Saturday, March 10, 2012

There’s Jews in Texas? by Debra Weingarten - Winner of the 2011 Poetica Magazine Chapbook Contest

When I launched the Gals-Very Smart Gals, I knew Debra Weingarten would be a member by virtue of her birthright – her mother, and my friend, Ruthe, was a famous women’s historian. What I soon learned was that her membership would have less to do with her ancestry than her personal acuity. One has only to read Debra’s recently published book of poetry There’s Jews in Texas? to figure that out. You also know if you met her at my recent Gals-Very Smart Gals cocktail party. Many of the Very Smart Gals at the party commented on meeting interesting and delightful women. It is notable that many of them were talking about Debra (pictured below).

There’s Jews In Texas? is Debra's funny, fun and touching poetry about growing up Jewish in Dallas. What is possibly more important is that Debra’s poetry is about “being different,” which anyone can relate to – regardless of whether it’s religion, the color of your skin, or socio-economic status.  Nothing can tell you how poignant and endearing Debra’s poetry is better than Debra’s poetry. Here is one of my favorites:

Second Grade, Part One

In far North Dallas in the early 1960s,
At Thomas C. Gooch Elementary School
We sat in rows alphabetically by last name.
Mark Washington in front of Deborah Winegarten

And our locker assignment came in that order, too.
So when the only Jew, Me, was assigned
A locker with the only Negro, Him.
I naturally thought

They were putting the Negro
And the Jew together
Because we had to look out for one another.
And I’ve been trying to do that, ever since.

I also loved Debra’s poem about a man telling her she was going to burn in hell because she was Jewish. When Deborah ran home crying, her mother took Debra’s shoulders in her hands, looked her firmly in the eyes and said,

That’s okay, honey, don’t worry.
We’re Jewish.
We don’t believe in hell.

In the words of Rabbi Neil Blumofe, “Oy, Devoreh. A jewel in our shul…”

Click here to buy There’s Jews In Texas? or you can purchase it at BookWoman in Austin. 

You’ll re-read it again and again, as have I.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful posting about Debra Winegarten's poetry that declares there are "Jews in Texas." I would like to spread the word about my novel, set in Austin and Dallas, that has a Jewish protagonist in a multicultural cast of characters: SHELTER FROM THE TEXAS HEAT. It debuted in 2011 at the Texas Book Festival in Austin. Please "Like" the fan page at
    Thanks! Bobbi Kornblit