Is She, or Isn't She?
Do you have that thing I have? A desperate urge to KNOW immediately when you meet someone, whether they are Jewish or not? Sometimes, I drop in key words - like Golders Green - to see if I get a reaction.
In my old office, I had a five year conversation with a good friend of mine, a New York Jew, hinging on the prime question; Is Rhoda Jewish? Rhoda, was the MD. Fifties, blonde, well turned out, serious case of the sparkly-clothes gene. Suddenly get an urgent call to attend a wedding? Just need to re-apply lipstick, and she's there.
The Out Jews in the office mulled over the question. Are there any non-Jews called Rhoda? Unlikely - point to us. Does she take the day off on Yom Kippur? Carefully arranged observations tell us no - point to her. Overdressed on a daily basis? Point to us. Strange remarks on the pushiness of Jewish people - jury's out on that one.
Finally what happened was, her mother was dying. I know that non-Jews wait till the whole family assembles for the funeral, and that can be a few days. So I was surprised when one of the other managers told me that the biggest collective concern was what was going to happen when she died, as Rhoda's mother being Jewish meant that the funeral would obviously be the next day.
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A friend of mine, his boss whispers under his breath as they arrive at every meeting unzerer. Of course, occasionally he has to whisper nisht unzerer. And the same friend felt that the JC would be a lot easier to read if all the news was reported on a good-for-the-Jews bad-for-the-Jews basis.
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When I got my current job, at a consultancy, I had like a gezillion interviews. OK, seventeen. (Point to me - prone to exaggeration. No one in my family has ever been ill, they've been desperately ill. It doesn't rain, it pours. My childhood marched to the beat of oh!! Careful! Terrible!) But I digress (another point to me).
In about my fourth interview I went into a meeting room, followed by the interviewer. It's posh, English, so there's coffee on the table and nicely wrapped biscuits. "With milk?" He asks me. I say no. "Just had a meat meal?" he replies. I say no, I don't really drink milk. Of course lactose intolerance is another sure sign, but he didn't know that. But he gets the prize for the most obscure hello-I'm-Jewish.
And when I got the job, he took me to one side. Dressed in his pinstripe suit and braces and Pink's shirt and what-ho accent he passes very well. I imagine that when he gets home to Stanmore of an evening he puts the accent back in the collar-stud box and talks like a regular person.
So he said "We're very excited about having you on board. Very entrepeneurial. Very, er, dynamic. Very, er, straight talking. Now I think that's great, but I think it's good if we, er, aren't so upfront about being, er" - he dropped his voice to a whisper - "Jewish."
And that's the trick - balancing whether you work out the landsleit-status of everyone you meet with being who you really are. Now tell me, is that good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?