I had an interesting experience this morning.
I drove my son to a town about 20 minutes away to take his road test. When we arrived I had to get out of the car and wait outside. I decided to walk into the nearby Mobile station to use the Men’s room. The room was situated inside the building, but down a short hall off to the side of a food kiosk. When I came out of the bathroom I said a blessing under my breath and then headed the ten feet down the hall to the kiosk. And there, just before I turned the bend, was a man telling the Indian lady behind the counter taking his order, “The Jews are taking over.”
He was a 50ish, graying, well-dressed man and as he said the words “taking over” I emerged from the hall. He obviously didn’t realize I was there until that moment and looked a bit mortified for a moment when he saw me.
I didn’t have time to react. In that flash of a second I think I considered all the alternatives between just walking past him silently to cursing him out. What I ended up doing was saying very cooly the following: “Well, thanks for telling me that. I didn’t know.”
And I walked past.
Later, when I saw my son return, I walked out of the kiosk and saw this guy getting into his car. It was a very nice luxury car. Mine is a beat-up economy car. But I’m taking over the world.
In any event, I’m not naive. Believe me, I’m well aware of anti-Semitism. However, this is the first time I’ve experienced it directly in more than ten years, as best as I can remember.
I don’t necessarily have anything more the say now other than relating that.
On the other hand, it is interesting that just yesterday I heard Rabbi Orlowek on a tape talk about how he reacted to a couple of incidents of anti-Semitism directed at him: “As long as it doesn’t touch me it’s his problem, not mine… I know I have something inside. A Jew who does not have any connection to Judaism [gets terribly upset, on the other hand]…. It’s like a person who walks into a store to buy something, puts money down on the counter and walks out. It’s a terrible feeling: to pay money and walk out without the merchandise. [Being Jewish but having no connection to Judaism] is analogous to putting money down and not walking out with the product. I have the product. I know I have to ‘pay.’ I’m not crushed over the fact that they don’t like me. Because I know I have something. It’s true I’m paying a price. But I have something. I have the product.”
I don’t know if I lived up to this madrega this morning that Rabbi Orlowek talks about. I think I was a little incensed. Maybe a little more than a little. And certainly it reminds one of countless mussar shmeussim about how insecure the Jew is in the world; how Esav hates Yaakov, even as he dresses in a nice suit and acts politely toward you; how thin is the membrane separating us from real anti-Semitism; how we have to remember we only have our Father in Heaven to rely upon. And so forth.
But it was unnerving. At least for a moment. Baruch Hashem I have Rabbi Orlowek to listen to. Baruch Hashem I have him to remind me that I have the product. And that even though it comes with a price it’s better to have the product than not.
Baruch Hashem we lived blessed lives, much more secure than our great grandparents. May we never forget that and may Hashem continue to protect us and consider us having paid for and earned that protection.
As for the special connection between Hashem and the Jewish people, he viewed the relationship as that of an infinitely patient special-ed teacher with a hopelessly maldeveloped, maladjusted child. That is, he gave us all of these mitzvos to get us up to speed with everyone else.
Yes, this is like the “God rejected the evil Jews and chose the righteous Romans instead” argument used by Xtians. Just as it is of little use to point out to such Xtians how evil the Romans were it’s probably of little use to cite even a portion of the history of Islam’s brutality toward others and themselves (e.g. Sunni vs. Shia). You could also mention the current day slaughter of black, non-Muslim Africans at the hands of Arab Muslims, but he sounds like a true believer, and logic has very little chance to alter his viewpoint.
However, in the end, arguably the best thing is to leave the person be and remember the “famous” censored Rambam that Xtianity and Islam are part of Hashem’s plans to spread the basic tenets of Judaism — e.g. monotheism — to the farthest reaches of the planet. For whatever reason, this guy would probably not hear it if it was a choice between Judaism and Paganism. So, despite the horrible things that have been and continue to be done in the name of his religion, and despite the distorted knowledge of Judaism his religion preaches, the world is moving closer to Mashiach because people like him find, as you say, kernals of the truth in it, kernals he is apparently not capable of getting without it. When Mashiach comes those kernals will stand and the ones he distorted will become undistorted.
Thanks for the ideas. At the time, I used the second approach you mentioned, but was a little unsatisfied. I think he probably interpreted the point I had made about the unusual honesty of the Torah as simply corroborating his view that “even the Torah talks about how awful the Jews are to their prophets.” As for the special connection between Hashem and the Jewish people, he viewed the relationship as that of an infinitely patient special-ed teacher with a hopelessly maldeveloped, maladjusted child. That is, he gave us all of these mitzvos to get us up to speed with everyone else. I think what’s must upsetting is that these ideas have a kernel of truth from ma’marei chazal, but then are interpreted and distorted in the worst way possible. Again, just goes to show that there’s very little you can do to have an honest conversation with this kind of person. The best you can hope for is to merely score rhetorical points.
