Years ago, Arthur Carter — publisher of The New York Observer, and, at the time, The Nation, for which I was then an intern — asked me what I was. “An employee?” I asked, confounded by the great man’s question. “No, no,” he said. “What are you?” “Um, a journalist?” Carter’s stare could not have been more withering. He leaned over his desk, which he slapped with his palm. “You come to talk to Arthur Carter, and you don’t even know what you are? What-the-fuck-are-you?” Lightbulb: “You mean, ethnically?” “Yes!” Carter roared. “Oh,” I said. “my mother was Irish and my dad’s Russian Jewish.” Carter grinned. “Good,” he pronounced. “There’s a terrific market in journalism for half-Jews.”

I offer this little Yom Kippur tale by way of introduction to Laurel Snyder, who is JewishyIrishy . A poet and altcountry journalist born-again as director of the University of Iowa’s Hillel House, Snyder offers up a sermon on finding her religion at The Revealer‘s Mr.-Hyde-alter-ego, Killing the Buddha. Beat your chest half-Jew style. (Word to the pious: Snyder’s essay contains some cussin’.)