Monday, April 09, 2007

I know I don't LOOK Jewish!



I have this purse made by the Rabbi's Daughters which has a bunch of Yiddish words on it. When I carry it, the purse always seems to solicit comments. Some people think it's cute. Some people want to know what all the words mean. Some people want to know where I got it. Some people just stare at me confused - I'm assuming it's because they are wondering what on Earth a Chinese woman is doing with a purse with Yiddish words on it.

So I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office and a woman asked me where I got it. I told her and then I told her that I bet I have made the company some money because people are always asking me where I got it. I explained that I knew several women at my shul who have bought it after they saw me with it. All of a sudden, a man on the other side of the waiting room said, "Wow - you sure don't look Jewish." He then pointed to his nose and said, "I looked Jewish but then I had my nose fixed." I just smiled and nodded my head. I was in shock at how ignorant these sterotypes sounded to me. A few minutes later he was on his cell phone whispering (but not softly enough that I couldn't hear him), "You'll never believe this but I am in the waiting room at the doctor's office with a CHINESE JEWISH WOMAN! Can you imagine that?"

Thanks to him, I know what it's like to feel like one of those acts in a freak show.


11 comments:

The Babka Nosher said...

I feel for you. While I'm not Chinese (just your average caucasian girl), I don't look typically Jewish. My married last name isn't Jewish (Hubby wasn't born an MOT). My kids are both blonde haired with blue eyes. Neither of them look typically Jewish, either. Several years ago (while shul shopping), someone approached me as asked me how I learned Hebrew - they were certain I wasn't Jewish. Everyone should have to visit the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv. They have a fabulous display of the varied faces of the Jewish people. It's an eye opener!

BTW... Love the bag!!

Tamara said...

Hey, what an odd situation to be in, but perhaps one with a hidden mitzvah? Why you ask? Because you get to constantly break people's stereotypes. It may not be a job you signed up for but we take what we got and work with it right? LOL, seriously though. I think it's great you shocked the man. Making people think is a good thing.

VJ said...

This happens with surprising frequency. I recall checking in as a frosh in college up north, and seeing a lovely very tall & thin asian looking gal from way off. As I drew closer I noticed she was talking animatedly to her gal pal, a lovely buxom blonde. As I was stopped dead in front of her, (it was some dreadful line of some sort), she drew up short and introduced herself with one of the most lovely deep south accents I'd ever heard, 'Well howdy Sugar! What's your name & where y'all from?' I was flabbergasted. Not only was she the first non Black person I met from Miss., the whole incongruity of her personage just threw myself & others into dumbfounded silly grins. There was a total sorority deal going on too with the both of them, which more than added to the strangeness as the Uni barely had any. She was better suited for Ole Miss, but momma had told her to come north to meet a 'better class of gents'. Momma was right, and I think I recall she was 'pinned' as a 2nd year Soph.

But yeah, it happnes all the time to some one! Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

Z said...

I know your consternation. I get told ALL the time that I am not Jewish and will never really BE Jewish because I don't have the "hair". Huh?????

orieyenta said...

BN - I agree - everyone should have to visit that museum!

Tamara - You're absolutely correct - it is a mitzvah to break the sterotypes and most often I enjoy doing so. Unfortunately in this instance it threw me off.

VJ - love the story, yes it does happen all the time.

Z - the "hair"? Oy - I can only imagine what that is supposed to mean!

Mel Balsamo said...

That's a nice looking bag! so where did you get it? =) I hate that when it happens! I don't look Jewish myself.I'm part Italian, so that that kinda raises eyebrows too when they learn that I'm Jewish. Where living in a multi-cultural world, it sad that most people has not accepted this yet.

Mel Balsamo
JRomances.com

Ro said...

Hey I get that too. I'm an Italian Jew (Sephardic) so I hear jokes about the kosher mafia all the time.

Just ignore people like that.

Yo, Yenta said...

Orienyenta, I'm so sorry, that guy was an insensitive lout. Fortunately, you seem blessed with a good humor and an easily forgiving nature. I think you must attract a lot of attention for being a tall Jewish Chinese woman, but I imagine you handle it with a lot of grace. Like you say, you break many stereotypes at once, and it ain't an easy thing. But yes, us humans are embarrassingly attached to our stereotypes.

Me, I'm always told I look "exotic", which means someone is probing to find out what my slanted eyes and high cheekbones are all about. I get guesses for Native American and Mexican when I have a tan, Italian and French...when I tell people I'm Jewish by way of Eastern Europe, the worse of 'em cock their heads and mutter "Hmm, no, you don't look Jewish." What-EVER, as my son would say - who doesn't look Jewish so much yet.

orieyenta said...

Mel - I agree - it's sad that people don't "get" the whole muti-cultural thing.

Ro - I usually ignore people like this. But for some strange reason this guy threw me for a loop.

Yenta - You ARE exotic! And it's one of the things I love about you. It's a funny thing - the whole "you don't look Jewish" thing never comes into my head whenever I meet someone who is not sterotypically Jewish looking.

rivkayael said...

I've had kids mutter "what's the mamzer doing here" when I sat down next to them in shul...the kids were maybe at fault. But they must have learnt those mindsets from adults around them. Needless to say, I never went back to that shul again. Although the Chinese side reared its head when I tore through Gristedes looking for soy sauce (not bagels, not veggie pizza) first thing after I got back to NYC yesterday...

Amishav said...

UGH. I'm sorry. That must have been really annoying, but it is a cool purse! I'm sure you carry it well.