Stories about kitniot in Israel


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It’s this time of year again…

I’ve written about specific vegetables and whether they are kitniot extensively in the past (check my kitniot index page). This year I will just add a few stories about kitniot madness from Israel.

Exhibit 1 (see also my post on cottonseed oil):

‘Is the Cottonseed Oil not Kosher for Pesah?,’ I asked. ‘Oh, No!,’ he replied. ‘It’s got this, this, this, this and this famous hekhsher.’ ‘So why is it so much less money?’ ‘Oh,’ he replied,’ that’s easy. A lot of people won’t buy it, because it sounds like kitniyyot.’
(My Obiter Dicta: Of Cotton and Kitniyyot)

Exhibit 2 (the Hebrew means "only for those that eat kitniot"):

At the nearest grocery store, I grabbed two bottles of water (and the de rigeur bottle of Diet Coke). When I brought them back, my wife (who’s more perceptive than I) noticed that the water was ‘לאוכלי קטניות בלבד’ (i.e. for certain Sephardim). I looked more closely at the bottle, and saw that it was slightly flavored (Lemon-Lime). So, not a little irked, I checked the ingrediants. Surprise! There was nothing in the water that was distantly related to qitniyot!
(My Obiter Dicta: Enough is Enough! (On Qitniyot and Perversion))

And the final answer to the question of why the above non-kitniot items are still asur (forbidden) for some people:

Well, there you have it. As the Rov ז”ל used to say: Some things are assur because they’re stupid, and it’s assur to be stupid.
(My Obiter Dicta: Of Cotton and Kitniyyot)

Kitniot guidelines


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In my last post I said that in my opinion everybody should think about the issue of kitniot and make her/his own list of things that she/he considers kitniot. Here are some points to keep in mind when you do that:

  • Many great scholars have ruled that the original list of kitniot species should not be extended (e.g., flax, sesame, poppy seeds).
  • Species that were unknown at the time of the minhag should not be included in the minhag (e.g., soy, quinoa, peanuts).
  • Green vegetables are not kitniot (e.g., string beans, peas in their pods).
  • Most scholars rule that kitniot oils are permitted for consumption (e.g., canola oil, cottonseed oil).

[for more reading check Rabbi Dov Lior: Special Laws for Pesach, Chabad: Know Thy Beans – Kitniyos in the Modern World, OU: Curious about Kitniyot?]

Kitniot are not chametz!


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Every year before Pesach, the debate around kitniot starts again. I have written about what kitniot are and where they come from before and about whether different food items are kitniot (check the index page of kitniot posts). I don’t want to argue about whether the minhag makes sense or what the exact list of kitniot may be. Everybody has to decide that for her/himself, fix a list of things she/he considers kitniot and stick to it.

But the important point I want to make clear again this year is that kitniot are not chametz! If you are Ashkenazi and follow the minhag, you can not eat them, but you are allowed to …

  • keep kitniot in the house, buy them or sell them.
  • feed kitniot to young children, ill people or pets.
  • use non-food products that contain kitniot.
  • eat from plates that had kitniot on them (e.g., in the non-kitniot-keeping-but-otherwise-kosher-le-pesach house of a friend).
  • take medicine that contains kitniot.
  • eat things were some kitniot accidentally fell in, Kitniot are batel beRov, i.e., nullified if there is a majority of non-kitniot.

Really!! This is unambiguous orthodox halacha!

[for more reading check Rabbi Dov Lior: Special Laws for Pesach, Chabad: Know Thy Beans – Kitniyos in the Modern World, OU: Curious about Kitniyot?]

Books every Jew(-to-be) should have


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This is a list of books that in my opinion every convert (and every Jew) should have, besides of course books that explain Judaism:

  • A TaNaCh, the Jewish bible. Best I think in both Hebrew and translation to your language, side-by-side or in two books. It is important to have a Jewish translation as any translation is also an interpretation. If there is commentary, obviously it should also be a Jewish commentary.
  • A Siddur, the prayer book for normal days and small holidays. I have the pocket-size Hebrew-English Artscroll siddur, I like the size, the layout, the font and the instructions very much, but the commentary is very right-wing orthodox, so this might not be for everybody. And obviously ArtScroll has the traditional text, no matriarchs, no alternative female forms, no prayer for Israel. I also have a second Siddur with transliteration which I give to my guests so that they can follow the service without speaking Hebrew. Before you order a siddur, try out the ones they have at your synagogue and find one you like.
  • Several copies of the Birkat haMazon, the prayer after meals. You can buy small booklets that also contain songs for Shabat, Kiddush, Havdalah and such stuff, but you can also just print the prayer out from the internet (in a way that looks somewhat nice). You should have one for every person who eats with you, so if you usually have eight people at Shabat dinner, I’d say you should have eight.
  • A Machzor, the prayer book for the holidays. They usually have those in large numbers at the synagogue, so you don’t really need buy one right away, but it helps to have one to prepare for the holidays. You will need a machzor for Rosh haShana and a (different) machzor for Yom Kippur. Some Machzorim include both, some are for one holiday only, it doesn’t really matter. For the other holidays (Succot, Pesach, Shavuot, Purim, Chanuka) a normal Siddur should be enough, as the changes in liturgy are not as extensive. As you will only use your machzor once or twice a year, it is very important that the layout and the instructions are easy to undestand and intuitive.
  • A Hagada for the seder on Pesach. In fact, probably you should have at least two, a simple one with only the text and translation to follow along during the seder, and another one (or more – over time!) with commentary to better understand the text and prepare. If you are invited for Pesach, they will usually have a Hagada for you, so you can get by without one. Conversely, if you invite people and don’t specifically tell them to bring a Hagada, they might expect you to provide one.

Aren’t we the people of the book(s)? 😉

Additional suggestions welcome in the comments!

Rabbis at interfaith weddings


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The topic of whether or not rabbis should officiate at interfaith weddings is in the news again. The argument that rabbis should officiate is basically that not doing so hurts people and it does not provide any positive effect (it does not prevent intermarriage):

Often they want a “Jewish wedding,” which is why they want the officiant to be a rabbi, preferably one with whom they have a relationship. That is why they are so hurt when we refuse.
It is delusional to think that a rabbi’s refusal to officiate will change any couple’s mind about whether to wed. Who would forgo a life with their beloved just because their beloved rabbi can’t be at their wedding ceremony?
(Seymour Rosenbloom: It’s time to allow Conservative rabbis to officiate at interfaith weddings)

The counterargument is mainly that there simply is not a Jewish wedding taking place (so no rabbi should officate) and the damage done is not that big if otherwise Jewish commitment is encouraged:

[…] the purpose of rabbinic officiation is not to take a chance on fostering Jewish commitment. It is to render a relationship sacred for two people who, even if nominally, are part of the Jewish people and its ongoing conversation in the world.
Finally, while the argument that couples being denied a rabbi’s officiation become hurt and alienated from Judaism has some merit in limited contexts, I think it it is overstated. In my twenty-six years of rabbinic experience, I find repeatedly that earlier sociological research is borne out: officiation matters far less to couples than the relationships which the rabbi builds with them through time.
(Dan Ornstein: Why Conservative Rabbis Most Certainly Should Not Do Intermarriage Ceremonies)

While I am not really in the situation, I can relate to feeling hurt by such decisions. For the moment, I have more or less given up on conversion, but I still go to services and community events. Most of the time whether or not I am officially Jewish does not make a difference. But among the things that hurt me in my situation is that none of the milestones of my life will be shared with the community. It’s not only about who officiates at a wedding. It is about sharing the joy of getting married. It is about getting someone to circumcize a baby boy, celebrating the birth of a baby girl, having a Bar/Bat Mitzva, saying Kaddish for a parent or sibling, getting a Jewish burial. If I am not Jewish, my children are not Jewish, so no Jewish ceremonies for them. I can mumble along Kaddish with someone else, but not say it alone. No one from the community will know if I died, there will be no announcement in the community and I will have to find a place in some non-religious graveyard [although being really sure that you will not be buried in the Jewish cemetary may be better than being denied to be buried there on account of someone not recognizing your conversion].

What I am saying is that we humans need communities. And an important part of a community is sharing your life’s milestones, whether joyous or sad. To realize that the community does not allow you to do that – it hurts. True, a long-term relationship with an otherwise supportive rabbi might mitigate that (I don’t know, I don’t have a supportive rabbi around). True, I understand the reasoning and I do think halacha is important. It is not my place to say that rabbis should do this or that. But you can argue, rationalize and discuss as much as you like – it still hurts.

Verses on modesty – Part 2


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The second verse is from the Psalms:

All of the honor of the daughter of the King is within.
(Psalms 45:14 as quoted for example in Dina Coopersmith: Beneath the Surface, A Deeper Look at Modesty)

This verse is usually interpreted as an injunction for women to "de-emphasize their bodies in order to emphasize that which is their real beauty: their inner strengths, their souls." (from this article which is one example among many). The texts adress women as they are (more than men) prone to "dress to impress" or to show off their body.

I think this is generally a good message. But I have just now for the first time read the complete Psalm and I just don’t see how you can get that message from the context. The Psalmist sings "concerning a king" (verse 2) and enumerates all sorts of positive things about that king (verses 3-10). He then encourages a princess, desired by the king, to go to the king (verses 11-13). He then describes a bit more positive stuff about the princess marrying the king (verses 14-17). And ends with a general "we praise you" (I’d guess this male-form "you" could refer to G-d).

In this context, the following translation that Mechon Mamre gives makes a lot more sense (just for fun, if you want to see more translations, although most, maybe all of them seem to be Christian, here’s a list):

All glorious is the king’s daughter within the palace; her raiment is of chequer work inwrought with gold.
(Psalms 45:14, JPS English translation from 1917)

Curious! So is the princess’s glory inside or is the princess who is inside glorious? Let’s look at the Hebrew ourselves to at least see where the translations are coming from, even if we may not be qualified to decide. This is the phrase in Hebrew: כָּל-כְּבוּדָּה בַת-מֶלֶךְ פְּנִימָה

What do we have? There is בַת-מֶלֶךְ ("bat melech") which quite unambiguosly means "the daughter of the king", i.e., the princess. We also have כָּל-כְּבוּדָּה ("kol kvuda"). The word "kavod" is often translated as "honor", it can also be "glory". The final "ah" (the letter ה) is a female possessive marker which makes the whole thing "her honor/glory". I think it is a noun, not an adjective, so I don’t know how it could be understood as "glorious", but that’s out of my league, maybe it can be. The word "kol" (written with kaf, כ) is "all" or "every". Combining this with "her honor/glory" could be something like "all her honor/glory" I guess. Finally, פְּנִימָה ("pnima") means "within" or "inside". I have no idea how we are to infer "inside the palace". So, we have three parts: [the princess], [all her honor/glory] and [inside].

There is no word for "is" in Hebrew, so we have to insert this somewhere ourselves where it makes sense. We could do "[all her glory/honor] of [the princess] is [inside]" or "[all her glory/honor] is for/of [the princess] who is [inside]" (which you’d translate to real English using an adjective: "[all glorious] is [the princess] who is [inside]"). My knowledge of Biblical Hebrew is insufficient to decide whether both are legitimate readings of the original or one is grammatically impossible, so let’s stop here.

So, can we make the verse about modesty? Regardless of translation, when reading the context, I just don’t see it. When taking the verse alone, even if the verse says that the glorious/rich/famous/whatever princess is inside we could argue that she is only glorious/rich/famous/whatever because or while she is inside. Bit of a stretch maybe, but possible.

