Frumgirl 1: How do YOU React?

Now that Succos is over, school is back in full force, with a full force of situations that just make you blink several times and wonder what, exactly, just happened.

“Hey, take a look at this,” I told an amicable Muslim classmate. He and I are on pretty good terms these days. Once you get past a few glaring differences, he’s actually more alike us than non-religious folk.

I was referring to that new article in the New York magazine. This one, to be exact. The one where it oh-so-flatteringly accepts for granted that New York Jews control the economy. The one where we are urged to happily return to our corner Delis, neighborhood bagel shops, and impecunious origins since our power has been Vanquished. I wanted his opinion on it. I wanted to see if he picked up on the same subtle threads reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Turns out he does. Homes in on it like a heat-seeking missile.

“The glass towers of midtown Manhattan are filled with Jewish magicians who manipulate abstract symbols that shape the contents of people’s characters and opinions as well as the contents of their wallets and can seemingly be transformed at will into other markers of value in a dizzying progression that destroys the certainties of blood and soil on which life is founded for ordinary villagers…” he reads aloud, pausing in the middle so it doesn’t sound quite so much like an endless run-on, until he stops and laughs, “this is so true!”

And then he looks at me with camaraderie, with an I’d-nudge-you-with-my-elbow-here-if-I-could look he was so quick to develop to accommodate me, like he expects me agree with him.

I don’t. “Shush!” I tell him, for lack of anything better surfacing in the gobble-de-gook soup that used to be a functioning mind. “Jews do not control the economy. Think logically!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Except it was obvious that he didn’t, and was just trying to placate me.

And by the time I figured out what I could say to him on the topic, it was time to go back to class.

So how do you react to flippant, friendly antisemitism?

Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 11:43 AM  Comments (17)  

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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I havent heard of that New Yorker article, and I do find it a bit shocking,to be sure. As for Muslims, classmates, they love me, they all do. And I’ve pretty much accepted that they assume I’ll do well because I’m Jewish, so they try and get in group projects with me.

    As for anti-semitism, it never really came up. The most awkward thing I had was after my friend from school, who is a Bengali Muslim watched The Pianist, he called me up and asked “so why did Hitler hate the Jews?”

  2. I don’t know that I would actually see this as anti-semitism; if the same exchange had happened with a Jewish classmate, would you? Maybe I’m just missing something in the exchange. However, generally I do react the same way you did. What can you do besides deny and reeducate, the same with any form of discrimination/misinformation out there?

  3. Wow, my comment is unreadable. I need to stop using my in-head grammar and stick to standard grammar and punctuation.

  4. Just to clarify, Frumgirl 1: This article was not in _The New Yorker_, a respected literary-political publication that has been around for almot 200 years and has a wide readership among educated folks. It was in _New York_, a snarky publication that is deliberately provocative about Jewish subjects (as well as wealth, sex, and wealthy people having sex), and that is read with a wink and a nod even by most of its subscribers. That doesn’t mean the article isn’t offensive. It just means that not as many people take it as seriously as you might think.

  5. We do control the economy. And when Moshiach comes all the goyim will be our slaves. We wont have to work, we will be able to sit in kollel all day long.(I wonder what all the women will be doing?)And when ever anything bad in the world happens, it is because one Jew sinned one time too many.
    “Ata Buchartunu Mikol HaAmim”

  6. Katrina: Thanks! I fixed that.

    Child Ish: Shush! We DO NOT control the economy! Think logically! That’s impossible. And if we did, we’d do a better job!

  7. This is disturbing and unfortunate. Bias and bigotry however exists in every culture. I guess it would be much easier if the trash of the world were confined to one particular subsection of humanity, but that is not the case.

    My particular reaction to bigotry, not just antisemitism, has always been to say quite evenly, “I had always thought you an intelligent and enlightened person, I have unfortunately lost any and all respect I ever had for you.” When I first moved to Israel and was Yeshiva hopping, trying to find a good Yeshiva, I actually dropped this line on a Rosh Yeshiva, after he made some particularly nasty comments about people of African origin, but that is another story.

  8. Problem is, I still have plenty of respect for the Muslim guy in question. We’re still on friendly terms. He’s arguably the smartest person in my class (perhaps second to the tuna beigel,) and he’s always helped me when I needed it.

  9. Whether or not we do, nows not the time to say we do…

  10. First off, the New Yorker has not been around for almost 200 years, it was founded in the 1920s. (The magazine as we know it first became popular in the mid-19th century – Harper’s and The Atlantic were among the earliest.)

    As far as your Muslim classmate – if he expected you to agree, can you really call it anti-Semitism?

    Finally, what struck me about that article was the author, who says he grew up in Brooklyn, doesn’t seem to recognize any form of Orthodoxy aside from Modern Orthodox and Lubavitch. What are the rest of us, chopped liver?

  11. “As far as your Muslim classmate – if he expected you to agree, can you really call it anti-Semitism?”

    Yes, totally. If you walk over to a black person and say something bigoted like you expect them to agree with you, it’s still bigotry.

  12. I don’t usually encounter antisemitism because I’m so obviously Jewish, but I know other people who have. One irreligious guy was sitting in a Student Council meeting listening the the vice president (!!!) rant on about how rotten Jews are and how she hates them all. After a few minutes he goes, “But you like me, don’t you?”
    Gibbering followed.

    And Joe tells me that his best friend promises that when it comes to an all-out between Muslims and Jews, he’s taking the Muslim side. With friends like those…

    re the New York article:
    I liked this paragraph most so far: “It can also be read as the tragedy of a group of brilliant outsiders who remade a city in their own image, only to cut themselves off from the roots of their tribal genius, ensuring that the future will belong to the children of the new outsiders—Koreans, Indians, Russians, and Chinese.”
    Too, too true.

  13. I think it would be different if it was Jewish classmate. A disproportionate amount of Jews go into law and finance and the rest of the stuff in the shining towers of Manhattan, so it seems to us as if there are a lot of Jews in law and investing. However, Jews do not comprise a disproportionate percentage of the financiers, investors, lawyers, etc of the city. Therefore, for an outsider to say that Jews control law and finance in the city – a good deal of that perception has to come from the Elders of Zion stereotype. Heck – you might as well say that Indians “control” computer systems in NYC.

    Re the article: the author seems to have failed to notice that Jews are still winning Nobel Prizes every now and then. And we’re not going to crawl back into poverty just to win a few more. 😀 I’d rather have financial comfort than cultural impact. What a silly thesis.

  14. …though we do seem to have Jewish mayor who has gotten bored of running a zillion-dollar investment corporation and seems determined to run our city as a permanent hobby instead…

  15. The thing is, my advice is not to start up discussions like this with people who are not Jewish. Why? It’s like asking for an argument.

  16. I hear a lot of stereotypes from non-Jews (mostly gleaned from Fiddler OTR), but rarely have experiences like the one you did. I was called an effing Yid by an Arab guy today on the streets of Jerusalem (a first for me). Oh, once an old man (a stranger) was talking up my husband in a public place (a mall, I think) and mentioned “Jewing” the guy down on his car purchase. Dh just stared really hard at him for a while, but he never seemed to notice and just kept on like nothing. I chalk that up to his being from the same generation that killed all the “damn Japs” in WW2.

  17. Theres a difference between over-representation and control.

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