE STARS. Her writing has appeared in the LA Review of Books, Tel Aviv Review of Books, LitHub, Crimereads, and more.

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