The funny thing is that the conversation was quite civil, and long (around 15 minutes). He clearly has been taught that Islam is a way for the opressed non-whites to come under one roof to resist White Racist Colonial Oppression. As such, he probably thought that he might have a chance to bring me over to his side.
I actually encountered more anti-semitism before I began wearing a kippah than I have since. I guess it is because I could have been mistaken for “one of them” and I got to overhear things. I wonder what other BT’s experiences are with the aspect of becoming immediately recognized as a Jew? (I say BT’s only because they have something to compare it to) Anyone? I do get some stares now on occasion, as wearing a kippah is more of a rarity up here.
That’s the question: to retort or not to retort. In my case, as I said above, I wanted to make a statement, not a scene. And, in retrospect, I think I did that, even if I just acted instinctively, not necessarily having that in mind when I responded.
If someone has an emotional attachment to an issue no amount of reasoning will change them (at least not immediately). Their questions are really answers formed in the way of questions. In most cases, there is nothing to do with the type of guy you described.
However… if I felt there was a possibility of having a civil conversation with him, and that he might be open to some type of reason, I might have responded to his question like this: “You respect Moses and J-sus. Don’t you know they were Jewish? Why do you throw blanket blame on the people who produced them? Do you perhaps still do that now? Are you perhaps stereotyping all Jews and lumping them into one homogeneous group you hate?”
The next level of discussion with Muslims of this type is to understand that they are taught the Jews are evil for rejecting those whom they consider prophets. Of course, the main one they are concerned most about it Mohammed. However, they will point to passages in Tanach when Jews rejected or even murdered a prophet.
That’s true. The Gemara we read on Tisha B’av, for example, suggests that one of the reasons the Temple was destroyed was for murdering the prophet Zechariah.
However, when Muslims use this argument they are being disingenuous. They are using a double-standard. First, if you know a little about Muslim history each others’ factions have been murdering their leaders since the beginning (as is evident today in Iraq and Gaza, to name just two places).
Second, the Torah is unique in that it does not spare Jews or Jewish leaders from criticism. People have free will. And sometimes people use their free will to go against God’s. However, nowhere does it say that God rejected or would reject the Jews for their mistakes. To the contrary, there are many verses that we will never be rejected (e.g. Vayikra 26:44; the whole incident of the Golden Calf: God sends Moses for a second set of tablets even after that). But, yes, at times the Jews did go astray.
Third, to us, rejection of true prophets is in no way comparable to rejection of J-sus. We do not believe in J-sus and Xtianity for a number of reasons (e.g. Devarim 13 and all the other proofs). Rejecting a person claiming to be a prophet or the messiah, but who does not fulfill the Torah’s prerequisites, is what the Torah tells us to do. It is not against God’s will.
You can’t get into those types of arguments unless you are really familiar with them. And even then it is probably not advisable in most cases. But it would be good to at least familiarize oneself with the different ways of answering these questions and knowing them when the anti-Semite confronts you.
I could have really unloaded an invective of sources and arguments on this chap, but didn’t. In retrospect, I’m very glad I didn’t.
From Bob Miller:
“As for the Imams: We’re on the winning side; they haven’t got a prayer.”
Maybe in the long, really long, run. But for the foreseeable future things are going to get a lot more Islamic before they get better. Europe is already gone. Things are about to change drastically in the US as the Moslem minority organizes and finds it’s voice.
A good read on the subject is Mark Steyn’s “America Alone”.
“…the rules of prudence still apply.”
“No doubt…but does that mean sheeping acquiesence across-the-board?
It means know what you’re up against before reacting. Pick your spots.
As for the Imams: We’re on the winning side; they haven’t got a prayer.
I recently had a rare encouter with a true-blue anti-semite. It was a futile effort. The guy was a second-generation Honduran/Mexican who converted to Islam after serving in the first Gulf War. His interesting background aside, our conversation revealed how much his Imams have filled him with hateful garbage about Jews over the years. When we talked about the recent war in Lebanon and Israel’s history in general, every piece of information I brought to delegitimize Hizbullah or defend Israel was summarily dismissed as Zionist propaganda. He looked at me with pity saying how thoroughly I’ve been duped by “the Zionists” (a note of explanation: Even though I had my yarmulke on, I don’t look Caucasian so he assumed that I’m not a Zionist/Colonialist Opressor, just one of their patsies). Of course he wouldn’t even consider the possibility that he may have been duped by his teachers. What was even more amazing was that he eventually started talking about how Jews are intrinsically mean and degenerate people. I still clearly remember a rhetorical question he asked: “If Jews argued with and abused even saintly individuals like Moses and Jesus, how can you expect them to get along with anyone?” That question really threw me for a loop. I must admit that I didn’t have a clever retort like Yakov (any suggestions?). The whole episode really opened my eyes to how much hate is being taught at Mosques in this country.
