Star of Glass, by Ann Birstein
One thing that has emerged from the recent swarm of nostalgia-novels and memoirs, supposedly depicting Jewish life in America as the author saw or sees it, is a typology of the American rabbi. Two categories for this typology have thus far been definitely established: the rabbi with beard and the rabbi with yellowed fingers. The rabbi with beard is sage, venerable, bursting at the seams with quotations from Perek (“The Ethics of the Fathers”), and says “Pfui!” to the insanity of the new life around him. The rabbi with yellowed fingers is perhaps more formidable, but no more complex. He chain-smokes, is careless about his personal cleanliness, and, waving a nasty, crooked, yellowed finger, preaches hell-fire and damnation to the erring, thereby warping the lives of countless tortured heroes. The former is generally considered to inhabit the Lower East Side; the latter, Williamsburg.
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