Catching Bagels

It’s probably happened to most of us. You’re out somewhere, it could be at work, a museum, a park or anywhere else, and someone walks over and throws you a bagel. If you’re lucky it isn’t frozen. Well, I’m not really talking about that kind of a bagel. “Being Bageled” is a phrase that, while not coined by him, is becoming popularized by Rabbi Mordechai Becher. It’s basically when a person who is not visually identifiable as being Jewish (at least in their own eyes) says something to you so that you know that they too are Jewish.

Example: I was sitting at a real estate closing when the buyer walked in with 4-5 additional family members. The buyer’s attorney turned to me and whispered “Oy, they brought the gantza mishpachah!”

Rabbi Becher tells a hilarious Bagel story. He was traveling in Budapest when a couple of tourists approached him and asked how to find a certain marketplace. Rabbi Becher pointed the way and one of the tourists said “Thanks a lot. You know what, we’ve been wandering around for a while, we wouldn’t want to be wandering around for forty years like last time!”

Why do people bagel? Is it because they are looking for commonality? Friendship? Something else? How do you respond to a bagel? A shmear and some lox? A discussion of where the person is from? Something else? Rabbi Becher says that being bageled is siyata deshmaya (divine providence) but how we react to the bagel is part of our “free will” and can often be quite critical. Anybody out there have a good bagel story or some good insights on the bagel phenomenon?

Originally Post May 15th 2008

12 comments on “Catching Bagels

  1. Isn’t bageling a kin of Jewish Geography? Does every ethnic group have this need to find a common denominator? Like my cousin’s in-laws who went to the country with your neighbors cousins? I think, from what I’m told by my coworkers, that people from India also play this game a lot.

  2. As the person who “coined” the term “bagel theory” and “bageling” I am so glad it is getting so much “play” and am happy that it makes people think and perhaps allows them to be better people and to come closer with Hashem.

  3. I think the bageling phenomenon has to do with wanting not to feel isolated as a Jew. I bet most of these bagel stories take place in areas with very few, if any, Jews around.

    Ehh, I don’t think there is any correlation between size of the Jewish community and frequency of bageling. I live in the LA area, the second largest Jewish community in the U.S. and I often feel compelled to let someone I know is Jewish that I am Jewish too. Likewise, people do the same to me. Even in a large Jewish community, it is readily apparent that Jews are a tiny minority.

    I actually think that the larger the Jewish community, the more bageling occurs, because there is more opportunity and the bageler thinks that there is a higher liklihood that the bagelee is Jewish.

  4. Actually, I am usually the bagel-or rather than the bagel-ee.

    I don’t wear what my [modern Orthodox] rabbi calls ‘the uniform’, so whenever I visit a more frummy neighborhood for a shiur or for kosher shopping I will sometimes approach, well, what we call ‘black-hats’ to ask directions, or, say, “Where do you find Pesach mayonnaise around here?”

  5. I find it sometimes happens when walking to shul on Shabbos.(for example, by someone putting something in their trunk or jogging by) It is usually the “Shabbat Shalom” greeting but it has taken on other iterations. If it is on the way back, I have sometimes tried to get them for the meal (not the joggers) but never successful so far.

    PS We mostly have Lender’s here so they only hold so much cream cheese.

  6. While it’s probably likely that bageling is more prominent in areas that have a smaller Jewish population, it’s certainly not limited to those areas. I’ve been bageled numerous times in the heart of New York City!

  7. I think the bageling phenomenon has to do with wanting not to feel isolated as a Jew. I bet most of these bagel stories take place in areas with very few, if any, Jews around. No matter how assimilated most Jews are, there’s something about being out in Hotzaplotz and no Jews in sight. When a easily identified frummie shows up, we’re a welcome connection to the tribe. We Jews know we’re not ever going to be winners of any popularity contests. And there’s safety in numbers.
    In my 12 Step meetings I’ve occasionally brought up issues related to my being Jewish. You’d be amazed at how many Jews suddenly crawl out of the woodwork after the meeting, glad not to be the only Jew in the room (I’m pretty glad, myself). My dad was always on the lookout for Jews wherever he went, and was always concerned about someone making negative associations with Jews. I remember in 1980 when someone attempted to assassinate the pope, my dad’s immediate comment was, “I sure hope the guy wasn’t Jewish (and I don’t think he was referring to the pope, either).”

  8. This post made me laugh. I have a lot of stories, but of course none are coming to mind at the moment. Also, sometimes I dont think people even realize they are bageling… My husband had a coworker, who was a self-proclaimed Christian… And she made a comment like “I love Jews, I think there are even some in my extended family, my mother’s mother was Jewish”

Comments are closed.