September 16, 2019

There Are No Atheists on the Fault Line

Fissures that opened up under a highway during a powerful earthquake that struck Southern California are seen near the city of Ridgecrest, July 4. REUTERS/David McNew

The following is a work of satire. None of the people or incidents are real.

At 8:19 p.m. on Friday, July 5, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Southern California, upsetting the tranquility of the weekend (and Shabbat dinner) for many local residents.

Most Persian Jewish Shabbat dinner parties likely weren’t affected by the rolling, given that members of my community normally arrive at 10 p.m. for a dinner that was intended to begin at 7:30.

The following incidents, all pertinent to the community, were reported the evening of the earthquake:

Septuagenarian Louisa Silver, wife of octogenarian Abner Silver, still isn’t speaking to her husband after he jumped up forcefully in bed during the earthquake and screamed in desperation, “It’s OK, darling! You’re safe and I’m here!” Louisa Silver is reportedly quite disgruntled that her husband spoke these words to his new iPhone.

Sephardic couple Rafi and Rachel Azria were thrilled when the earthquake struck during the beginning of the first course at the home of their Ashkenazic hosts, Alan and Mona Horvitz. The Azrias took advantage of the pandemonium to push their paper plates off the table with their elbows, and then blamed the earthquake for the mishap. The first course happened to be gefilte fish. From a jar.

Four packs of raw steak, each marked at $13.99, fell off the refrigerated shelf at a local kosher supermarket. The total cost of lost inventory was estimated at $2.35.

Jayden Davoodzadeh, a freshman at USC, said he was so terrified during the earthquake that he dropped his phone into the toilet bowl and was unable to confirm that there had even been an earthquake, because his Facebook app — which immediately included friends’ posts, such as “Was that an earthquake?!” and “Who felt that?!” — was now under water.

On the 23rd floor of a Westwood high rise apartment tower, Heshy Greer, 26, was embroiled in a painful yet recurring argument with his mother, Ada, and father, George, over his total abandonment of Judaism and HaShem. His parents reported that six seconds into the earthquake, Heshy took a flying leap toward the front door while yelling, “Oh, God! No, God!” While Ada ran after her frantic son, George poured himself another cup of wine-spiked “grape juice” and snorted, “There are no atheists on the fault line.”

Minutes after the earthquake, hundreds of local Persian Jews reported that crystals had fallen from extravagant chandeliers that were installed in the ceilings of their dining rooms, bathrooms and cars.

Believing that this was the Big One, Emma Ziering-Light sent a frantic text message to her estranged father, with whom she had not spoken since 2016, in which she stated, “I love you, Dad. I love you so much, and I want you to know that I forgive you for having voted for him.”

Four packs of raw steak, each marked at $13.99, fell off the refrigerated shelf at a local kosher supermarket. The total cost of lost inventory was estimated at $2.35.

A local synagogue sponsored a dinner program titled “Shabbat in St. Petersburg” to draw more members of the Russian American Jewish community to Jewish life and rituals. The evening featured vociferous and impassioned debates at virtually every table. Roughly eight minutes after the earthquake, one attendee reportedly stood and asked, “Did anyone feel that?”

Abner Silver (see above) awoke early the morning after the earthquake, wandered into the kitchen and opened a high drawer in search of coffee filters, when a china plate that had come too close to the edge of the drawer from the previous night’s “shake” fell on his head. The incident saved Louisa Silver the trouble of having to break a plate over her husband’s head herself, a task she had mentally scheduled immediately after her husband’s imprudence the night before.


Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer and speaker.