Travel notesIssue 06 | August 2009

From Paris, A Travel Misguide

by Adam Shechter


The Synagogue Agoudas Hakehilos of Marais presents a concealed spectacle. The Haredi swoop down, black jackets flapping, into this Art Nouveau fortress with the same pogrom-fleeing gait as in Brooklyn. I enter with Miriam, Jewess in blue jeans. Whoever it is that runs things, a stooped-over man with a graying beard and unwashed dark suit, greets us with hesitation and clenched jaw. I put out my hand and he pulls his away. His hands are wet, he says. He asks me where I am from and I answer, From Brooklyn, where else? A ringing phone saves him and he announces he must answer and flees into his dusty office. Miriam and I stand as tense strangers, traces of pork flowing through our blood. We stand muttering, pretending to admire the lobby. A few minutes later he returns with a half-ass historical brochure and tells me that I can look in the sanctuary if I like and that Miriam can look from the balcony.

I slip into the sanctuary like an emotional thief and snap a series of photos of its elegant and sad personality. Depressed, stubborn, the sanctuary presents a modest stage for the resistance of Torah. Miriam remains in the lobby. I urge her from the door to come and take a peek. Finally, she relents. She sticks her head in but can’t quite relax and neither can I. Though having shared the same fate as the religious during the Holocaust, we have no actual connection. We are strangers and they fear us. Outside again, I photograph a mezuzah completely sunken into the concrete doorway of an adjacent Jewish building. We speculate this was done to prevent it from being torn off by passing anti-Semites. Still, a black-hatted Jew exits the building and it is me to whom he throws his fiery hateful eyes.

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About the author

Adam Shechter is from Unbrooklyn, the imperceptible imperialist brownstone aesthetic of 1989, Prospect Park West benches by Carroll Street. He is also the editor of the online journal, The Blue Jew Yorker. Recent publications include Exquisite Corpse and Ashe Journal. More at Adam’s personal site.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok