“Is Your Name Jewish?”

I was in the Food Lion in a town called Franklinton yesterday. The Food Lion is in a dowdy strip mall which boasts a small liquor store and an internet café — not the cool kind, but the kind where you play sweepstakes. I don’t fully understand what that is in relation to the internet, but it’s basically legalized gambling in a low-rent cybernetic casino.

It’s a nice crowd.

The reason I go there is not to meet people, though. I go there because it’s conveniently on the way home from my therapy appointment on Thursdays. I stop and pick up something for supper, or buy beer and sodas and sundries, and try not to get mugged in the parking lot.

Anyway, I went into the store, picked up what I came for, and checked out. I used my debit card. Out of nowhere, the check-out lady asks if my name is Jewish. I quickly checked myself for name tags before I answered. I wasn’t wearing one. I guess they can see my name on their screen.

Despite everything I could have said, like “Does it matter?” or “That’s a rude question,” I said “Yes.” Then the woman gave me a smug look like she’d just completed the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.

I’m pissed at myself for answering the question. It’s rude, and I should have confronted her. I don’t go around asking strangers about their ethnicity, and I expect the same behavior in return. This has happened before. Wherever I go, there’s a member of what I call the Spot the Jew Committee whose portfolio is to ferret out the Jews that walk among them, because they can tell who’s Jewish just by looking at them.

I’m promising myself that the next time it happens, I’ll be ready to confront the Spot the Jew Committee member and call them out on their rudeness, but I probably won’t. I’m too confrontation-averse. It does, however, need to be called out, and I hope that other Jews everywhere are verbally expressing their umbridge at the question.

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