If someone says something that has anti-semtic inuendo and your feeling is that communicating with them will help, wonderful. but if the person is stam azoi an anti-semite, I think the best approach is to act (and feel) that you have been slighty by a tree or a puppy or a rock. “They are mere probs in the play of life (placed here for my benefit) while I am one of the leading actors. I am not bothered by them and will calmly ignore them.”
“Since we are living in Golus, the rules of prudence still apply.”
No doubt, and one has to use his head as well as his heart but does that mean sheeping acquiesence across-the-board?
And the question to Michoel is do we have to let our dignity get trampled each and every time? Once again one has to exercise common sense but one can question the absolutist approach to seem to support.
Maybe Menachem’s interpretation of events is on the mark but my questions relate more to the idea in general.
Interesting. I agree with the observation about more Jewishly-committed Jews being less concerned by anti-Semitism.
I’ve notices something parallel going on with a different issue: my mother is increasingly incensed by Jewish men marrying non-Jewish women. She finds it terrifying and offensive on some basic level, and strangely it doesn’t cut both ways–my dad isn’t Jewish. I won’t psychoanalyze, but it really bothers her. She feels like these men are selling out and insulting Jewish women by their choices.
But I don’t feel the same way. What Jewishly committed person would marry a non-Jew? And what free-thinking and Jewishly apathetic person wouldn’t?
Since we are living in Golus, the rules of prudence still apply.
My point is that in might not have been specific anti-semitism at all, just thoughtlessness or maybe a little generic xenophobia, which, yes, even orthodox Jews are known to spout on occasion using the very phrase that you overheard.
You have to be careful. Not fearful but sensible. The guy could call up his 1st cousing the mafioso on his cell phone and someone could get hurt. I wouldn’t stare down goyim.
No one said anything about “virulent” anti-Semitism. This was more the type of anti-Semitism, IMO, of the polite German, the one who has a lot, is jealous of Jews whom he thinks has more, stays quiet while he watches the Nazis shatter storefronts of Jews and take them away, and then after the war exclaims his complete shock at what the Nazis did to the Jews, and claims he knew nothing.
Then, again, he may have been the type that became an active Nazi or had a kid in the SS that he was proud of.
In any event, I wouldn’t necessarily classify his anti-Semitism as the “virulent” strain. I would reserve that for Nazis, skinheads, Islamic fanatics, etc.
i heard that LBJ reportedly said regarding the definition of anti-Semitism: “An anti-Semite is someone who hates Jews too much.”
Everyone has it. Someone who expresses it so loudly in a food kiosk like he did may arguably cross the line and fall into that definition. It’s one thing to think it and another thing to express it in public, albeit even though he did not reach the next level.
Do you know what the guy’s reaction was after you said what you said? What about the Indian lady?
I walked past as I said it and intentionally didn’t look. But I didn’t walk out of the kiosk. I puttered around the soft drink aisle for a couple of minutes (about 15 ft away from the front counter). The guy didn’t say anything during that time. I got the feeling he was more embarrassed and ashamed of himself. But maybe not. In any event, I decided I didn’t want to make a scene, just a statement. And that I did.
The Indian lady behind the counter was completely stoic. I imagine that she was thinking something along the lines, “What does this bigot say about the Indian people behind our back?” If she wasn’t thinking that she should have.
After my puttering around for a couple of minutes I saw the guy getting into his car. I stared at him as I passed by about 25 feet away. He made believe I wasn’t there. But he saw me.
Again, what I was trying to do, in retrospect, was make a statement, not a scene. Believe me, I wanted to blast this guy. Even a small blast. Shortly afterward, I thought about saying to him, “Sir, I personally invite you to our next Protocols of Zion meeting, and you will see we for yourself that we have no plans to take over the world at this time.”
But who knows.
A little more seriously. I’m not sure you can read virulent anti-Semitism into the words you overheard. Without information about the specific area in which this occurred it’s hard to draw conclusions. But there are places, certainly in the NY metro area where this could really be a statement of fact.
I grew up on the Jersey shore near Deal. When I was very young, Deal was primarily a wealthy Christian town. Within about 10 years it was literally overrun by Sephardic Jews and at last count had over 10 shuls, mikvaot, kosher restaurants, etc.
A long-time non-Jewish, or even Jewish, resident would not be a flaming anti-Semite if he was overheard as saying that, “the Jews are taking over”.
