Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Name from the Past

Ehud Havazelet.

That's the name.

Well, Havatzelet really. Meir. A teacher of mine at Yeshiva University.

His sone is an accopmlished author and university lecturer.

He just published a new novel (reviewed here) entitled "Bearing the Body".

I found an interview with hime (here) which mentions my former teacher.

Here are some excerpts:-

...He lives in Corvallis and teaches creative writing at the University of Oregon.

Luke: "How do you like your name?"

Ehud: "If I didn't like it, I would've changed it. It's always been an issue with pronunciation. Since age four, whenever teachers have stopped and looked confused, I raised my hand and told them.

"My two sons are named Jacob (5) and Michael (18).

"My name bothered me when I was younger because I felt like it stuck out but now it's fine.

"I was a wannabe musician for a few years and this guy told me that if I wanted a chance with Roulette Records, they were going to call me Ed Hazel. My wife and I use that as a joke name."

"I've been mistaken more often for an Arab than an Israeli."

Luke: "You were never going to be able to assimilate with your name?"

Ehud: "No. And nobody has asked me assimilate with any name."

Ehud moved to Oregon in 1989.

Luke: "When did you break with Orthodox Judaism and why?"

Ehud: "The second semester of college. I didn't have a positive experience growing up Orthodox in New York. I found it closed, vicious and sniping. I didn't know anyone who had spirituality."

Ehud's father Meir just retired at age 78 as a professor of rabbinics at Yeshiva University.

Luke: "At what age did you first smoke pot?"

Ehud: "Fifteen."

Luke: "At what age did you become a rebel?"

Ehud, the eldest of four kids: "I was rebelling all the time. I went to college wearing a yarmulke and a ponytail. The public rebellion came when I stopped keeping kosher and stopped wearing a yarmulke and started having tremendous fights with my father.

"In 1967, I was eleven when the Six Day War happened. My father and I talked excitedly about getting on a plane and going there and seeing what we could do. By the 1973 war, I had seen the other side. I was against the war in Vietnam and against militarization.

"I hated going to yeshiva. I had to get there at 7 a.m. to pray. I left at 5:30 p.m. I had some rabbis who were very traditional and some very troubled. Some were rigid and sadistic. One threw a kid down the stairs and broke his back. I used to get hit.

"I went to Ramaz. It was the most modern yeshiva. I wanted to go to a non-yeshiva school. My parents said no way. You go to a Jewish school but you can pick the one you want."

Luke: "What crowd did you hang out with in highschool?"

Ehud: "There wasn't much of a crowd. There were a few of us getting high and going down to the Philmore [for concerts by the Grateful Dead, etc].

"Somebody at [Ramaz] found out that somebody was getting high so they had the police department come down to this nice Jewish school and had a display of the various types of drugs and all the reasons you shouldn't use them. Winning arguments such as, 'Why do you think they call it dope?'

"With wonderful naiveté, they passed around five joints so we could all get a look at them. At the end, only three of them came back to the stage. The principal got up and said, 'No one is leaving this room until they come back.'"

Luke: "Did you get expelled?"

Ehud: "I was suspended often."

Luke: "Have any Orthodox institutions invited you to give a reading?"

Ehud: "Yeshiva University has. A colleague of my father's likes my stuff. I had dinner with a bunch of students from Stern College [the women's branch of Y.U.]."

Luke: "Did you corrupt the youth?"

Ehud: "No. I was on my best behavior. I had a couple of Scotches before I went to make sure I could take whatever would happen. They were very nice. My impression is that they were hampered by having one reference point. They didn't have a way of approaching my material [except] was it pro or anti-Jewish. That's not what I'm aiming for.

"There's a scene in my short story 'Leah' where Rachel's boyfriend is beaten up. I was accused of condoning anti-Semitism."

Luke: "What emotions did you see on your father's face when you were with the yeshiva crowd?"

Ehud: "He loved it. He co-opted the whole thing. My father can't resist an opportunity to be on stage. We started talking about what he thinks, what he thinks the stories are about... It's like asking a person who's never painted to care about everything in a painting and understand how it was put together. He's not a painter.

"Within that context, he's a wild man He's more provocative, liberal and questioning than most of his students.

"My dad's swung to the left politically without changing his allegiance to Israel. He's for a two-state solution. He's there now. We can't get him to come home."

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