In Jewish Texas

A Family Memoir

978-0-87565-187-3 Cloth
6 x 9. 276 pp. 35 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 08/01/1998
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Stanley Ely says that when the fiftieth or so person confronted him with a skeptical, “You mean you’re Jewish, and you’re from Texas?” he decided to do more than smile and say, “Yes.” The result is this funny, caustic, and nostalgic tale in the tradition of popular regionally and ethnically focused memoirs.

Around the beginning of this century, Ely’s parents (as young children) and grandparents immigrated to Galveston, fleeing oppression as Jews in Russia and Romania. Their arrival sets Ely’s memoir in motion. Combining the stories of the author’s grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and friends and including an abundance of family photos, the book continues until today, as Ely faces his own senior years living in New York. Though the book is not a typical “coming out” story, the reader also learns of Ely’s gradual and at times reluctant acceptance of himself as a gay man.

The story of Ely’s family and their friends reflects the impressive growth of Dallas and its Jewish population in the first half of this century. As he narrates the building of new lives in Texas, Ely also portrays the integration of a minority segment of Jewish immigrants in America outside the great cities of the North.

Of himself, the author tells of growing up in Dallas within the security of an intensely Jewish society. Then he prepares for the moment of his first departure for college in the North, and he thinks of his mother’s arrival from Russia as a girl of eight. Of his own first significant step away from Texas, he says his mother “probably knew—and later I also realized—that that was the eventual crossing of an ocean for me.”

By now, Ely has lived in Manhattan for four decades. Yet he finds himself telling friends, “I’m going home for Passover” as he prepares for another annual trip to Texas. Once there, he takes a fresh look and concludes that Texas Jews are different from those elsewhere: they have dual citizenship, in Judaism and in Texas.

Published by Texas Christian University Press