Jewish Without an ‘Off’ Switch

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So Jewish Saferstein 2

Written by Robert J. Saferstein. Robert, a first-time Jewrotica writer, is the online and community director for Sh’ma. Rated PG

I stared across the table, awaiting a response. It would be a few moments before he spoke. When he did, all he said was, “Wow. I had no idea you were so Jewish.”

So Jewish. The words stung. “Too Jewish” is what he meant. But what does that mean?

The exchange happened on a recent evening while I was out on a date with someone I had met online. Initially, our correspondence was not all that interesting. But following a lengthy repartee over Google Chat — the tone somewhere between snarky and flirtatious — we decided to meet.

We had quite a lot in common. Raised in observant households, we shared similar interests in the visual and performing arts, and we were each self-described urban anthropologists looking to absorb everything New York City had to offer. Everything was going perfectly until he asked: “So, what is it exactly that you do?”

I expected the question. After all, this was a date, and inquiring about each other’s preoccupations is par for the course. What I feared — “the problem” — was what was about to unfold as I responded.

“Well,” I started, “aside from working in the arts, I am the online director of a Jewish intellectual journal. I’m also quite active in the larger LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) Jewish community.”

As I went on to explain my life and my work, it became increasingly obvious that I was losing him. I could all but hear his silent pleas for mercy as he feigned interest in what I had to say. By the time I came to my involvement in the ROI community, the summit for Jewish innovators funded by philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, it was clear that I needed to segue into something else.

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