I experienced an incident which I believe to be a more passive form of antisemitism – a positive stereotype. The experience has been burning inside me and I really wanted to share it to see how other Jews deal with this issue.
In early July I was invited to drinks, dinner and a concert in NYC by an old college friend and some of his roommates and friends. I was the only Jew in the group and unknowingly they picked a restaurant in Brooklyn called ‘Traif’. I am a ‘kosher-style’ Jew in that I only eat non kosher dairy and fish, so upon glancing at the menu there was not much I could eat and I was the only person to not participate in the special tasting menu. While I found the restaurant concept to be offensive (it was made essentially as an “F You” to Orthodox Jews according to one of the people in my party), I decided to still try and enjoy my night.
Because of my choice not to participate in the tasting menu due to kashrut reasons, I was barraged with a host of questions about kashrut laws. Most of the people in the group were liberal-minded people from Texas and the Midwest and hadn’t interacted with many Jews before so I was happy to answer questions (the conversation then turned to my favorite bagel places so I was happy to answer). However, one individual ignorantly proclaimed how he didn’t realize that New York was “so Jewish”. After explaining that NYC has historically been one of the most important places for Jews in America he exclaimed “Oh! That explains why NYC is so expensive!”. After an awkward pause and a comment of disapproval from one of his friends the individual retorted “What did I say that was so bad!? Jews are rich that’s why this city is so expensive!”.
The comment didn’t sit well with me and I let it ruin my night. I decided not to go to the concert and grabbed a cab home from my friends apartment. When the door to the apartment shut I heard the same individual say in a joking voice “oh my god look what I did I made him leave’!” Everyone laughed. I went home to bed.
Part of me wishes that I stayed and had a meaningful conversation with him about the history and harmful nature of his comments. But part of me was so angry and tired that I just wanted to run away. Fellow proud Jews – how can we address these sort of comments in the future? I felt that I wasn’t taken seriously that night and it bothers me.