Verses on modesty – Part 1


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This (very old) blog post got me investigating sources for the concept of "tzniut" ("modesty") and what is a blog for if not sharing this stuff. So this is the first source, from the prophets:

It hath been told thee, O man, what is good, and what the LORD doth require of thee: only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.
(Micah 6:8)

The phrase "walking humbly" in the refers to men and women (it may also be only men, but I’d have to know more about the context to be sure). It describes a general mindset or attitude towards life and the commandments. A person should be humble, not draw too much attention to himself/herself. This is reflected in clothes by not wearing anything too scandalous, too flashy or in other ways attention-grabbing. I’d say it extends to not wearing something that screams "expensive" or something that is making a radical political statement, etc. Men are just as susceptible to pride, arrogance and egotism as women, so the verse is relevant to both genders.

The possible extreme this verse can be taken to is obvious: absolute conformity. If it is not modest to stand out in any way at all, we’d all need to dress the same. We need to recognize that there is a difference between legitimate ways to express individuality and attention-seeking [though where to draw the line in practice may be very challenging, especially if teenagers are involved!]

Why it is a bad idea to go on a job fair on Shabat



You are looking for a job and there’s a job fair in your area with very interesting companies. Unfortunately it is on Saturday. Should you go?

Let’s say you manage to not break any actual commandments. You walk there, you don’t carry anything, you don’t sign your name and so on. Which in itself is a challenge, because giving and receiving business cards without carrying is … difficult. But let’s say you manange that. Imagine you managed to get an interview at one of the companies. In the interview you mention that you need to take Shabat and the Jewish holidays off. Your interviewer remembers that you met at this job fair on Shabat. How serious are they going to take your request? You can explain the technicalities all you want, I doubt this is a good starting point.

Media bias !?


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Two quotes from the same article about stabbings in Israel:

Ein mit einem Messer bewaffneter Mann hat im Großraum Tel Aviv wild um sich gestochen. Dabei wurde ein Tourist aus den USA getötet, neun weitere Menschen wurden verletzt. Nach Angaben von Sanitätern erlitten vier von ihnen schwere Verletzungen. Die Attacke fand in der Nähe eines bei Touristen beliebten Strands statt.

Bei dem Angreifer handelte es sich laut dem Bürgermeister von Tel Aviv zufolge um einen Palästinenser. Er sei von der Polizei erschossen worden.

[Translation: A man with a knife stabbed wildly around him in the Tel Aviv area. A tourist from the US was killed in this incident, nine other people were wounded. According to the paramedics, four are in serious condition. The attack took place close to a beach that is popular with tourists.

According to the mayor of Tel Aviv, the attacker was a Palestinian. He was shot and killed by the police.]

The order of events: A man got stabbed and died, others were wounded – the attacker was killed.

Now the order of sentences: A man got stabbed and died, others were wounded (4 sentences) – paragraph break – the attacker got killed (2 sentences).

Zuvor waren bei Anschlägen in Jerusalem und bei Tel Aviv drei palästinensische Attentäter getötet und mehrere Israelis verletzt worden. In Jerusalem habe ein Palästinenser auf Polizisten geschossen und zwei von ihnen schwer verletzt, gab die Polizei bekannt. Andere Beamte hätten ihn dann während der Verfolgung erschossen. Wenige Stunden zuvor war eine Palästinenserin erschossen worden, nachdem sie in Jerusalems Altstadt einen israelischen Grenzpolizisten mit einem Messer angegriffen hatte.

[Translation: Before that, three Palestinian attackers were killed and several Israelis wounded in strikes in Jerusalem and near Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem a Palestinian shot at policemen and seriously wounded two of them, said the police. Other officers shot him during the pursuit. Few hours later a Palestinian woman was shot dead, after she attacked an Israeli border guard with a knife in the old city of Jerusaelem.]

The order of events: Two men were wounded – the attacker was killed – a man was attacked with a knife – the attacker was killed.

