There are some things I can now take without batting an eyelash. Like the following exchange:
Greg: “You won’t eat that candy? There’s nothing unkosher in it.”
Me: “How do you know? They aren’t required to list things that go in trace amounts.”
Greg: “You really care about little things like that?”
Me: [jokingly] “Well I’m very Jewish.”
Greg: “What does that mean? You pick up pennies in the subway?”
Okay, note to self: use “religious” instead of “Jewish” in the future.
Then there was the time I was reading the book, Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, during off time in the lounge. Naturally, it raised a few eyebrows. Jews + Pirates? Gotta be kidding. But Joey just looked at the cover and sniggered. “There must be good stuff in there about them fighting over coins,” he said.
“That’s mean,” I said.
“Yeah, well,” he replied.
Seriously. Why do I hang out with these people? Oh right – they’re helpful when I can’t figure out my homework.
Then there was the time Greg swore that Oreo cream is made of lard, and they fool the rabbis because they’re not there all the time. His point? I might as well eat non-kosher because I was eating it already. At first I argued. Then I remembered that there’s no point in arguing with conspiracy theorists. They tend to be off their nut.
So now I take those things in stride. But I was thrown off by the following little exchange:
Me: So what do you do for fun, besides watch the Simpsons and South Park?
Greg: Race cars.
Joey: Race cars? Like really race them?
Greg: Yep. Do you have a license? Well, not you Frumgirl, you don’t drive, but Joey?
Me: Hey, hey, wait a sec. I don’t drive?
Greg: You do?
Me: I’m not Amish. I drive. I even own a car.
A split second later my brain caught up with my mouth and I realized that you don’t have to be Amish to not drive; you could be Satmar. And the average irreligious Russian Jew (Greg) has had more of a run-in with chassidim than litvaks, leaving them with the impression that Jews are 500 years out of style, don’t speak English fluently, and abide by many more rules than we actually do. Indeed, I have been often told that I’m obviously a “liberal kind of Jew” because I’m not married, don’t obsess over Israel, and don’t shout “antisemitism” every time something goes wrong. It’s interesting to see what an outsider’s criteria of a “strict Jew” is.