Five Minutes with Shalom Auslander
The ex-Orthodox author of Foreskin's Lament reveals just how keen he is on the Jewish traditions he grew up with
How many kids do you have and what are their names and ages?
I have two boys, 5 and 1. Their names are Jesus and Mohammed. No, they're not. They're named Adolf and Josef.
How many preschools did you apply to?
Apply to preschools? That sounds like a city thing.
Is sleep training cruel?
Not as cruel as Torah training.
Pacifiers: do you use them?
Yes, of course. I tell them that although the world is seemingly random and cruel, if they do what I say, when they die, God will give them all sorts of great things. It's very effective.
Are there any Jewish customs/traditions/rituals that you do remember fondly and that you might want to do with your family?
Yes, of course. There's gifts on Hanukkah, apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah, and then, every spring, we invite all our friends over, have a big meal with lots of wine, throw open our front door and scream "POUR YOUR WRATH UPON THE NATIONS THAT DO NOT RECOGNIZE YOU! PURSUE THEM WITH WRATH AND ANNIHILATE THEM FROM BENEATH THE HEAVENS!" It's great fun for everyone.
Are you worried that by denying your kids an orthodox upbringing like you had, they won't have anything to rebel against?
Not at all. I still tell them how awful Orthodoxy is; they'll hate it as much as I do. By the way, I like that language: "denying" them an orthodox upbringing. Very subtle. Do you worry that by denying your son's child abuse they won't have anything to talk to their shrinks about? Do you think that by denying your child the experience of the Black Plague he won't appreciate modern science? Why deny your child hunger?
Describe for us the first time you ate bacon.
It was salty and I felt bad for days. Over food. Fast food. Thanks, Mom.
How do you plan on talking to your kids about God?
What's the most expensive thing you ever bought for your child?
The therapy I went to before they were born.
So a genocide is coming and you and your family are running for a neighbor's attic. What do you make sure to bring with you to keep your kids entertained?
A poster that says "Never again."
Are you a kveller?
I have no idea what that means. It sounds dirty. So yes, then, probably.
--Interview by Molly Tolsky
Shalom Auslander is the author of the short story collection, Beware of God, the memoir, Foreskin's Lament, and the novel Hope: A Tragedy. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, GQ, Esquire, and The Guardian. He is a regular contributer to Tablet. Visit his website at www.shalomauslander.com.