Now the order of sentences: Three attackers were killed – two men were wounded – attacker 1 was killed – attacker 2 was killed – a man was attacked with a knife.

Rule for journalists covering terror attacks: First talk about what happened to the victim, then about the attacker. Spend more time describing the attack, the place, the victim than describing the attacker.

Important exception: If the attack happens in Israel and the victims are Israelis, first state that the attacker was killed, then maybe add half a sentence about what happened.

You can also just name all on equal footing, after all, "there was an incident, now X people are dead" is the essential message:

Bei einer Attacke auf israelische Sicherheitskräfte sind eine Polizistin und drei palästinensische Angreifer getötet worden.
(article from February 3rd 2015)

[Translation: In an attack on Israeli security, one police woman and three Palestinian attackers have been killed.]

If you really need to name the victim first, at least add a sentence about all Palestinian dead afterwards, the number is higher so people will say that these few Israeli dead are not important:

Seit Oktober wurden 27 Israelis und ein US-Amerikaner getötet. Die israelischen Sicherheitskräfte töteten mehr als 140 Palästinenser, 102 von ihnen waren nach offiziellen Angaben Terroristen.
(article from February 5th 2015)

[Translation: Since October 27 Israelis and one US American have been killed. The Israeli security killed more than 140 Palestinians, 102 of them were terrorists according to the official statements.]

Sorry, I’m just a little angry. Am I crazy?

Christians and the Kuzari


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I was very much surprised when in a discussion with a Catholic guy about the history of the church, he suddenly told me this (paraphrasing, I don’t remember the exact words):

It is so amazing that the church has existed for such a long time and there is this continuous tradition right from the start. Jesus named Saint Peter as his true follower who then in turn instructed others, right until the priests from today! We are standing in an unbroken chain that goes right back to Jesus.

I was perplexed, as I had only ever heard this argument from tradition as a "proof" of the truth of a religion from Jews (the so-called Kuzari argument I’ve previously written about). There are some differences – he is talking only about the priests not about everybody, he is not claiming that they lived exactly by the same rules then as we do today – but the gist of the argument is the same. I was so surprised he’d pull this argument of all things, that I didn’t know what to answer. What do you think? Somehow "We have the same argument, but ours goes back longer" doesn’t seem adequate.

Scrabble with Eliezer ben Yehudah


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This is old, but I just discovered it today and find it sooo funny! And I’m so proud I understood it without translation!!! The thing you need to know to find it funny is that Eliezer Ben Yehuda is often called "the father of Modern Hebrew", he’s the one who revived Hebrew and invented loads of words for things that didn’t exist in Biblical times. So here is the comic:

If you don’t speak Hebrew, this is Chaviva‘s translation (reading from right to left, of course):

Title: It was really not fun to play Scrabble with Eliezer ben Yehudah.
Top right: “Your turn, Eliezer.”
Top left: “Please, handkerchief, 44 points.”
Bottom right: “What? That isn’t a word!”
Bottom left: “Now it is.”


Funny things from my search terms


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menu of food items to prepare is muktzah because you may write
This one wins in the category of most intriguing question. Although I’m not clear yet on what exactly the question is.

coasher step
This one wins in the category of best portmanteau. Composed of kosher and yasher koach (good luck) it is the name of our new coasher step-by-step program!

animated bear with tuxedo
slifkin kangaroo
It was hard to decide between these two for the winner in the category cutest animal, so I chose them both.

“conditions of treaty renewal have not changed”
Happy to hear that!
Er… what treaty are we talking about?
Maybe let’s take that discussion offline…

original thoughts on birkat hamazon
Winner of failed attempted plagiarism – failed because unfortunately there are no such original thoughts on this blog as far as I’m aware of.

blonde converted judaism
It was hard to decide on a category for this one, but it’s definitely a winner. Let’s call the category funniest racist prejudice. But, sorry, I’m not blonde. Also not converted yet. So, you got the wrong blog.

