Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"Oh, Tannenbaum...."

Ah, the holidays. Relentless infection by the earworm of Jingle Bell Rock, plus having my Jewy-ness sized up by everyone I meet as they determine the appropriate salutation ("Don't mention Christmas," goes their inner monologue, "I think he's one of them!"). Fun!

Time to trot out my Guide To Holiday Greetings For Christians. Enjoy a taste of my bitterness via the excerpt, below (if you click to read the rest, it actually turns sweet and weirdly ├╝ber-Christian at the end; it was one of those postings where I didn't know where I was going till I got there):

The first and foremost thing to remember is that even though I look kinda Jewy, you will not offend me by wishing me a Merry Christmas.

Christmas is, as Fox News adamantly reminds us, a religious holiday. But in America it's also, of course, a secular holiday. "White Christmas" was written by a Jew named Irving. "The Christmas Song" (with the chestnuts roasting) was another Jew, Mel. And these weren't Jew-for-Jesus Jews. We're talking real staunchly Jewy Jews, neither of whom, obviously, blanched at the concept of Christmas. And yet you're still all nervous and weird about this whole thing!

When you peer at the size of my shnozz toward the end of a conversation, gauging my Jewiness in order to appropriately tailor your parting holiday greeting, that's offensive. My shnozz size tells you nothing about my spiritual inclinations. Watching you silently gauge whether I'm one of *Them* doesn't feel, to me, like polite or sympathetic consideration, though I realize that's your intention. It's actually quite an unpleasant sensation.

I do understand the root of it. One will indeed occasionally encounter Jews who smirk ironically when wished a merry Christmas, or even feel offended. But it's not that they're touchy Jews, per se; it's that they're touchy assholes. Every tribe has some, and striving not to offend them is a fool's errand. They'll always find something.

Such people are ridiculous to be offended by a friendly greeting. But if you genuinely offend the rest of us by 1. gauging shnozz size 2. making us feel excluded from an American holiday, and 3. acting all nervous and weird around us, all to stave off any chance of offending the touchy, well, that's just nuts.
More here.

5 comments:

Val in Seattle said...

Jim, wishing you a Merry Christmas. Thanks for all your slog posts.

Jim Leff said...

Merry Christmas back at you, Val!

Anonymous said...

so now I should add to the list of groups that I need to be careful not to offend: "Jews who potentially might feel offended that I consider other people's feelings about being leffed out of Christian celebrations"? and, if that's not enough, that group terms me "nuts"? I'm actually kind of offended.

As an atheist I wish you happy many days of the year as the earth hurtles around the sun, but just not this one because on this one you've peeved me.

Jim Leff said...


Ha. But no.

Anytime you scan me for Jewiness for any reason at all - to decide whether to say Merry Christmas, or to inform me that your establishment serves beef ribs, too (it's happened many times), or for any other purpose, you're misstepping. Let me handle my background. If I don't make it an issue, it's none of your concern.

Anonymous said...

my husband is Israeli. Jews use jewdar all the time, and if you want to be with one, you learn to use it too (shnoz works ok, but it's more broadly in the eyes across the entire diaspora). Within Israeli culture (90% secular), it is quite common to track ingredients and announce them, "this has cheese in it" for example; it's a courtesy because there are a number of reasons why the person eating it might wish to know which might rise to the level of seriousness for them, regardless of what you think. And anyone with vegan friends (or customers among the general public) learns to do the same. Nobody need take offense at it, because nobody should take offense at another person trying, even awkwardly, to be polite. So what if I "racially profile" acquaintances and try not to direct the bottoms of my feet toward those with suspected moslem heritage? (Brain science shows that the part of the brain that racially/genderly profiles operates amazingly fast, classification takes place before a conscious thought has occurred, regardless of belief system, and hence the persistent "the black guy had the knife" psychological test results.)

You being offended by other people's earnest and well-intentioned efforts smacks of a combination of childish narcissism ("organize the world around my way!") and perhaps discomfort in your own self. And if you have detected a vestige trace of racism in another person, you can still see the good in their behavior. Yasir Arafat and Shimon Peres certainly were not in broad agreement or love with one another, but I'm equally sure that when they sat together that neither one was trying to slip something unkosher or unhalal into the other one's meal. It's not hard for me to imagine a halal cart vendor could equally donate a portion of his income to the moslem brotherhood or Hamas because he feels they do good community service, and yet still appreciate breathing free in the welcoming environment of NYC and genuinely like and respect all of his customers. It's common courtesy, our better nature.

Yeah, sure, well-intentioned liberals can come across as patronizing, and an 11 year old gentile friend might seem really awkward asking "if your people wear beanies to the bar mitvah" or whatever. But your rant basically said that the diversity of other people's earnest attempts at courtesy are offensive and twisted. I say they are not, I say it's your ideas that are twisted (albeit, around this small issue). It's not that I don't understand your suggestion ("hey everybody, it's acceptable to practice your own beliefs, I can take it"), it's that I don't think you understand your suggestion. When I point out to you that there's pork in the sausage, I am practicing my own beliefs. Where's my acceptance?

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