2: Excerpt from Ilan Stavans, “Yom Kippur in Buenos Aires,” 2016.
In this short story by author and scholar Ilan Stavans, the narrator visits Buenos Aires and spends the holiday with his friend Osvaldo. Osvaldo’s older brother, who had become ba’al tshuva (embraced Orthodox Judaism) and had made aliya (immigrated) to Jerusalem, was murdered by a terrorist, and Osvaldo and his mother could not afford to attend the funeral. In this passage, which takes place several months after the brother’s murder, Osvaldo, who is not a practicing Jew, accompanies the narrator to Kol Nidre services.
Suggested Activity: Have your students discuss the following questions: Why do you think Osvaldo eats in the synagogue on Yom Kippur? What do you think of the congregation’s reaction? How would you react to this scenario if you were present in the synagogue? Why do you think Osvaldo finds that moment cathartic – why do you think he mourns his brother’s death through his presence at Yom Kippur services? How does Osvaldo’s act relate to the ideas of sacredness and sacrilege?
Ilan Stavans, "Yom Kippur in Buenos Aires." Jewishfiction.net 18 (October 2016).