What Would Moses Do?

The following incident happened to a dear non-Jewish friend of ours and she wants some advice:
“I was at the hairdresser todayand there were 8 of us at a small salon. We were having something of a group discussion about vacuum cleaners (pathetic isn’t it?) and one woman, a middle school teacher was talking about how her expensive Orek is always breaking and how she is “always having to call that little Jewish guy to fix it.” That comment made me do a double take. It seemed clear to me that if the Orek guy was Protestant or Catholic she would not have included that information. It seemed ugly and especially insensitive considering that today is the 60th anniversary of the liberation Auschwitz.
I sat there, foils in my hair struggling for an appropriate response: “Hey, don’t say that!” or “Some of my best friends are little Jewish guys!” or “I know a great Baptist vaccum repair guy you can call next time”? I just knew I couldn’t say nothing. Then I noticed one of the other older women looked upset and wipe her eyes.
Who knows, maybe the hair color goop was getting in her eyes, or maybe she was a Jew and felt the sadness of knowing that millions of her people died and school teachers still said things like she just heard.
I worked up all the courage of a cabbage and said how horrifying it is that as bad as the tsunami deaths were that they were nothing compared to the Holocaust death toll. Of course, no one responded.”
So what do you think, Jmericans? What would you have said, if anything? Our friend feels like woman didn’t mean to be malicious, but what else could she have said in the moment? Please post your thoughts; they’ll be deeply appreciated.

8 thoughts on “What Would Moses Do?

  1. I’m gonna have to call an overreaction penalty on that one. Maybe the guy is Chassidic and clearly wants to be recognized to the world as a “Jewish guy”. To refer to someone as Jewish is not insulting. Now if she had said he “Jewed” her out of some money, well that’s the kind of stuff I’ve punched people for. Big difference. Lastly, what’s with bringing up Auschwitz when Jews get pissed off? If you play the victim role, you’ll end up a victim.

  2. lastone: the woman who “overreacted” here is not Jewish, and yes, she automatically associated the woman’s comment with the same kind of ignorance that allowed the Holocaust to happen. The folks at Jewlicious (http://www.jewlicious.com/) agree with you: Judaism is a whole lot more than the death of six million and we can’t keep finding idenity in it, but don’t you think a teacher could be more sensitive to labels?

  3. I heard on the Mike Maloy show (on Air America Radio) last night a caller who lives in Arizona mention that there seems to be a growing sense of anti-semetism from minority groups out there, She was questioning wheather or not we still lived in the 21st century! I dont think it was tottally an overreaction, its an alarmed and concerned response to an issue that should be nipped at the bud.

  4. That stuff happens, atleast it wasnt a derogatory slur. Had she said “that little mexican guy” the mexicans would also be offended. I’m glad the person spoke out about it. People should mind their labels. Now i’m off to read a copy of the latest issue of Heeb Magazine.

  5. i liked the idea of “i know a great little baptist guy you could call next time.” it gets to the actual thing that happened, using humor, and doesn’t seem to suggest that the tsunami victims have little to complain about.

  6. I think it’s very important to say something. People have to know they never know who is listening. Sensitivity and tolerance are lacking in this society. I decided a long time ago, after one of those comments, I was never going to let one pass me by again. Apathy is what murdered 6 million.

  7. …….so I would would have asked; “How little is he? Why is little important?” I mean, the picture of a four foot eleven Hassid sitting in the middle of the floor taking apart a vacuum cleaner is worthy of a Seinfeld scene. Seriously, we need to remember that, whether we like it or not, we are thought of as a separate race. To refer to a Protestant, catholic or Presbyterian guy conjures up no particular image. To say Jewish, however, evokes a different image for each listener each based on his or her exposure to different sterotyopes. To expect the world to ignore that is to assume that it is wrong to refer to an Hispanic, Asian or Black person. I’m quite sure the woman in question meant no disrespect. She was stating a fact. Now, if the remark had been negative, such as the common “jewing down” comment we often hear, then a firm response is called for that indicates that such talk is just not acceptable.

  8. I would have said that is wrong to talk like that and not nice and correct her……it probably won’t sink in because alot of people don’t realize that they are being insensitive. I had one friend (HAD) she would always say “I Jewed them down” I told her over and over again to stop, she didn’t and I don’t talk to her anymore!!!

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