Strange Fire

Jewish Voices from the Pandemic

by T.S. Mendola, editor


In stock

About this book

A daring exploration of UnOrthodoxy in a moment of global crisis

A century ago, the Philadelphia Jewish community held a Black Wedding to ward off the 1918 flu pandemic. A destitute bride and groom were chosen from the community and married off in Mount Moriah cemetery. A thousand guests attended, standing between and among fresh graves, waiting for the chance to give the deathly couple gifts according to their means.

Needless to say, this was not religious orthodoxy. At best, one might call it tradition steeped in kabalistic myth, at worst, heretical nonsense, “benighted superstition” likely to bring about Christian scorn and judgement.

Heretical nonsense, though, is the very best kind.

100 years after 1918, we face a new crisis. And, as with the Black Wedding, our responses are hardly orthodox.

In this anthology, award-winning essayist and cultural critic T.S. Mendola presents a collection of previously unpublished art, poetry, essays, and short stories that explore our more-or-less heretical relationship to Judaism in times of crisis. Strange Fire: Jewish Voices from the Pandemic leans into the crack between the faith we are supposed to practice and the faith we do. 

From a Jewish sex worker’s essay exploring her relationship to her work as holy, to art poems made from pages ripped out of the artist’s childhood siddur, to death magic one step removed from witchcraft, Strange Fire is by turns defiant, tender, and blasphemous.


Dainy Bernstein
Katherine H Berry
Marlaina Cockroft
Annabel Cohen
Yelena Crane
Abrielle Fuerst
Abbie Goldberg
David Zvi Kalman
Chapin Langenheim
Jacques Lezra
“Meep Matsumisha”
Erin Mizrahi
S.J. Pearce
Rivqa Rafael
Andrew Elias Ramer
Shana Ross
Anthony Russell
Lorraine Schein
Hadassah Schneider
Meghan Sterling
Caitlin Wolper


Introduction, T.S. Mendola

You Three, Jacques Lezra


  1. Beautifully Angry, Dainy Bernstein
  2. Prophecies Against the Vernacular, S.J. Pearce
  3. Thanking Our Stars, Caitlin Wolper
  4. Children of Europe, Lorraine Schein
  5. Thoughts on Judaism and Magic by a Child of Holocaust Survivors, Lorraine Schein
  6. Survivors, Lorraine Schein
  7. Feeling Angry, Annie Goldberg
  8. Avodah Zarah, Hadassah Schneider


  1. Everything Old is New Again, Meghan Sterling
  2. The Other Talmud, Yelena Crane
  3. Gravewalkers, Annabel Cohen
  4. A Meditation on How, Caitlin Wolper
  5. In His Name, Marlaina Cockroft
  6. In the Time of Dying, Andrew Elias Ramer
  7. Second Diagnosis, Caitlin Wolper


  1. Advice For When You Are Pursued By Snakes, Shana Ross
  2. Theory of Night, Shana Ross
  3. In God’s Image, Caitlin Wolper
  4. Love Thy Neighbor, Rivqa Rafael
  5. Shabbos Girlfriend, Meep Matsumisha
  6. The Whore’s Covenant, RG
  7. I just wanted to pin “LOVE” in my ears, Caitlin Wolper


  1. Malachai Hasharet, Katherine Hagopian Berry
  2. Weddings in My Coffee Cup, Abrielle Fuerst
  3. How I Became a Monotheist, David Zvi Kalman
  4. Grief Stage, Hadassah Schneider
  5. Bargains with God: A Eulogy for Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Chapin Langenheim
  6. Ol’Time Religion, Anthony Mordechai Zvi Russell
  7. I’m Talking to My Plants Again, Erin Mizrahi