Straight From Romania

24 Jan

A reader characterized my last essay as one that only a “typical liberal” could post.

Liberal! I know that’s bad.

As a typical woman, I shrink under criticism.

However, I recovered from hurty feelings by recalling this Israeli joke:

A young woman asks her rabbi for advice:

— Rabbi, is it a sin to keep a secret from my fiancé? You see, back in Romania, I was a prostitute. If I tell him, I’m afraid he won’t want to marry me.

— Well, my dear, the Good Book says we must tell the truth, but it doesn’t say we have to tell the whole truth. Tell him that you were a prostitute…

…but don’t tell him you’re from Romania!

I cop to liberal, but I’ve never even been to Romania. Niciodată!

(Romania, for the literal-minded, represents “typical” here.)

28 Responses to “Straight From Romania”

  1. david osman January 24, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    I was asked once why I consider myself a Jew if I believe in Christ.
    I replied that I also believe in a bus. and added as a point of clarification: “ if they come for you, cuff you and push you into the bus to take you to a concentration camp I will be sitting there already, detained.”

    • jenny January 27, 2011 at 5:42 am #

      David, you are right, but perhaps we can meet under more congenial circumstances. 🙂

  2. Cyberquill January 24, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    First of all, although there is no cast-in-stone definition of “essay,” I know know one when I see one, and that handful of strung-together sentences you chose to bestow said appellation upon is not that. Call me Potter, if you like.

    Second, to be a typical liberal is just as good or bad as to be a typical conservative. Both species make good points in certain areas and are hopelessly misguided in others.

    Third, in the comment section following your “essay” you accused the critical reader in question of making “assumptions” about your politics which allegedly clouded his powers of interpretation, yet in the follow-up “essay” above you cop to precisely those assumptions. I am not sure by what mechanism accurate assumptions can cloud.

    • jenny January 27, 2011 at 5:43 am #

      Dear Sir:

      You may be right.

      • Cyberquill January 27, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

        Or left. Who knows.

        Regarding the joke about the woman and the rabbi, it obviously belongs to the popular “leave the gun, take the cannolis” category, where the humor stems from a reversal of the expected. Man learns his wife had an accident and goes, “Oh my God—how’s the Mercedes?”

        I’m not quite sure, though, I understand the connection between your reaction to however some reader may have categorized your previous essay [sic] and the therapeutic quality of your joke, specifically whether its healing properties derive from its general category (i.e., reversal of the expected), or from one or more of its specifics, such as “rabbi”, “Romania”, “fiance,” or “prostitute.” (I never know where the comma goes in a series of words or expressions that are individually enclosed by quotation marks—inside or out?)

      • jenny January 28, 2011 at 7:14 am #

        I just like jokes, I guess.

        Commas are great, especially when properly placed. But jokes make the world go around.

      • Cyberquill January 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

        Oh, good. I was worried that because I labeled the category the joke you shared belongs to as a “popular” one, the typical woman inside of you would, once again, shrink under such perceived criticism. (“Popular! I know that’s bad.”)

  3. Philippe January 24, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    ….I’ve never even been to Romania….

    I, for my part, have never been to Heaven, but I’ve been to Oklahoma.

    • sledpress January 24, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

      And I’ve been to see the elephant. 🙂

    • jenny January 27, 2011 at 5:44 am #

      @Philippe and Sled:

      🙂 🙂 🙂

      I’m on the road to Shambala.

      • Philippe January 27, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

        Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah….

      • jenny January 28, 2011 at 7:16 am #

        Philippe, thanks for bringing your records to my party.

  4. Paul Costopoulos January 25, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    Why do I percieve a whiff of some kind of racism here? What is it with the Romanians, the Jews and the prostitute I prefer the Fiddler on the Roof rabbi’s blessing of the Czar:”God bless the Czar…and keep him far from us!”
    The Virtual Pen gives us a mix of stylistics, grammar and politics that could require some digesting.

    • jenny January 27, 2011 at 5:58 am #

      Paul, your comment is very interesting to me.

      When Jews from one country make fun of Jews from another country, is that racism? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong.

      I love the rabbi’s blessing for the czar, and it is very funny that you mention it here.

      But think about this: Fiddler on the Roof (I love it) is a story whose plot is advanced, in large part, by racism. Obviously, the Russians are motivated by racism in their treatment of the Jews, but there’s more than that. Why can’t Tevye accept Fyedka as a husband for his third daughter Chava?

