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Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life: An Introduction

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If you had exactly six words to describe your life, what would they be? That’s the challenge we posed to readers of SMITH Magazine (smithmag.net), the online storytelling community I founded in 2006. We called these short life stories “Six-Word Memoirs,” a reinvention of the form that, according to literary lore, Hemingway birthed when he was challenged to write a whole novel in just six words (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”) in a bar bet.

Our Six-Word Memoir project has since taken on a life beyond our wildest dreams. More than six years and half a million stories later on SMITHmag.net and SMITHteens.com, it has become a bestselling book series and board game, a teaching tool used across the world and a powerful way to spur on self-expression for anyone and everyone. Preachers and rabbis alike have embraced six-word prayers. In hospitals and veterans’ groups, after-school programs and speed dating services, Six-Word Memoirs have been used to foster understanding, ease communication and break the ice. The six-word limitation forces us to figure out the essence of who we are and what matters most. This simple form of expression can become the starting point for larger discussions.

And that’s exactly what we hope will happen with the latest chapter in the six-word story, "Oy! Only Six? Why Not More? Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life," a project done in partnership with the Jewish cultural mavens at Reboot. This book contains 360 Six-Word Memoirs that offer personal windows into the wild, weird and wonderfully complex world of Judaism today. We hope this book starts many conversations about the meaning of Jewish life among Jews and non-Jews alike, in synagogues and churches, among both the most Orthodox and most secular.

With each story on SMITH Magazine’s community becomes stronger and more interesting. I hope you’ll share your story about Jewish life or any part of your life at smithmag.net.

Larry Smith
Founder, SMITH Magazine

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Below are a selection of short takes on Jewish life from Oy! Only Six? Why Not More? Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish life from by SMITH Magazine. Like all Six-Word Memoir books, the memoirs are combination of some names you’ll recognize and people being published for the first time.

Birth bris bed bath and beyond.
- Barry Blitt

Webcast Yom Kippur services. Strangely satisfying.
- Amy Ramos

Half Jewish, sadly unlike Lenny Kravitz.
- Max Bachhuber

“But you just don’t look Jewish.”
- Elizabeth Wurtzel

Found Jewish princess. Good-bye succulent pork.
- Leah Damski

I should have had the chicken.
- Larry David

Chicken fat makes life worth living.
- Jane and Michael Stern

Family spends meals discussing other meals.
- Jana Loeb

Bar Mitzvah video used as blackmail.
- Jon Papernick

Sick of sharing birthday with Jesus.
- Cathy Alter

More Philip Roth than David Lee.
- Sandy London

Prostate hurts from all the grief.
- Gary Shteyngart

Didn't get Seinfeld 'til met in-laws.
- Liz Nord

I’m going to worry about it.
- Buck Henry

That Rosh Hashanah changed this gentile.
- Katie Mack

Goyishe dad. Eats pork. Atheist. Jew-ish.
- Rosa Redux

Nobody told my hormones I’m Orthodox.
- Eliana Block

Israel means “to wrestle”—explains everything.
- Tiffany Shlain

Crosses don't work on Jewish vampires.
- Satya Tretiak

Threat of extinction breeds Jewish excellence.
- Tovah Feldshuh

I do not stand idly by.
- Daniel Schwartz

We are not a concise people.
- Joel Stein

Around the Web

Six-Word Memoirs at SMITH Magazine

Six-Word Memoirs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Six-Word Memoirs: Life Stories Distilled : NPR