And finally the two winners in the category Hebrew:

pronounce גלש
You could try glas, gles, glash, glesh, galash, gelesh, galesh, gelash, gulash, gales, geles, gels, … or a dictionary!

gimel vav tav
Ende gut alles gut [All’s well that ends well].

Kashrut questions from my search terms (reloaded)


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is llama kosher
vicuna kosher
As far as I know llamas and vicuñas have the same type of hooves as camels (not split), which means they are not kosher.

warthog chews cud
No, like pigs, warthogs do not chew their cud.

are beetles kosher
No (whatever type of beetle you had in mind, the answer is the same, no beetle is kosher).

is a spring bok meat kosher
is zebu kosher
okapi is kosher
buffalo kosher animal
is texas longhorn kosher animals
Yes, in principle (texas longhorn is a type of cattle, all types of cattle are kosher, the other animals are explicitly discussed in the linked post). But it may be hard to get meat that has been slaughtered and processed properly.

list of exotic kosher animal
animals surprisingly kosher
My post on kosher land animals lists a few and also some people may be surprised by the list of kosher insects.

are raw pumpkin seeds kosher
Yes, provided they are split😉
No, that was a joke, any vegetable/seed/fruit that hasn’t been processed is kosher [some special rules may apply for products of the land of Israel].

Non-anti-semitic comments [yeah, sure!]


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Some "pearls" from the comments on an article in the German news that’s called Jews in Germany: We aren’t safe here anymore. There’s worse stuff in there that I didn’t want to post (also about Israel, refugees, homosexuals and others). The following is the original snippet in the block quote and below my tentative translation (help appreciated – leave a comment) and sometimes my [sarcastic comment] in the square brackets.

Das führt dazu, dass viele Menschen “antisemitisch” scheinen, obwohl sie eigentlich “antiisraelisch” sind.

This leads to many people seeming to be “antisemites”, when actually they are “anti-Israeli”.

[Yeah, these are two really different things, “anti-Israeli” is just as common as, say, “anti-Spanish” or “anti-Kongolese”, it really doesn’t matter that the one state you’re against is – by pure chance – the Jewish state.]

Die wirklichen Brandstifter sitzen in der israelischen Regierung, diese handeln nicht rechtstaatlich und bringen dadurch die Juden in aller Welt in Gefahr!

The real arsonists are sitting in the Israeli government, they are not acting in accordance with the laws [of a democratic / moral / ? state] and by that endanger Jews all over the world!

[It’s the Jew’s fault! Blame the Jew!]

Wenn sich Juden hier nicht sicher fühlen, können die es ja mal in Israel probieren. Es gibt viele aufstrebende Regionen, in denen die Religion im Vordergrund steht. Ich spreche jedem, der sich einer religiösen Organisation unterwirft die Intelligenz ab.

If Jews do not feel safe here, they could try out Israel. There are many emergent regions where religion is paramount. I deny everyone the intelligence who’s submitting to a religious organization.

Aber wenn meine Landsleute in meinem Heimatland eine schwer nachvollziehbare Politik gegen andere Volksgruppen führt, dann muss ich damit leben, das auch ich für diese Politik kritisiert werde!

But if my fellow countrymen in my home country lead elusive politics against other ethnic groups, then I have to live with the fact that I will be criticized for these politics.

[All Jews are Israeli, obviously. And it’s the their fault (see above)! Anyway, keep it real, the only thing that’s done is that there’s slight criticism of some political decisions, no harm done!]

“Schande über Deutschland! In Bremen konnte bei einer pro-palästinensischen Demonstration ein Jugendlicher minutenlang ‘Israel – Hurensohn’ von der Bühne”
Ja warum auch nicht, was hat das mit Antisemitismus zu tuen?

“Shame on Germany! In Bremen a youth was able to shout ‘Israel – son of a bitch’ for minutes during a pro-Palestinian demonstration”
Yes, why not, what does that have to do with antisemitism?

[Well, obviously, nothing????]

