I have never talked to Ashley in person. Of course that’s not strange at all. We met on Oliver Polak’s Facebook page. One of us made a joke about Kant being a little shtetl boy by the name of Imre Kantele who grew up to be a comedian in the Catskills – I can’t remember if it was her or me. Now we have a very 21st century correspondence about very 20th century things. Sometimes even 19th century.
There is this Talmudic concept of the tinok shenishba, she explains to me – the “captured infant” who was raised by Gentiles and only later in life comes back, or just in general grew up without learning about Judaism. Ashley feels the opposite might be true for her: a mostly non-Jewish child who was kidnapped and somehow ended up in the strange world of German Jews.
This is the world she’s living in now, which isn’t so easy in Texas. So she’s living very virtually these days anyway – her husband lives in another state, and she’s working on a project on how Jewish identity circulates on the Internet. Which probably means that she’s pretending to be the Lubavitcher Rebbe and trolls Chabad blogs? I must ask her.
Ashley says she has never known anything but “German” and “Jews” in the same breath, but not like you think. This “but not like you think” is a great gift.
If you’ve ever been to an official Jewish event you know that “he or she is a true mensch” is just about the laziest compliment you can make someone. So I’m not gonna say that but of course it’s probably true. What I’m gonna say instead: Ashley knows many things other people have forgotten – and she wants to share them with the world too. A true teacher, as they say.