Sunday, October 24, 2010

You Know You've Made It When Someone Mistakes You for a Born Jew!

It seems like all converts wait for the day when they won't stand out. I've always been a stand-out kind of person (and I generally like it), but I'm amazed that I get happy at the idea of blending in somewhere. Aka, being mistaken for a born Jew. Unfortunately, this goal is less likely for Jews of color because of the American Jewish community's insistence on white/Askenazi-by-default. Being a redhead can make me stand out in American communities, but like many Jews of color have said, this is all TOTALLY different in Israel. I fit in, and there were even a LOT of people who looked like me! It was amazing. Talk about really feeling like you've come home!

Well, back to my smallish town with an even smaller Jewish community: I was shopping for a new purse in Target, wearing my frummiest ankle-length jean skirt when I hear a curious, "Excuse me" behind me. When I turned around, what do I discover but our Chabad rebbetzin! I don't know her very well, but after the mutual recognition and some laughing, she tells me that she hadn't recognized me from behind and was going to ask me if I'm Jewish! FTW! And from a chassid, none the less! (I don't know if there's a female version of the word chassid.) I was unabashedly proud of myself. I passed.

And about 30 minutes later, I realized that this whole episode proves that I am a nutter.


  1. Ha! I love those moments too... although a drawback for me in Israel is that coming from a very wet and cool part of the world I'm a bit paler than the norm over there. This factor seems to have no bearing when it comes to Charedim, however.

  2. BS"D

    The female form of "chasid" is "chasidah" in Hebrew and "chasidiste" in Yiddish. Anyhow, nice blog, I'll return I promise!


  3. John: Being a fellow pale person, I'm lucky to be a redhead! It's expected to be pale! But there were tons of pale redheads in Israel. Even more than in the US (except Texas, which has tons for some reason).

    VeredRoyz: Thank you so much for the vocabulary assistance and nice comments!

    1. It's because of all the Scotch-Irish immigrants that settled in Texas. :)

  4. One particular moment I'll always remember was when I was at a family gathering in a home in Zefat, and the topic of 'Jewish looks' came up in one corner. An American oleh pointed at me and said 'now this guy couldn't fake being a gentile if his life depended on it'.

    I suppose it wouldn't have mattered what I looked like - if she thought I was Jewish at first, I was always going to seem Jewish until I told her.

  5. I prefer Chassidette. It sounds exotic and mysterious, like some sort of continental yentl.

    American Jews often don't think I look Jewish at all. In Israel, I blend right in. People count me for a minyan even if I have my tzitzit tucked in and I am wearing a cap over my kippah. One guy here in Germany however continually asks me if I'm sure I'm Jewish because I have a little schnozele. As anyone will notice when they visit Israel, there is no one way to "look" Jewish.

  6. I had that moment at a Randall’s in Texas. I am a Jew-Of-Color and I was buying Matzah for Passover. An older gentleman, one person behind me, said out of the blue, “I prefer the egg matzah to the wheat matzah. What Shul do you go to?”

    I was beaming from ear to ear! No one had every assumed that I was in (mainstream) Judaism. I told him and he told me that he hadn’t been in years. I invited him to Shul and to my Torah study class.

    I am smiling as I type this. A great moment in the life of a convert!