Believe me as someone who has made Aliyah and thinks you all should do the same I’d like nothing more than to tell you that there’s an anti-Semite waiting around every corning who wants to throw you in a gas chamber. But that’s not the reality. Sure there are real anti-Semites in America, but overall it’s probably been the most benevolent country Jews have ever lived in.
Could that change on a dime were some huge catastrophe, C”V, to hit the US, sure. But I don’t think it benefits anyone to look for anti-Semitism were it doesn’t necessarily exist.
I agree with Fern’s idea that debate is futile and pointlessly taxing.
Martin’s statement “I might have just ignored the guy and not said anything”
That’s probably the most even-tempered advice.
However, I haven’t forgotten the experience when I walked past a Catholic school and some teen punk shouted out the window “Are you a Jew?” and then hid.
Don’t know what came over me but I literally screamed “Yeah I am! Does someone have a problem with that?!” His reappearance in the window was likely an instinctual response to finding out what the noise was and he really looked surprised when he saw the source of it staring right at him.
Taken off guard he stammered some kind of response like “Uh..no..that’s..cool” and that was from the safety of his turf and his building!
Don’t know if my response was the most mature one but I have to admit it was cathartic and it was great not to subsequently have to be burdened by and seethe over it like the author of this article seems to.
Of course, reponses depend on the circumstances.
This reminds me of a joke.
A story is told of a Jewish man who was riding on the subway reading an Arab newspaper. A friend of his, who happened to be riding in the same subway car, noticed this strange phenomenon. Very upset, he approached the newspaper reader.
“Moshe, have you lost your mind? Why are you reading an Arab newspaper?”Moshe replied, “I used to read the Jewish newspaper, but what did I find? Jews being persecuted, Israel being attacked, Jews disappearing through assimilation and intermarriage, Jews living in poverty. So I switched to the Arab newspaper. Now what do I find? Jews own all the banks, Jews control the media, Jews are all rich and powerful, Jews rule the world. The news is so much better!”
Maybe it was a compliment. :)
That’s exactly why I posted opinion #1 first, and then thought about my second opinion. You are not going to change the guys’ mind anyway. I mean, you feel pride for being Jewish, and would want to defend being Jewish, but, sometimes you just have to walk away, I guess, as unfortunate as that is. But it is a bit shocking here in the USA that this would come up as it did!
Martin–I’m not exactly sure that having a rational debate with an anti-semite would be productive. Someone who is so clearly basing their opinions on paranoia and hatred is unlikely to respond well to logic and facts. Unfortunately, because of where I grew up, I have dealt with more than a few anti-semites and I have yet to meet one who responds well to reason. On the contrary, trying to discuss their “concerns” calmly and matter-of-factly seems to confirm their belief that there is some sort of widespread conspiracy among Jews to take over the world while no one is looking.
Yakov mentions that he had not encountered outright anti-semetism in a number of years. When one goes in public with a yarmulke and maybe a beard as well, it tends to filter out a lot of anti-semetism. When non-Orthodox Jews dress indentically as the general population, they may actual hear many more anti-semetic comments than we do. This can have a negative impact on theri Jewish self-esteem.
This man is, in a way, correct that we are in control, even if we drive lemons and they drive cadillacs.
On the other hand, if you had time, and could debate this guy rationally (even if what he said was irrational), you could have asked for specifics: “I respectfully disagree with you. How are the Jews taking over the world? Explain. Give examples.”
That was a good answer. I might have just ignored the guy and not said anything. But it would have stayed with me as an insult. But, as Rabbi Shaifer of TBT has said in his Shmuz on Pesach, “people believe what they want to believe”. The good non-Jews will believe the truth, while the not-so-good and bad non-Jews will believe what this man said. It’s a wonder that when the guy saw you, he didn’t go “oops, sorry!”
Unfortunately, this situation has been going on since the days of Yaakov & Esau, and probably will until Mashiach comes, may he come speedily in our time.
Do you know what the guy’s reaction was after you said what you said? What about the Indian lady?
Yaakov Astor, quite the disconcerting gas station banter. About that product though,the most troubling part of that product owning or acquiring is the lack of customer service or custome care should parts start snapping , wilting withering or just plain getting dehydrated or too much hydration.And many times the little or not so little instruction phamlet only has the foreign language parts included.So say for instance you acquired this lofty product holiday time all wrapped up pretty in sparkle glitter and plenty of ènergy. But once you start using this product after the holiday season when the bitter cold is not broken by pretty çolorrd holiday lights you begin to realize that although it does seem like the “boruch hasheming”kind of world out there (when on acid and tripping mostly)at the end of the day its really just the end user and the defective comlicated unhappy product.And no customer service phone numbers or email address. Its not that sort of fixable defect. Anyway that’s my take on this product thing.