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!”

  • No.
  • 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.

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