The Bintel Brief

Bintel Brief: The Mamele Advises an Alaskan Fisherman Living in Hasidic Borough Park

By Marjorie Ingall

  • Print
  • Share Share

Dear Mamele,

Hi. I’m a goy from Alaska who just moved to Borough Park. Before I moved here, I may have been the only logger/fisherman who read Isaac Singer, Martin Buber, Rabbi Nachman, Potok, Ansky and others. Now, I guess I expected my Hasidic neighbors to be Gimpels, thieves, louts, dipsomaniacs or kabbalistic meshugene. But I’m ignored by them. I love Yiddish and Jewish culture! Could it be the tattoos on my neck and head that keep my Hasidic neighbors at arms length? If so, how to approach them? I’m a nice fella; I just don’t look it.

Goy in the Hood

The Mamele replies:

Tunngasugit, my goyish friend! Wait, you speak English? You’re not Inuit? Oops. I forgot the old adage: When we assume, we make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.” Assuming all Alaskans speak Inuit is like assuming all people with neck tattoos are thugs or that all Hasidim are constantly breaking into deep-knee-bend-oriented kicky dances.

Seriously, here’s the deal: It’s awesome that you appreciate Jewish culture. But your romanticized Chagall-meets-Yentl visions are butting up against the actual real world. Dude, you aren’t Jewish; the ultra-Orthodox aren’t gonna rush over and tongue-kiss you, tattoos or no tattoos. (Maybe you’ve seen the episode of “Sex and the City” in which Charlotte seeks to study with a rebbe who keeps rebuffing her, because he wants her to return three times to prove she’s serious, as prescribed in the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch? But maybe you missed that episode because, what with your lack of ovaries and all, why would you be watching “Sex and the City” Even though you’re clearly an enlightened guy, dayenu.)

Rather than yearning for your idealized Tevyes to embrace you as the righteous gentile you know yourself to be, seek a more proactive, natural entree into Jewish culture. Go to a klezmer concert, an Israeli film, a lecture about Jewish literature, an evening of Jewish comedy. Check out the offerings of the JCC, the 92nd and 14th Street Y’s (I see there’s a shlemiel vs. shlimazl* lecture coming up!), the Jewish Museum, the Center for Jewish History. Stop mythologizing the Other, and stop blaming your tattoos (as opposed to your overarching goyishness) for the Other’s lack of interest. And while I’m dispensing the tough love, think about whether you’re interested in Judaism as well as your old-skool vision of Jews. You could try attending services or taking a class in Torah or Hebrew to see whether the religion itself intrigues you. In any case, I give you the same advice I’d give my girlfriends without suitors: Get out there and enjoy your city rather than waiting for the phone to ring. Have fun.

Marjorie Ingall writes The East Village Mamele column for the Forward and is a contributing writer at Self magazine. She has written for many other magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Ms., Glamour, Parents, Budget Travel, Food & Wine, Wired and the late, lamented Sassy, where she was the senior writer and health editor. She is the author of a humor book, “The Field Guild to North American Males” (Owl Books, 1997), the co-author of a sex-ed book for teenagers, “Smart Sex” (Simon & Schuster, 1998) and a former writer/producer at the Oxygen TV network.


Send a letter to the Bintel Brief at bintelbrief@forward.com. To read other installments of the Bintel Brief, click here.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Marjorie Ingall, Bintel Brief

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.


Comments
Amy K. Thu. Oct 18, 2007

I just love black people! I moved to Fort Greene and started flashing gang-signs to attract new friends, but oddly, nobody returns my friendly gestures.

Dave Fri. Oct 19, 2007

The ultra-Orthodox don't read Singer and probably consider Buber a heretic (if they ever heard of him). I think its your Bintel who neeeds the education.

Jeffrey Blustein Fri. Nov 16, 2007

The Mamele is too Manhattan centric. I suggest that the Alaskan get involved grass roots. Volunteering with the Hatzolah local ambulance service, as well as with Maimonedes Hospital is a good start to meet and deal with real people who may appreciate help for who they really are, not somebody's idea of a caricature.




Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.