How to survive unscathed as a European Jew

A list of instructions on how to enjoy peace of mind and quiet in a continent where old prejudices are enjoying a fresh revival. It seems that black Jewish humor is also enjoying a revival.

Peter Sichrovsky, | updated: 08:26

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Below are a few suggestions on how to enjoy peace of mind and quiet in a continent where old prejudices are enjoying a fresh revival.

Firstly, try never to be recognizable as a Jew. This starts with strict control of one’s outward appearance: No yarmulke, no big black hat, no golden necklace with a Magen David, no side-locks and no ritual fringes.

Secondly, do not try to impress cocktail-party guests with Jewish jokes. On the other hand, be sure to laugh raucously when others tell them, and don't interrupt the narrator with the remark: "I already know the joke, and by the way, it has a different twist.”

When Israel is the subject of discussion, it is best not to say anything at all. If you are asked for an opinion, humbly say that world politics are not your strong suit, since there are enough domestic problems that concern you. If people ask you whether you have been to Israel before, avoid saying yes unless someone in the group already knows that you have flown to Ben-Gurion. One thing is sure: if you get embroiled in an argument about tourism in Israel, you are guaranteed to betray yourself.

In public always show yourself to be shocked by anti-Semitism. It does not look good if you no longer want to hear about it. So be certain to mention how evil it is, otherwise you might be suspected of harboring nasty rightwing views. At the same time, temper your indignation by showing understanding for the anti-Semitism of immigrants from Arab countries, or of Muslims in general. When reference is made to the important differences between Islamic antisemitism and rightwing antisemitism, be sure to nod and discreetly agree with genteel society.

(Nodding is the perfect reaction in every discussion. You can't compromise yourself, you don't run the risk of saying the wrong thing and you will usually exceed everyone’s expectations.)

To the direct question: “Are you Jewish?” Always answer: “Why, is it important?” It may happen that your interlocutor immediately recognizes your counter-question as typically Jewish. Run this risk nonetheless, since your counter-question unsettles the person asking the question and gets them to admit the issue is actually unimportant.

If someone accidentally sees you coming out of the synagogue on a Jewish holiday, or if you are seen in shul by a non-Jew attending services out of anthropological curiosity, pretend you are also a casual tourist.

To conceal your Jewishness becomes difficult in prolonged conversations and particularly in arguments. Non-Jews are dialectically disadvantaged and get easily lost in the maze of three-dimensional Jewish logic.  If your opponent refutes your argument claiming it is "illogical", retreat. To insist that your non-binary logic is correct, will betray your identity.

Take special care with your public behavior. If you move in a group, do not go to the left whenever a sign suggests you go to the right. Openly flouting rules is suspicious. To disregard warnings and do exactly the opposite is an instinctive reflex that will betray you, especially if you respond to Gentile censure by asking: “So what?”

Hold back pride in your children. Only fellow Jews will understand that your children are geniuses.

Do not mention to the company around you that you are calling your mother. When among friends in a restaurant, avoid getting up from the table and announcing that you have to go out to briefly call your mother. The same principle applies when accepting a call, in the theater for example, and telling your non-Jewish date that your mother is on the line.

Beware of humming and whistling a melody of "Fiddler on the Roof” in public spaces, while moving your head to accompany the rhythm. Any singing of the Israeli anthem at sporting events should also be avoided at all costs.

Nevertheless, the deadliest threat to your anonymity and peace of mind, are fellow Jews. If more Jews join your group – regardless of whether they reveal themselves as such, or whether they also conceal their identity - it will only take a few moments for them to detect your presence. These coreligionists will thereafter seek out and cling to your company. In this case, all seventeen camouflage techniques listed above will fail. To save appearances a last ploy is popular: To come out of the closet among Jews and discuss together how best to pass unobserved.

This tactic is always doomed to fail.  If there is anything that rings atavistic alarm bells, this is two or more Jews schmoozing together.