Spotting The Jew
Updated: Mar 22, 2021
Rabbi Becher coined the term “bageling”: The moment you realize someone is Jewish and you want them to know you are too.
Gavin was on a flight. After his kosher food was delivered to him, the squirming guy next to him said, “You think I am not Jewish? Let me tell you. I vas in the var; I vas in the camps.” Gavin had not yet spoken a word but this man was bageling and wanted it to be known he was Jewish.
I was at a show in NYC and, as is the custom of the place, we were squeezed like sardines at a table. The couple next to us was from Israel and they bageled. They wanted us to know they were MOTT – Members of the Tribe.
I was recently asked to talk to a group of Chasidic women who had participated in a business course. So I went to Borough Park by train, and–my luck–sat next to a Chasidic man. At some point I realized that I was not sure which stop to get off. There was one Jew in my carriage and I was hoping he would actually speak to a woman. I explained that I had missed my stop and was lost. No bageling needed–he knew I was a Jewish damsel in distress. I had actually missed my stop and he insisted on getting off the train at the stop and walked me through the station to the correct place to get on the right train. There was very limited communication–just a recognition that I was a Jewish woman in a rough neighborhood.
On my recent trip to Morocco, we were constantly astounded by how the merchants knew we were Jewish. We would look at art work and the store owner would say, “Shalom Alechem”, or we would be walking down a street and the a kid would say “synagogue”. They were able to spot the Jew. In Jordan, we were travelling in a private car, two South Africans and no identifiable Jewish clothes or insignia. At each stop, the soldiers would discuss us with the driver and say “yehud”.
This incident made me think back to a time when being spotted as “the Jew” was less friendly. I was travelling with a group of friends in a mountain town in Greece. We booked into a pension on a Friday and started planning for Shabbat. The owner asked where we were from and one mentioned Israel. Ten minutes later, the owner came to the door insisting we leave his words “NO JEWS”. It was five minutes before Shabbat and when we pleaded, he became aggressive and soon his son, nephews, whoever, were standing around. We were a bunch of women and were truly feeling threatened so we were forced to checkout on Shabbat and wander the streets looking for a new pension.
Metroimmas, do you wear your Judaism on your sleeve? If not, do people usually assume you are Jewish? Share your stories here…
Originally posted: April 13, 2011