Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pet Peeve

It really annoys me when I'm walking down the street and some random guy (always non-Jewish) walking the other way will say "Shalom!" to me and then continue on their way. They don't mean it maliciously as far as I can tell, but it's offensive in the same way as walking up to a Native American and saying "How!" would be.

Wearing a yarmulkah doesn't make me an effing mascot, jerks.

30 comments:

E-Man said...

Interesting you say that. The same thing happens to me, but usually the people are non-religious Jews. I don't understand why that would upset you though since it means hello in hebrew. It is like me saying hello to a spanish person by saying olah. Do you think that is wrong? I am pretty sure they don't get offended since they say olah back and smile.

Anonymous said...

We were once in Budapest, taking a long walk in the downtown area, and didn't realize we were in the red light district, when a gaggle of hookers practically accosted my yarmulka-wearing husband with joyous shouts of "Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov!" and other offers (in Hungarian) for special tourist discounts for their services.

Joshua said...

I've had this happen before when I'm wearing a keepah and it can be mildly annoying but it is more because of the ignorance that seems to be involved since they a) seem to general be proud they know how to greet Jews and b) don't realize that in fact Jews don't greet each other this way. And no, even I'm not so pedantic to explain that shalom is primarily an Israeli greeting, not a Jewish greeting.

I don't mind as much when I get "good shabbos" or "shabbat shalom" from non-Jews. I suspect it is because these are greetings we actually use.

Orthoprax said...

E-man,

"I don't understand why that would upset you though since it means hello in hebrew. It is like me saying hello to a spanish person by saying olah. Do you think that is wrong?"

Do you say hello to random Spanish people on the street with no intention of actually having a real interaction with them? It's demeaning. They say it because I'm Jewish, like it's some kind of catch phrase, not because they want to interact with me as an individual.

There have been times when I've been walking with a large group and gotten singled-out special Shalom greetings by those kinds of guys.


Joshua,

"I don't mind as much when I get "good shabbos" or "shabbat shalom" from non-Jews."

I don't mind that either.

Anonymous said...

Free advice - take off the fuckin' beanie you whiny little Heeb!

G*3 said...

I always find it strange and a little awkward when this happens. I usually just say "hi" and keep walking.

They probably think they're showing off how culturably aware they are.

Rich Perkins said...

I agree that it is doubtful they are being malicious, but it is nonetheless annoying. i have gotten it at professional business meetings once in a while as well.

similarly, it is like when a street performer sees jews and starts playing Hava Nagila, which is apparently like some jewish national anthem to these people

E-Man said...

Think about it this way, when they say this it shows they have no disdain for you. I mean, better a shalom then an F*** You. I don't know if you have ever experienced anti-semitism like this, but a few times I have gotten my Yarmulka (or kippa) ripped off and thrown to the ground or just yelled at.

Orthoprax said...

"Think about it this way, when they say this it shows they have no disdain for you. I mean, better a shalom then an F*** You."

Er..sure. And better a "fuck you" than a shiv to the belly. So what?

E-Man said...

I understand your annoyance at a shalom, however a shiv to the belly and an F-you are both signs of hate. A shalom is actually a sign of friendship.

Garnel Ironheart said...

People think that this is a standard Jewish greeting.

For a "shalom" in the wrong place, go watch Schindler's List. Most of the Polish Jews in the movie were actually Israeli bit players. When they are first moved to the ghetto, it's actually funny to watch people walking around and greating each other with an Israeli-accented "Shalom!" Not a "Vus machst du" to be heard.

Orthoprax said...

"however a shiv to the belly and an F-you are both signs of hate. A shalom is actually a sign of friendship."

And? I never said it was a sign of hate.

alex said...

I got a "shalom" by an African American woman in an elevator once. It was immediately followed by a "Blessed Yah." It took a few seconds for me to recover.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

It should be kept in mind that there really is a very small minority of men who wear religious garments on their heads in the public domain (especially Jews!), so people think if someone is wearing a kipa, chances are they're a rabbi or something.

I was once told "shalom aleichem" by a Chinese guy in Orlando!

Shalmo said...

Here's a great idea, if it bothers you so much then by all means don't wear anything on your head, its not like you believe in what that yarmulke stands for anyway

FrimJewInYU said...

I don't mind the shaloms.

Funny related story: I was with my mom in a parking lot during Pesach, and some guy calls to us from his car and asks "When do you start eating bread again?" We assumed the guy wasn't Jewish, because he said "you." Maybe he had a Jewish friend/neighbor?

PmH said...

I get this from well-intended non-Jews too. It is slightly annoying but the appropriate response is a polite smile - perhaps with a very slight eye roll.

Orthoprax said...

I had a nun for a patient yesterday. She also said "shalom" to me when we passed in the hall but in such a respectful and nearly deferential way that it didn't bother me.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it's said in a real creepy way, as in, "I know you're jewish and your stupid baseball hat don't fool me, kid!!"

DrJ said...

