So I was waiting in line with this woman who grew up in London but has split her past decade between the U.S. and Israel.
“It’s easy to be Jewish in Israel,” she said. “But life is much harder than here. It is easy to be Jewish here.
“In Britain, there’s much more anti-Semitism. We (British Jews) were brought up to be low-key. We were told to avoid congregating on the sidewalks after the high holidays so as to not attract too much attention. We were told not to walk together in large clumps.”
I’ve heard secular Jews complain to me about Pico-Robertson and “Orthodox Jews walking down the middle of the street on Saturdays like they own the place.”
Greg Leake emails: Hi Luke,
Your post suggests that secular Jews in your neighborhood are the ones primarily irritated with Orthodox Jews taking up too much walking room and acting like they own the neighborhood.
In my old neighborhood I don’t recall any of the goys being too upset by the multitudes of Jews on their way to shul. Naturally, some walked with their friends, and there would be too many for a sidewalk. Really, it would have been difficult for them all to try and remain on the sidewalk. In my old neighborhood, they would have come into some disgruntled concern because of their attitude that tried to act as if they owned the neighborhood.
Naturally, this is hard to do when all the goys around you are also successful and enjoy levels of prosperity and professional accomplishment. In my neighborhood, the view from the goys who were basically successful individuals was “who do these Jews think they are? I probably have more money than they do.” I was always astounded that the Jewish desire for an insular community apparently led them to do such terrible public relations with their non-Jewish neighbors who really would have been very accepting were it not for this attitude.
I managed to get onto friendly terms with some Orthodox and even some rabbis. This was partly a fluke, because I intervened when an aggressive drunk goy verbally attacked a pretty young Jewish girl and threatened violence. I jumped to the defense of the young lady and managed to back the drunk off. (Frankly, I was hoping he would swing at me so that I could have given him a hard place to sit down.) Later I found out he was just an ex-GI working out a lot of his problems.
Although I don’t believe the girl ever thanked me, some of the adults and her rabbi appreciated what I had done, and this, in part, led to a friendlier relationship with some members of the Jewish community. And it was here that I realized how needless this antagonism really is, because once I got to know some of these people, they could be very warm and friendly as long as they didn’t catch other Jews seeing them do it.
This leads me to something I have been thinking for a while. Probably the best outreach that the Jewish community has is in Michael Medved and Dennis Prager. I even think Medved is Orthodox. When goy listens to these guys on the radio they start to think that Jews are great people that it would be wonderful to have friendships with. Then this is followed by those same goys running into the Orthodox Jewish community. I wish that the word would get around to the Jewish community that you get make more friends with sugar than you do with vinegar. And having a lot of goys in your community think well of you and appreciate you is not a bad thing.
Luke says: How do Jews act when they act like they own the neighborhood? Are they too conspicuous?
What do you mean by terrible public relations with the non-Jews? I’ve never heard of any Jew condemned by his fellow Jews for being too friendly with non-Jews? Orthodox Jews have strict religious laws to adhere to and therefore can not eat cooked food prepared by a non-Jew, etc. These laws make it difficult to get close to non-Jews.
Greg Leake responds: Hi Luke,
One Jewish guy I met told me that the behavior I describe actually was because of the large number of New York Jews transplanted to Texas. And so I cannot be sure if the “bad public relations” was simply the product of a bunch of Yankees and not the Jews particularly. However, since the behavior was about 98% consistent throughout the Jewish community as I related to them, I don’t know.
My experience is that if you are a goy in a Jewish neighborhood, you will be utterly ignored. Naturally, a newcomer might be ignored and treated indifferently by residents, but in my experience this doesn’t end. You may have seen the same people in the supermarket a hundred times, and still they will not even look at you unless you elicit this in some conspicuous way. I never had one Jew initiate a conversation or exchange of the time of day or comment on the weather as long as I was in the neighborhood. This is particularly unusual for Texas. At the same time, these same Jews are, understandably, greeting each other, having little conversations, and acting as if they are neighborly with other Jews. It goes without saying that I understand that they know each other, see each other in shul, etc., etc. This all amounts to just a level of unfriendliness that is conspicuous by its absence in any other group I have been around.
You may remember I mentioned a girl who worked at Staples who told me that she had never been treated so rudely in her life by a class of patrons. When I asked her what she meant, she said, “Oh this is our neighborhood and we don’t have to give you the time of day.” I would like to say that this was rare behavior, but in my experience it was fairly common. Now please understand that I knew a very few Jews that did not carry on like this. It was almost as if they had the idea that if you ignored a whole group of people to an extravagant degree, one day you would wake up and they would all be gone.
None of this had much to do with the dietary differences, and I am sincerely grateful for those members of the Orthodox community who treated me and my wife with the same friendship that we treated them.