..das Deutschland wieder massiv fremdenfeindlich wird auch weitere Gruppen, Religionsangehörige etc. durch die Bewegungen der jüdisch-christlichen Pegita & Co & weitere gruselige Anhängsel bedroht werden… Nie wieder Faschismus in Deutschland! Die Parole hat schon ihre Berechtigung…

..that Germany is getting massively xenophobic again also other groups, members of religion etc. are threatened by the movement of the Jewish-Christian Pegita [he means Pegida, the right-wing xenophobic Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West] and other creepy appendages… No more fascism in Germany! This watchword is warranted!

[The original sentence sounds as weird as the translation. Well, of course Jews are behind whatever is bad, Pegida in this case. Damn, how did he find out!?]

Man ist nirgendwo mehr auf der Welt sicher. Aber Juden und jüdische Einrichtungen gehören in Deutschland zu denen, welche am besten geschützt sind.

No-one is safe anymore, nowhere in the world. But Jews and Jewish institutions are among those in Germany that are best protected.

[Mommy, the Jew gets special treatment!]

Das die Juden natürlich sofort mit jammern war klar . Das machen die aus Prinzip immer .

It was obvious that the Jews have to whine . They always do it as a matter of principle .

Erstaunlich ist nur wie schnell die Politiker bei den jüdischen Mitbürgern reagiert, die eigenen alten Leute interessieren niemand.

Surprising is only how quickly the politicians react when the Jewish fellow citizens [complain], nobody is interested in our own old people.

[Jews are not "our own", obviously]

I could go on, but I’ll stop here. To be fair, some of the antisemitic stereotypes have been identified and criticized by other commenters later in the thread. Also, comment sections, even moderated ones frequented by educated people, are full of crazy and insulting stuff people won’t say in real life. And stupid people are way over-represented. This selection of quotes should not be taken as a representative sample of German opinions about Jews. This relation is much more complicated.

So why did I write this post? I just needed to react to this comment threat in some way. This is my way to reflect on it (this is another).

Musings about fear


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Some time ago there was an article in the news where a journalist wrote about how a man told her that Jews should all go to the gas chambers. When she replied that she is Jewish and asked if in that case he wanted to kill her too, he answered yes – to her face, without any hesitation. It sparked some discussion about Jews in Germany and antisemitism.

I am very fortunate in that I have never experienced something on that level. Most of my time I spend among very highly educated people who are polite and cultured enough not to say anything like that. I have never been insulted or attacked on the street, also because I am not identifyably Jewish in some way, i pass as "normal". I feel safe. I’ve never even thought about antisemitism as something that I personally need to watch out for in my daily life.

There is a scene in the movie "Comedian harmonists" where Harry has to talk to someone from the Nazi agency for musicians because they won’t let the ensemble perform with the Jewish members. There is no violence, no threats other than not letting them perform, but there is an atmosphere of fear that feels very real. Maybe because it is such an ordinary scene. No concentration camps, no pogrom, no war, just something from everyday life. The clerk is even rather nice. But deep down, there is this disgust, this hatred. So casual, so accepted, so normal.

Deep down, there is something, still today, in your normal, friendly neighbour. And it manifests in small comments that people won’t even perceive as antisemitism. Some of them I have heard: "He seems nice, even though he is a Jew" – "These Jews always look out for one another" – "Well, they are smart" – "But criticizing Israel should be allowed" – and so on. And yes, it is antisemitism, even if I won’t loose any sleep about it.

One of the question a conversion candidate is asked is about antisemitism: "Why would you want to put yourself into danger, when you have the choice?" I never worried, I never felt in danger. But recently I realised that all the small comments that I have brushed off as nothing really amount to something. Something that is hidden, but that may very well come out one day. And that I am not only putting myself in danger, but also others. My husband, my (imaginary, future) children, maybe even parents or friends. And that does make me a bit afraid. Am I paranoid? Or is this worrying a normal side-effect of getting old?


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