Philadelphia Metropolis


The End Is Near!

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By Rebecca Bernstein

We all know its coming. But just in case you haven't been handed the pamphlets, read the billboard over the Walt Whitman Bridge, or heard the radio, let me inform you: Judgment Day is coming. As I have been told, by countless people handing out Bibles on various city street corners, May 21st is Judgment Day.

Being a Jersey native, I never thought that moving to Philadelphia meant moving to the Holy Land. If you had asked me before I moved, I would have told you that Philly was a very liberal, non-religiously affiliated city. Now, after living here two years,  I am not so sure.

For instance, this morning, I walked out of my apartment and waited for the light to change to cross the street. Before I could cross, an elderly woman approached me.

Hand of God.jpg"Miss? Have you accepted the lord Jesus Christ? Because, you know ,Judgment Day is coming."

I tried my best to ignore her. As the light changed, I quickly walked by and she handed me a pamphlet. Judgment Day? I thought. No such thing. I boarded the subway and sat down. As I waited, I skimmed over the pamphlet. It listed lines from the New Testament as evidence for Judgment Day. I concluded that being born Jewish, and being un-observant, none of this applied to me.

Just as I had dismissed the pamphlet, a young man boarded the subway. He was dressed very formally, in a suit, maybe on his way to work. Before I could make up my mind about what profession he was in, he spoke.

"Good morning, my fellow brothers and sisters! I'll take just a moment of your time to talk about upcoming Judgment Day."

Good Lord! I thought. It was not even 8 a.m., and already I had my share of religious homilies. Just then, the subway doors opened to my stop, and I narrowly escaped the subway sermon.

As I walked swiftly to my class, I smiled to myself, trying to recall what happened so I could relay it to my boyfriend later. I knew I would exaggerate the story, making the subway preacher a crazy televangelist. I almost laughed out loud when I did the voice in my head of Joel Olsteen. Then someone tapped me on the shoulder.

A tall, modestly dressed elderly man,inquired, "Did you forget this?"

I looked down to see a New Testament mini-Bible in his hand. I looked at the Bible, then looked at him, and walked away. I could not believe this. Did my chamsa necklace, Star of David earrings, and big Jewish nose set off an alarm? Why was I the target for subway and sidewalk sermons? Being a Religion minor in college, daughter of the Vice-President of a synagogue, and an eight-year veteran of Hebrew school, I was well versed in religion. But this grassroots movement of everyday people was new to me. It was as if my zealously religious aunt had called Philadelphia to tell them that I was a non-believer.

I always thought that I would have problems in the city with violence or public transportation. This was something I did not expect. Experiencing the commitment that some people had to their beliefs, that they felt so strongly as to stand on a corner or preach in a subway car, was oddly inspiring, yet disconcerting.

I don't want to be disrespectful or offend anyone, but as an outsider of the city, and of the religion, it is an out-of-the-ordinary experience.  I cannot honestly say that when these people speak, I ignore them. For a moment, I catch myself wondering and "what-ifing". But then, I snap out of it, as the logical side of me takes control. There is a constant battle inside me between admiration and annoyance for these believers.

I know what  I am going to do when I wake up on May 21 and we're all still here. I wonder what they are going to do?

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