Frumgirl 5: The Natives Know

Break from class found us again in heated discussion. And again, as usual, us frumgirls were featured in the center of a highly curious questioning session. This time it was about Jewish Holidays.

One frumgirl, who awes me with her ability to explain even the most confusing of Jewish concepts in ways that make me want to convert to Judaism all over again, was leading the conversation. “Imagine,” (and I butcher it trying to replicate what she said,) “having Thanksgiving dinner every single week…Fresh, fragrant food, your family sitting around the table together sharing in one another’s company, the warm, comfortable atmosphere… That’s what the Sabbath is like. Every week.”

The rest of the girls and women in the group (no guys there that day) sit in varying degrees of interest, with the most enraptured of them all being the Catholic Latina girl we’ll call Gabriella. Gabi is fascinated with us, but until coming into graduate school, never really knew much about Orthodoxy, or any Judaism for that matter (“So you don’t believe in Jesus?!” That was before Judaism 101.)

Anyhow, that day we were discussing different wonderful aspects of being Jewish. This time, Sue takes center stage. Sue is as non-affiliated as they come. She’s not Jewish or Christian or Muslim or anything. Sue is just…Sue. Jeans and spaghetti-strap tanktops and bicycle helmet and all. So Sue pipes up, “Hey, I once went to my friend for one of the Jewish holiday dinners!”

“Cool!” a few of us chorus. “Which one?”

“No clue,” she shrugs. “Some holiday with a lot of little plates.”

After a few minutes of confused pondering on our end, one of us thinks to ask her if it was Passover.

“Yeah! That was it! It was cool.”

Then Gabi, eager to have her position back, asks what kind of special food we have on the Sabbath and holidays. Try explaining potato kugel and gefilte fish to a bunch of kids who just heard you exclaiming how amazing your Jewish food is. Our spokesgirl begins talking about the delicious challah when Sue interrupts.

“Yeah, you have gefilte fish.”

The rest of us are aghast.

I turn to her looking perplexed, but pleasantly surprised. “Sue, how in the world do you know what gefitle fish is?”

Looking slightly insulted-as if it should have been so obvious to us-Sue states matter-of-factly. “Frumgirl5, of course I know what gefilte fish is. I’m from Brooklyn”

Go figure…

Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 6:43 PM  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. They sell gefilte fish in jars (not the way to eat it, of course, but Manischewitz will be Manischewitz) in the supermarket in every major east coast city. It is one of those Jewish cultural items that has permeated New York-area consciousness. Being affiliated has nothing to do with it.

  2. I thought I was the only one who explained shabbat like Thanksgiving to non-Jews. I usually follow-up by saying…Since I moved more into the Jewish community, I’ve gained 10-pounds…Go figure!

  3. Being thrust into secular Brooklyn isn’t really that big of a deal….

  4. I find it amazing that you end up speaking about Jewish concepts at every corner in your college, in the college that I go to, Brooklyn College I never get apporached or even have discussions about anything Jewish, I assume it is because everyone 7-10 % in BC is practically Jewish including a large % of professors so no one find it abnormal or interesting. I Actually don’t find the need to discuss my religion or beliefs with any non-jews after I argued my brains out with a missionary and found that the non-jews couldn’t care less what we believe as we don’t care about theirs.

  5. Anon,
    Exactly. Hence the point of this blog.

    I’m really not the type who runs around saying “I love Judaism!!” to all the people on campus. They sorta come and find us. I have no interest converting anyone, (nor should we be doing that), but they ask, so we answer. And hey, I’d much rather talk about Judaism than Buddhism or Islam (Though those discussions happen too…)

  6. re: the gefilte fish…I had a non-Jewish professor in college who mentioned that his mother used to make gefilte fish Xmas Eve, strangely enough…he was from NY, though.

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