I think its mostly innocent, people trying to be friendly and show off that they know a word from another language. I don't understand you're so ornary about it. Americans in general have a culture of polite greetings among strangers.
On the other hand, here in the middle east it most certainly does not happen. Its almost awkward if I'm walking down the street on shabbat and a stranger says shabbat shalom. If you do it they look at you like you're from another planet. (unlike with people you know)

Orthoprax said...

DrJ,

I live in New York - random greetings are met with suspicion.

My point was not about nice people who greet everyone in the street, all in their native or ethnic languages, but about people who'll ignore everyone else in the street but address the Jew with a big Shalom!

As I intimated, it makes me feel like a mascot; a caricature with a catch phrase who's gawked at and not estimated as a real individual.

JB said...

I don't like wearing my kipah outside of my comunnity. However it leads to an awkward moment when there is a chance meeting with a frum acquaintance when I am bareheaded. This has been ongoing for over 40 years, so I guess there isn't very much left of this charade

Jen said...

How do you know they aren't Jewish? I don't look Jewish but if I said Shalom to you it would be in leiu of "Hey my Jewish brother, I'm Jewish too!" I'm a convert so I'm still awkward at asking someone if they are Jewish (too), and "Shalom" always seemed like a good start for bringing up Jewishness in a non-threatening manner. Guess I was wrong! Thought it would be better than running up to a stranger on the street and saying, "So, you're a Jew!" How scary would that be?!

Orthoprax said...

Jen,

Sure, anyone could be Jewish, I guess. But I would be shocked if that were true.

In any case, you all seem to be misunderstanding me. I don't mind if people address with me a 'shalom' if their purpose is to actually address me as a person. I'd think it's a little strange but it wouldn't offend me.

What offends me is when random people shout out 'Shalom!' when I'm walking down the street. They have no interest in actually talking to me.

E-Man said...

So what you are saying is you think it is actually a degrading remark in that circumstance. No better than calling you a swear word?

Orthoprax said...

No, it's degrading in an entirely different way than calling me by a swear word. A swear word is intended as an insult, this is just ignorant objectification.

Akin to, as I said in the original post, to a person saying How! to a Native American and then walking away.

Mr. Skinner said...

"That's what I love about you, Edna, your ability to be personally offended by broad social trends"

Michael Koplow said...

Well, "How!" is just sort of made up. "Shalom" is real. People say "Shalom" to me, and it doesn't bother me any more than people who say "Merry Christmas" to me.

There was a really awful movie, I think called "Crown Heights," maybe you can find it at your video store. At one point, two TCHAY-badniks from the hood greet each other with "Shalom." So nu, so which Hillel did they meet in? But my really favorite part was later on in the movie, where someone said "What are all these schwartzes [pronounced "schwartzes"] doing here?"

Anonymous said...

is the shalom alecheim greeting very much the same as the Roman Catholics who, during Mass, say Peace be with you" to the person nearest to them and the response is "and also with you" ?
If it is, Catholics don't greet one another on the street with "peace be with you" and if non-catholics greeted me with "Peace be with you" I would be pretty amazed, but not offended. I also would not be offended if a jew wished me Merry Christmas. I would be offended if a Jew said Seasons Greetings. I would say to a Jew Happy Hanukka and mean it but would not substitue happy hanukka with Season's Greetings or Happy Feast Day or Happy Holiday or Happy jewish High Holy Day. Just say it as it is, unless of course, you object to other people celebrating their religious or whatever "special" days. Imagine an Irishman saying Happy St. Patrick's Day to a Pom !
As for other languages, aren't we all guilty of saying Ciao or Adios or some other dumb ass farewell that is not part of our own language. Also, why don't Jews in English speaking countries just greet other jews with "peace be with you" ???

Anonymous said...

For what it is worth I ended up on this Blog by doing a Google search to find out if it would be appropriate to say "Shalom" to a Jewish person, since I am a non Jewish.

I am in fact Catholic. My aim in using the term "shalom" would be to show respect and solidarity with those whom I consider to be our elder brothers in faith. To me this is all the more important in today's climate of growing antisemitism. However, I wanted to ensure that it would not be taken as offensive. For me the use of the term would be more in the context of emails since i have not come across a Jew in person in many months.

You see, the place where I currently reside helps put things into proper context for me. I'm currently on an Island in SE Asia where there are certain areas neither Jew nor christian (nor almost any American) can go. This is out of the very real concern of beheading and worse. I can assure you that the hate filled extremists who dwell in such areas do not care about whether the use of the term "Shalom" would be offensive to a Jew.

It may be worth considering the view that any time a non-Jew is willing to use the term "Shalom", it's always a plus for the People of God. For in so doing the gentile at the very least acknowledges the dignity of your people either intently or not.

Unfortunately, in this era of political correctness it seems that we as a culture have confused any and all efforts of unity with something entirely other. It seems the seeds of division are sprouting everywhere now.

I think it's a damn shame if I should not use the term "Shalom". I guess I could just try to show my solidarity with a smile instead. Would this also offend?

Blessings,

Mark