Last year, to my astonishment, I started attending a synagogue. I won’t say its name, but it’s an urban synagogue full of exemplary people of principle who realize that Jewish values mean little unless they can be practiced in the world, ministering to people who do not have the advantages of the smug isolation that Pikesville privilege can bring.
Don’t misunderstand, I love Pikesville, and whether or not Pikesville ever loved me back, I’m more a son of this town than the thousands from my generation who left Pikesville in search of better jobs and better lives. If I’ve ever said bad things about my town of origin, it’s because I’m a radical who’s secretly conservative and wants to turn the town upside down so that it stays exactly as it is.
There’s no such thing as an unmemorable interaction in Pikesville. People live more vividly here. They make you feel like they hate you — and at that moment they probably do — and two minutes later, they love you again and forget what the fight was about.
You can take Jews out of Pikesville, but you can never take Pikesville out of Jews. My bubbie, who is 96 going on 30 and my hero, has a friend who goes to my shul. For reasons passing my understanding, she did not say hello to me for an entire year. I was slightly hurt, but I figured she didn’t recognize me. I then hear from Bubbie that not only did her friend recognize me, but she told Bubbie that I’m always late for shul, underdressed and wear bad shoes.
Last month, I had my first column in the Jewish Times. I thought it was pretty tactful — barely controversial enough to be noticed and no more. I was happy to see a letter to the editor; it shows that people care, but I was shocked to find out that it was from a married couple at my shul to whom I talk every week. Their complaint? That I said Jews are bad at getting along with each other.
I don’t think people who live in Pikesville realize that it is a different place from anywhere else in the world — it should be a UNESCO historic site. Of course, the closest place to the spirit of Pikesville is Israel, but even Israel isn’t quite like this. Pikesville is “Curb Your Enthusiasm” come to life.
Two millennia of trauma have made us completely unable to cope with privilege. Therefore, every interaction in Pikesville is its own novel. So now that a writer gets to address the subject that gave him everything, he says to you: “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Evan Tucker is a North Baltimore-based writer.