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Jewish woman eats her first bacon to celebrate turning 90

Jewish woman eats her first bacon to celebrate turning 90

Razie Brownstone ventures out of her home somewhere in the US, boards a bus, enters a cafe and eats bacon for the first time to mark her 90th birthday. Being Jewish, this is an act of defiance – and one that turned her into a minor celebrity when she featured in a short documentary, Bacon & God’s Wrath.

Click of pic to view video

Click on pic to view documentary

Her celebrity status is bound to boosted by a piece by Joshua Rothman just published in The New Yorker.

Rothman reveals that Brownstone had recently become an atheist.

Razie tells us about her strictly religious upbringing, which seems to have brought her little joy. As she describes how using the Internet led her to atheism (‘Some of my most intimate thoughts and questions . . . were so common that the Google could anticipate it!).

Something is at stake in her decision to try bacon: it’s a way of marking a transformation – of asserting that, even late in life, it’s possible to change. It’s also, one senses, a way of claiming independence from the fear of death that can haunt old age.

Rothman adds:

Religious faith is a consolation; if you trade it in for bacon, have you made a good trade? I’m an atheist, and I think I would give up bacon in exchange for the conviction that the universe has a purpose. By the same token, faith becomes vulnerable to skepticism when it links itself to more or less arbitrary decisions about diet or dress.

Razie, of course, hasn’t traded belief for bacon; she has traded it for the freedom to follow her own conscience, to do and think as she sees fit. These, the film seems to say, are the signs by which we communicate, to others and ourselves, our ideas about the fundamental questions of existence. Look how small they are!

Razie reminds me of my own Jewish grandmother. They share a way of talking, an unpretentious intellectualism, and – judging from the art works and tchotchkes in Razie’s apartment – an aesthetic. My grandmother is ninety-three and, to my knowledge, has never kept kosher. I’ve never asked her about her views on religion. Now that I’ve watched Bacon & God’s Wrath, I will.

When the documentary was released late last year, Grae Westgate, writing for Vulturehound under the headline “It’s never to late to give up your faith”, said:

In this short and sweet little documentary, Razie discusses her highly orthodox upbringing, telling us through a series of delightful illustrations of her family life and its deep connection with the local synagogue, with the wrath of the Rabbi always looming over any mischief she should get up to.

Throughout her life, the rites and traditions of her childhood have remained an overwhelming presence. Since discovering the Internet two years ago, however, Razie’s life has been turned upside-down … Razie feels more connected with the world around her than she ever did at the synagogue. She begins to find the concept of religion ridiculous as the web opens her eyes to the wider world.

And so Razie decides to try her bacon. She seems relieved at first not to have been stricken down by the arm of the Lord, and yet somewhat underwhelmed by the final outcome. A real feeling of “all that fuss over nothing”.

Razie herself is a charming and open narrator, proud of her heritage, but determined to open herself up to the modern world. Her mix of cynicism and underlying fear is wonderful to watch, and her easy-going reaction to her mission will raise a smile in even the most cynical viewer. Bacon and God’s Wrath is a thought-provoking and life-affirming documentary which should not be missed.

16 responses to “Jewish woman eats her first bacon to celebrate turning 90”

  1. Broga says:

    That is as quietly pleasant a description of a move to atheism as I have read in a long time. For however long she has left she can be excited by the kind of thinking, with its openness and discoveries, that is denied to the shackled minds of the believers.

    She has lost the terror of hellfire that always lurks inescapably in the life of the believer. And she has also thrown of that pestilence that is the authority of the rabbi and the priest. The internet is a great ally of the atheist.

  2. Paul says:

    Isn’t it nice that even at that age she can open her mind. Of all the archeology conducted in the Middle East – mostly searching for proof and truth about biblical stories – only one – out of hundreds of midden has no pig bones. All the others have pig bones in them. Why and how the middle eastern religious development decided not to eat pigs is unknown. And there is no answer in the babble it just bans lots of animals, and pigs are actually quite clean animals – they urinate and defacate away from their sleeping places (as long as they aren’t penned in as they do in netherlands and Denmark- where the poor creatures cannot move).

  3. Laura Roberts says:

    I can’t wait to see this. Sounds to me as if it ranks up there with Julia Sweeny’s “Letting Go of God” for good-natured deconversion stories.

    @Paul: As for pigs and other strange rules, much of this has been researched pretty thoroughly. IIRC a good resource is “Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture” by Marvin Harris. Of course, there’s no beating Joseph Campbell’s “Masks of God” series if you really want to dig into the details.

  4. barriejohn says:

    Hahaha – good for her. Hope she didn’t make a pig of herself!

    Paul: Didn’t you know that the dietary restrictions of the OT were inspired by God for the benefit of the Jews?

    http://www.ucgoc.com/bible-old/study29.htm

    You get similar stuff from Muslims, of course, mainly regarding pork. I suppose that there may have been some common-sense reason for some of the rules in the early history of the Jewish people, but I’m not an expert on these things.

  5. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Go Razie. Religion is a poison that you can give up at any age.

  6. Non Stick says:

    One of the fundamental things a religion needs is prohibition. If everything was allowed then nothing would be sinful. And if there is no sin then who needs priests. All they do is invent and tell you what the sins are, tell you not to be sinful by enjoying the sins, and tell you god will get really pissed off with you if do.

    And the best sins for the priests to invent are the ones that are really enjoyable … sex … bacon sarneys … you know the sins that really temp you to be sinful. Most people don’t resort to stealing and murder anyway so the is not much for the priests to exploit there. The only sins that everyone will be really tempted to commit are the enjoyable ones. Just off to the kitchen to make a fry up …and who gives a fuck if it upsets fundamentalist muslims and jews. My girlfriend will be over in a few minutes … she loves a bacon butty and if I am in luck …

  7. Cali Ron says:

    Daz: Have mercy!

  8. Cali Ron says:

    The Power of Pork! Has god finally met his match?

  9. Newspaniard says:

    Lovely documentary. I hope that it is seen by thousands of the frightened orthodox and many a BLT are consumed as a result.

  10. Vanity Unfair says:

    Pigs are truly miraculous.
    A bacon sandwich cured me of vegetarianism.

  11. Robster says:

    Ninety years, what a sad waste. Better late than never I suppose.

  12. 1859 says:

    Says ‘video is unavailable’- Yahwey’s up to his old tricks!

  13. Laura Roberts says:

    Sorry, I find bacon almost as disgusting as sausage. More for the rest of you, I guess. 🙂

  14. Newspaniard says:

    Video Unavailable… I guess the orthodox lobby won in the end. Ho Hum.
    Anyone technical enough to find another link?

  15. barriejohn says:

    Sorry, folks, it’s gonna cost you CA$2.50 to watch it now!

    http://www.artbeast.ca/bacon.html