      • Paul Costopoulos January 27, 2011 at 7:02 am #

        Jews making fun of other Jews could be racism if you factor in some sense of superiority felt by Jews from more sophisticated countries toward lesser countries Jews, or countries felt as less sophisticated. Look at Israel for instance and how Jews from various countries behave towards one another.
        As for Fiddler on the Roof, poor Tevye is the very personification of a Tradition bound people compelled by circumstances and evolution to renounce several basic tenets that hold him together.
        Remember the last sequence when Chava and Fyedka come to say they are also leaving. He remains dead silent. When they move away he whispers:”God bless you!” Too proud to admit it, but he had pardoned Chava, no? He may then have understood that he to was racist in his exclusion of the “others”.

      • jenny January 28, 2011 at 7:20 am #

        Paul, I see Tevye the same way you do.

        I still want to salvage my joke though: I liken it more to those snotty kids in college from New York and Boston who smirked at those of us from places like Peoria and Terre Haute. They were snobs. They were insensitive. They were (help me out here: I grew up in a town of 16,000) probably just plain wrong. But their haughtiness was not motivated by racism.

  5. Artswebshow January 26, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    Ha ha, i think this could turn into a very interesting comment discussion

    • jenny January 27, 2011 at 6:00 am #

      Had you brought along some of the culinary creations from your blog, we all might be able to get along.

      • Artswebshow February 1, 2011 at 9:51 am #

        Sorry kitchens closed for the day. hahahahaha 😀

  6. Paul Costopoulos January 28, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Snobbishness, condescension, patronizing, despite comes to mind about how city folks look down upon country folks. No racism here, I agree, but the basic attitudes are the same.

  7. sledpress January 31, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    My late-and-ex, a lifetime resident of Manhattan, had some observations about the different character of the Jews he met there, by national origin. He was positioned to comment because his previous wife came from a Russian-Jewish family, even if he was kind of Scots Irish like me.

    The German Jews were the ones who made him chuckle, for instance telling people in no uncertain terms to keep to ze right when walking on the city sidewalks.

    But that was in the Fifties and Sixties, so who knows about today.

  8. jenny February 1, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    That’s why I love that city! Just this weekend, a friend (New Yorker and Jewish) referred to New York as a Jewish Wonderland.

    My husband (Jewish, but no longer New Yorker) asked: “What kind of rides does a Jewish Wonderland have?”

    • sledpress February 1, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

      Now I’m picturing a hookah-smoking caterpillar in a tallis and the Mad Hatter with a splendid yarmulke. And a slightly manic mohel shouting “off with his…” OK, I’ll stop.

      • jenny February 2, 2011 at 8:17 am #

        Now, that’s very funny, Sled! I hadn’t thought of that kind of Wonderland.

      • sledpress February 2, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

        I had had Alice on my mind recently (a quote in my last post).

  9. dafna February 4, 2011 at 12:15 am #


    we share your snow pain here in ohio with the recent 2,000 mile ice storm. in an all electric apartment on the top floor, we loose heat FAST when the power is out. the city had no back-up plan, i called because, with a bag packed, i wondered where my son and i could go to stay warm if the power went out?

    we were lucky, and did not lose power, although many neighbors did. i’m now honestly experiencing post traumatic stress. a large part of canton is still without power (18,000 homes)…

    i saw the news/images of lakeshore boulevard – tragic loss of life, historic storm. how have you faired?

    • jenny February 4, 2011 at 6:47 am #

      Thanks for asking, Dafna. We are fine, but also a little traumatized. Luckily, we were all able to get home before the blizzard hit. It was impressive. A couple of days of tag-team shoveling (no snowblower here) and we had freed both of the cars. As per usual, we have settled, now, into bitter cold. Yippee.

      Lake Shore Drive is simply unbelievable.

      By happy coincidence, I had signed up to provide dinner to our homeless shelter on Wednesday. Turned out to be just the thing to do on that day. How can the world actually freeze over with five pans of scalloped potatoes in the oven?

      18,000 homes without power? Wow. Oh, Dafna, be good to yourself. Read something funny. I’ll try to write something silly for you this weekend. Maybe I can even get Cyberquill to come over and pull my pigtails. 😉

      Stay warm. By the way, I also made kasha on Wednesday. Are you a kasha-eating kind of person?

  10. dafna February 5, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    thanks jenny.
    looking forward to a funny blog.
    i’m more of an oatmeal person, never had kasha.

    yes CQ, i am a person made of oatmeal :). my grammar is never corrected because of aphasia – i get a free pass.

    take care also in this deep freeze.

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