Friday, 23 January 2009

A Dilemma

I have a non-Jewish friend. Wow! I hear you say. Where did you get her from? What, it's a her!? Does your wife know about it? Shikses have Jewish friends!? How did you do it? What did you say the first time? You know how many times I've tried, but whatever I say doesn't seem to impress them. Antisemites. Sometimes they don't even smile.

There's a counterpoint too. Whom are you trying to impress, you shaigetz? You think that by having a goy for a friend you'll save your skin when Hitler, the sequel rolls into town? You think goyim look up at you because you have one of theirs for a friend? And who is she already? Your Polish cleaning lady probably. A classy English girl like the ones on aeroplanes won't even look at you. So we're not jealous and you can stick her in your mikveh bag. Anyway, what do you think she thinks of you? That you're cheap and you're selling out and just wait till you fall out with her and she'll call you a bloody Jew. My builder, a real englisher goy not one of these cheap poilishers, told me how he respects us for sticking to our own and talking in Yiddish when discussing in front of him the snags of his building work.

Phew! Now that that's out of the way we can carry on. I have a non-Jewish friend. A woman for all my troubles, as will soon be clear. I can't go into the details of the genesis of our friendship as it would blow my cover and, dear reader, you shall be tickled no longer. A harrowing thought that I wouldn't visit on even my first cousins once removed whose weddings I am being dragged to night after night for a lousy meal of (if you're lucky) 'schnitzel or beef, sir?' I do digress, don't I. Which reminds me... Ok, I promise to stick to my script from now onwards.

I know a lovely woman. My wife knows about it, since you ask, and there's no hanky panky and it's all hunky dory or as we say in Yiddish it's a kosher saucepan and a kosher spoon. We used to be closer and regularly have a coffee, she then moved to NY, (big deal, so she's Jewish after all, eh?) and we kept in touch by email. She then moved back and we would meet from time to time but less regularly as we were both working in different parts of town. Not the closest of friends but friends nonetheless.

Without going into the background, part of the reason we got to know each other is because she takes an interest in Israel and things Jewish. She would tell me of her membership of organisations working towards peace in the middle east and would ask me questions about Jewish practices. I in return would ask her what made her take an interest in our people as opposed to so many other peoples round the globe and was tempted to believe that we really are special after all and the rebbe in school and the speaker at the last wedding do really know what they're talking about. What in any event is certain is that we had a basis for countless discussions. This widened to generally shared interests and thus a friendship was formed. As said, not of the David and Jonathan intensity and without even remotely any Romeo and Juliet characteristics but friends nonetheless.

Well, within the last few weeks this particular friend has moved to Stamford Hill and that has unsettled the situation somewhat. While notionally I live and breathe Stamford Hill, walk the walk and oy do I tok the tok and generally am mad 'north north west', at heart though 'the wind is southerly' and even north-west can at times feel a tad stifling, if you get my gist. What I am getting at is that although to my chosen brethren I am one of them or almost so, to myself it doesn't always feel that way. So I go about my business the way it suits me though when at home do as Homer does and tuck in thsolent and kugel like the best of them. I tsk tsk on every new perceived travesty, feign injury at the slings and arrows the Jewish Tribune and the shul noticeboard constantly tell us are heading my way, sacrifice my kids to schools I wouldn't go anywhere near were I in my right senses and when everyone is looking religiously avoid handing over directly money to the lovely girls in Grodzinsky. OK, some of that was an exaggeration but nonetheless I am a local amongst the locals and for the moment intend to leave it that way.

So the question is, how does one deal with a friend like the one I've just described? If I had things my way I'd invite her for a Shabbos meal and introduce her to my family, I'd pop over to her for a natter now and then, get to know her boyfriend, and do all the other things friends usually do. In reality however, every time I go out on Shabbos resplendent in my eastern-European feudal garb I am nervous what would happen if I were to bump into her at all or, worse, while she were lugging a few heavy Morrisons bags. Imagine the sight: Shabbos morning 11.30ish when Stamford Hill goes about its kiddush business, men in their taleisim taking up the width of the pavement, girls and 'ladies' allowed to overtake on the outside, I mean, what's wrong? you don't need a ladder to climb the curb, and suddenly, 'oh, hello Howard, how are you?' and if I'm even more unlucky, down go the shopping bags and out comes a lovely female hand to greet me.

God in Heaven, if you are really watching us minions from high up above and you take a genuine interest even in the coming and goings of Portland Avenue and Heathland Road on a Shabbos morning then I know you must be so proud of your kinderlech in your celestial abode showing off to all the other gods how no one's naches comes close to yours. Pure Yiddish nakhes. But God do you want that merry-go-round to come to an abrupt halt and a sudden stop? Do you want mouths to fall wide open, men and women to stop in their tracks within four cubits of each other, bekitshes and skirts to freeze in their billowing state, plaits and peyes to stand quite literally on their heads, not to mention an overflow on the letters page in the News Update and a condemnatory op-ed in the Hamodia? Is this really your divine will? Well, then you know what you have to do to achieve it. But please, oh please, Hosanna, do chose someone else for this spectacle which I know will give you such heavenly delight. It'll make Your Shabboth, no doubt, and You'll be choking over Your tsholent with Your dear angels, but please again, use someone else to play the role. For as much as I love You, and You must know I do because I've been singing all the latest chart toppers in Yiddish and Hebrew with lyrics exuding my love for You, still forgive me this time, I'll make you more promises than I do during the take-off a an aeroplane but please please please choose someone else.

And if You really must, make her at least visit Waitrose so that she doesn't accost me with bloody Morrisons bags.