Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

A Secret Of The Jews

All synagogues are the same: at the back of the stage (it’s called a bimah, but it’s a stage) is the Ark, which is a cubbyhole where the Torahs are kept. They are hidden by a little magic curtain, and when the Rabbi slides it open, everyone has to stand. Once, the pulley broke and the curtain was stuck at halfway open; we all had to crouch until it was fixed, and both the Schmocklemans collapsed.

Anyway, I said Torahs because–even though you only used one in a service–there was always more than one scroll. The temple would build a podium for them and if you were bored–and you were–you could pretend the Jews had a great showing in the Holy Book Olympics.

Except there were no rules about how many Torahs you could have, so the fancy-shmancy temples would have five and six Torahs. Some Rabbis worried about a Torah Gap.

And here is the secret: instead of seeing the Torah Race for the sad and scrabbling status game that it was, every Jew in the congregation was judging the fuck out of the Temple if it didn’t have enough Torahs. If you invited me to your Bar Mitzvah and it was a two-scroll shul, I would not even RSVP.

Now you know a secret about the Jews.


  1. Considering how many conspiracy theories center around you guys, you’d think Jewish secrets would be cooler. I grew up around a lot of Jews and seems like most of your secrets are pretty boring, but then maybe that’s part of the plan? Well played if so.

  2. I am old, and feeling old, and reminded of times gone by.

    In the early 1980s, I was a “serious” Deadhead in Oakland, CA, which meant that I actually tried to pay attention to what the band was playing instead of just shouting “Jerry” and getting super stoned (which was the typical Deadhead profile at the time). Amongst us Serious Deadheads in NorCal, a notable percentage were Jewish guys from the East Coast. In my case, my mother is from Long Island and Jewish, even though I was from California, so I wasn’t far off from them.

    There was no source of real information about the Dead, however. No internet, no articles in the rock and regular press, and Relix was always wildly out of date when we finally saw an issue. So we passed around information as we heard it, from bearded hippies we met somewhere or other. Sometimes these rumors were true, sometimes they were not. Garcia did not have cancer, as it turned out–you can’t imagine how often I heard that rumor.

    Another persistent rumor was that Garcia was Jewish. One otherwise sensible, serious Jewish Deadhead from Manhattan explained to me in all seriousness that Garcia’s Dad was Spanish, but actually he was a “Secret Jew.” This seemed insane, but later I found out there was a tradition of Spanish Jews who hid their faith during the Spanish Inquisition. So it wasn’t quite the crazy theory that it initially seemed.

    In the Bay Area at the time (and no doubt elsewhere) there was fundamentalist religious group called Jews For Jesus who would pass out literature. Did they know something? The same guy who told me the Secret Jewish story got me a button from a Fox-Warfield show about 1982 with a picture of Jerry that said “Jews For Jerry.” It’s about the only Grateful Dead artifact that I still have.

    I am still awaiting confirmation on the rumor, and I am very patient.

    • Reading back my folksy reminiscence of the 1980s, I can see I didn’t make it clear that Jews For Jesus would pass out literature at Dead and Garcia shows, particularly at the Fox-Warfield. It’s not that I thought they “knew” anything, as they were clueless hucksters, but I took their presence to mean that they had heard some variation of the “Jerry Is Jewish” rumor.

  3. Mild-Mannered Enthusiast

    March 18, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Many Jews from the East Coast Dead Belt (Long Island to Philly) know that one of the plagues visited upon God’s Chosen People every Passover was bumper-to-bumper traffic while trying to get to the Nassau Coliseum.

  4. What about Golems ?

    Way cool secret thing.

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