Image: Two faces with speech balloons. (Artwork by nchlsft/shutterstock.)
Last week I posted an entry that seemed to hit a nerve: Talking About Converts. I thought it might be good to follow up with a post about ways to deal with nosy questions, etc. What follows is a question or comment (in italics) and some possible responses.
“Are you a convert?”
- Yes. So were Abraham, Sarah and King David’s great-grandmother.
- Did you know that halakhah forbids that question?
- Why do you ask?
“Did you convert to get married?”
- Did you?
- Why do you ask?
“So, Plonit* tells me that you are a convert!”
- Surely you and Plonit* are not gossiping about me!
- Why is this your concern?
“You do realize that you’ll never really be Jewish, right?”
- Why don’t you ask the rabbi about that?
- Why would you say such a hurtful thing to me?
- Well, then I guess Abraham and Sarah weren’t really Jewish, either.
- Why does my conversion bother you so much? Maybe you should talk to the rabbi.
- I didn’t realize you are an expert on halakhah.
“I love hearing conversion stories! Tell me yours!”
- That’s private.
- I’m too busy being Jewish to think about ancient history!
“I think Plony is a convert. What do you think?”
- I think it isn’t my business.
- I’d rather talk about something else.
- Plony is Jewish. That’s good enough for me.
- Why are you asking me?
When all else fails, sports can come to the rescue. Just change the subject as if the subject had never come up:
- How about those [insert sports team name here]?
Personally, my favorite replies are “Why do you ask?” or the ever-popular “Oh?” with a puzzled look. Just put the ball in their court.
If you aren’t sure what might be comfortable for you, try different answers out, either with a mirror or better yet with a friend.
I hope that readers will chime in with their own ways of responding to intrusive or hurtful questions and comments. What do you do when someone says something inappropriate?
*Plony and Plonit are the Jewish equivalents of John and Jane Doe.
Updated on 7/23/17 to add a bit more of the benefit of the doubt to questioners.