Tradescantia Zebrina .:. The Wandering Jew

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tales and opinions of the wandering Jew

Mixed Signs

This morning I got on the bus, in this very Jewish suburbanish neighbourhood where I’m staying with friends, to get to Manhattan. (The bus mostly because I was too lazy to walk to the subway.) But anyway. The key thing is: very Jewish neighbourhood in New York City. My friends live next door to a shteeble (Yiddish for “small house,” it’s used to describe a small place of prayer). And not just any shteeble – one with two gabbis, both named Tzvi!, and a rabbi who’ll inspect your minivan for chometz before Pesach.

But I digress. I get on the bus, take a seat, and wait for the other passengers to climb aboard so we can start rolling. The last person on, an elderly woman, goes to pay but doesn’t have change. The driver allows her to sit on the bus and dig through her purse as he starts to drive. She waves in my direction to get my attention and, enunciating quite well, whispers “change?” while pointing at her bills. From her accent, I assume she is Deaf, but I don’t reply in sign in case I’m wrong. We work it out eventually; I use my metro card, she hands me cash, the driver shrugs. Done. I go back to my bag and seat, grab my newspaper, and she catches my eye – “thank you.” Without thinking, I start to sign “you’re welcome,” catch myself, and say it instead. She’s overjoyed. “You sign!”

At this point we switch languages, and she stops trying to vocalise everything. She thanks me again, tells me it’s nice to meet someone who signs. Then looks at me for a moment and asks if I’m Jewish. I confirm this. What proceeds is at best confusion, at worst hateful. She starts ranting about how this neighbourhood is so Jewish, so Jewish!, she cannot stand it. She says her family’s from Germany and the “Germans knew how to treat the Jews.” I tried to remain calm, and ask why she lives in this neighbourhood. She replies that her family moved here from Germany; “it’s safer to be surrounded by Jews.” Huh.

For those playing along at home, she (a) doesn’t like the Jews, (b) approved of Germany’s attitudes/actions towards the Jews, yet (c) believes it’s safest to live amongst Jews.

I don’t follow the logic… do you?

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Filed under: america, judaism, wtf?

5 Responses

  1. sharonaleh says:

    Maybe it has something to do with Groucho Marx’s quip about never joining a club that would have him as a member??

    Did you ask the woman why she said what she said?

  2. feygele says:

    Ha, perhaps. I was honestly just too perplexed and a little stunned to question her further. In hindsight, I should have. If I see her again…

  3. That is stunning. Reminds of me when my Crown Heights apartment was burglarized, I went door to door asking if folks had seen anything and left my phone number in case they remembered or learned anything. One lady called me later that night, a Caribbean black woman, suggesting that she “knew” the new superintendent, a Mexican, would fuck up the neighborhood. I was flabbergasted. Just couldn’t believe my ears.

  4. Arieh Lebowitz says:

    It is possible, just possible, that she’s a bit … confused.
    I’d leave it at that. Unless you meet her again and wish to delve into it further.

  5. ilanadavita says:

    Strang reaction indeed.

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