Excerpt from “The Minority Report”
Friday night I was on my way to the NYU library when I walked by some students observing/celebrating the Sabbath, which from the looks of things was also functioning as the most righteous pickup scene I have ever witnessed. It might have been a couple of hundred students, and why not, in this, the most Jewish town in the world, and they were very dressed up, everyone seemed flushed, post-service, exhilarated, and speaking animatedly with each other. I grew up in a suburb with a goodly Jewish population, belonged to a Jewish Community Center and then worked at one in Skokie, Illinois, and I have seen this, the cockiness of not disappearing into society at large on this one night. The men wore kippahs (kippot is the correct plural), at the jaunty, back-of-the-head angle, needing to be anchored by bobby pins. Men and women easily flowed from group to group, introducing themselves without fear. I’d be cocky too: three thousand years of survival as a united religious and ethnic group—the first evidence we have of Israel is a mention of it on the Merneptah Stele, dated 1207 BC, and obviously Hebrews were around for longer than that. What I was seeing was pride and confidence—and the thrill of being part of a Jewish singles scene the likes of which I have never seen on any campus.
I slowed to watch and then pressed on, pinched, first by my general interminable aloneness, as I wove my way through the crush of hookup energy, and second, by the difference between this and what I seen in my years of what it was like being Jewish in school. At my college, the kippah was shoved into the back pocket for the walk across campus, donned when stepping on the lawn of Reynolds House, no bobby pins because it was only going to be on for an hour, and the women showed up jeans. The community was small enough so that there was no pickup-scene—no no no. There was merely the sense of showing up, occasionally, to keep something alive. Outside of this, there was an uneasy friendliness—yes we share this but don’t use it to presume.
Which brings me to I’m-not-that-Jewish and I-don’t-want-to-date-anyone-too-Jewish. I have been friends, acquaintances and have dated Jewish people who have this anxiety resulting from the tension of feeling that another Jewish person is their destiny and yet fearing it at the same time. Jdate: there’s always Jdate, they’ll say, but I don’t want to date someone, you know, too Jewish. I heard this over and over. As far as I can discern, that category involves one or both of these qualities…
Kirsten Major was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She received secondary education at Emma Willard School in Troy, NY, a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Languages from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, and Master’s Degree from the Writing Program at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Kirsten’s fiction and essays have been published in RealSimple, Chelsea, the Rake, and Popular Mechanics, and she is the only person she knows of who has written a New York Times Modern Love Column that is not about her own love life. She also is the writer and producer of a short film, “Jonathan, Just Because,” and the librettist for “Martin Luther: the Musical!”