Sunday, September 09, 2007

Jews and Secret Meetings

This weekend I met a small group of friends for drinks to celebrate the birthday of one of my girlfriends. Her boyfriend's roommate, who I don't know that well but have met on a few occasions, joined us as well. I had a very creepy exchange with him:

Roommate (an Asian male): So, Monica, did you do anything cool this summer?

Monica: Yeah, actually, I was in upstate New York for most of the summer.

Roommate: Oh, cool, what were you doing up there?

Monica: Cornell has this program for literary theory and so I was doing that.

Roommate: Oh, cool, I was up there once for a summer program in high school. I remember we had to walk by waterfalls to get to class. Hey, you must have read that book The Jewish Phenomenon, right? I've been reading it and it's crazy!

Monica: Whu . . . what? Uh, yeah, the waterfalls and gorges at Cornell are amazing.
But, the Jewish . . . what?

Roommate: The Jewish Phenomenon -- it's about how the Jews are so successful and how they can control everything. I grew up around a lot of Jewish kids and now everything makes sense.

Monica: [speechless]

Roommate: And, yeah, it's cool, so I guess there's like this secret meeting every year that all of the Jewish leaders go to make plans.

Monica: [swallowing the vomit that somehow surfaced in my throat] Oh, really. Wow, that's definitely crazy. What kind of meeting is this?

Roommate: I don't know, because it's like a secret, man.

I think Roommate has been reading The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Seriously, though, I was completely stunned by this exchange -- not just because there was zero awareness of the anti-Semitic nature of the book he was telling me about (and, to be fair, not all people agree that The Jewish Phenomenon is anti-Semitic), but because he seriously believes that there is a secret meeting of all Jewish leaders every year. The guy was so sweet, and seemed to think it was so cool, that I didn't have the heart to tell him the truth. The most unsettling thing about it is his eagerness to tell me about the book he was reading, and about the secret annual meeting of Jews. This happens to me often -- people know that I do work in Jewish literature and culture, and so they find the need to tell me about a book they've read about Jews, or that once they actually met a Jew, or that they have a Jewish family member. It's such a strange phenomenon in and of itself. But, I'm speechless . . .


Adam Shprintzen said...

I think maybe I was well-prepared for this sort of thing as a youngin'. On my first day of kindergarten, a classmate was inquirying what church we went to. When I said that I went to a synagogue, he (earnestly mind you) asked me if he could see my horns.

Though I suppose it could have been worse, he could've asked to see my circumsized penis.

D said...

Do you chalk this up to racism, conspiracy theory, or both? I ask because maybe, what is seen as racism in this case (and the book is racist, I am just talking about the person) is instead one of the conspiracy theories people love to buy into to justify their failure, or more specifically, justify the lack of control over their own life, the loss of agency.