Monday, April 9, 2012

Well, okay then...

So my colleague Jeff Goldwasser posted this experience from 2nd Night Pesach at the CCAR group (I really wanted to write message board, which shows what kind of grognard I am): 

After leading the congregational seder tonight, I listened to a message on my voicemail at the synagogue (big mistake). It was a three-minute speech from an 81-year-old Christian woman who did not give her name (of course), telling me about how she is so angry at rabbis because they were the ones who told the Romans to crucify Jesus. She also explained that she has nothing against Jews in general because she has a son-in-law who is a "nice Jewish gentleman." (Poor fellow.) She just felt like she had to get this long-held, bitter complaint off of her chest. ("I just had to say that, and now I have.") 
I am dumbstruck. What, if anything, do I do about this? Just ignore it as the rantings of a crazy person? (But, I'm afraid, that there are so many others.) Do I take it to the newspapers or to my Christian colleagues? (But, I'm afraid, that this would only confirm negative assumptions about "pushy Jews" among the very people I want to reach). Are there any colleagues with advice on how to deal with such a thing?
Consensus among colleagues was that this should go into the mental 'circular' file or equivalent, maybe process it with some colleagues (Jewish or non-Jewish) that could help him process (not to point fingers or the like).

In addition, however, it seemed like everyone had a similar story, mostly taking place around Passover. It seems like the Easter-Pesach continuum brings out all kinds of responses, from anonymous phone calls like this to people asking if they could come see a real Pesach sacrifice to dressing up like Jesus and coming to the synagogue to accuse the folks inside of Deicicde and the like.

It occurred to me that this isn't the purview of clergy alone. I've heard from congregants who've had similar experiences, as I did when I was growing up--when I was in kindergarten or first grade I actually had a whole conversation about why I didn't celebrate Christmas because I was Jewish, at which point the other kid asked if I killed Jesus, to which I responded by asking who this Jesus fellow was 'cause I never met the guy.

So, what kind of experiences have you had? Non-Jewish friends--have you ever seen anything like this or do you have equivalents? What do you think one should do with something like this?


  1. As someone who had the pleasure of growing up in the Bible Belt, this is nothing new to me. I developed the response over time that was always something like, "you're going to hell." To which I responded, "Well if you're going to be in heaven, that would be hell for me, so I might as well go to hell."
    It is amazing how I learned to be such a fast runner.

  2. I still love the response one of my congregants always used when approached by Christian missionaries - "I'm not interested in any of these new fangled religions!" Apparently they never knew what to say to that!

  3. I should say by the way, that in Nebraska the occurence of the calls never seemed to be connected to any particular time of year. More likely they were connected to times people forgot to take their medication.

  4. I could write a whole post of my own about my various experiences on this topic, specifically from Easter/Pesach time (there would be a whole other set for other holidays and times of year). When I have not been shocked into a non-response, my response has usually been to try and educate the individual involved, since generally speaking the vitriol is based in ignorance. In this case, given that the individual is 81, this might be best ignored, unless it turns into a bigger issue than the one phone message.