Jewish Curiosity?
May 21, 2007 9:18 AM   Subscribe

What does it mean if someone asked me, "Do you have a limited Jewish background but an unlimited Jewish curiosity?"
posted by Maia to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First thing that sprung to mind was it means they're a bit weird.
Second thing was that they mean do you know very little about Judaism but have a strong desire to learn more.

Could be totally wrong though.
posted by missmagenta at 9:30 AM on May 21, 2007

What's the context of the question? Sounds like it could either be a slightly-obtuse compliment (recognizing the Jewish tradition of education) or the opening line from one of those Jews for Jesus assholes.
posted by mkultra at 9:33 AM on May 21, 2007

If someone had asked me that, like missmagenta I would think they were a bit weird, and then I would assume that they were referring to the fact that I'm 1/4 Jewish, but perhaps want to learn a lot more about that part of my heritage. If you don't have a Jewish background though, I haven't a clue.
posted by meerkatty at 9:35 AM on May 21, 2007

I interpret that as meaning curiosity about Jewish culture, also a taste for the kind of questioning dialogue typical of Jewish scholarly thought.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:35 AM on May 21, 2007

What was the scenario, exactly? Was it a stranger on the street?

If so, I agree with mkultra: Jews for Jesus. Or maybe National Jewish Outreach Program.
posted by veronica sawyer at 9:43 AM on May 21, 2007

Could it have been a Lubavitcher? They have outreach programs to attract non-Orthodox Jews to become Orthodox.
posted by amro at 9:49 AM on May 21, 2007

Is there any way that it was meant as a (really bad and cryptic) pick-up line?

(Do you have a little Jewish in you? You want some?)
posted by Pollomacho at 9:51 AM on May 21, 2007

Lubavitch missionary.
posted by rxrfrx at 9:53 AM on May 21, 2007

Lubavitch, of course. That makes total sense.
posted by mkultra at 9:55 AM on May 21, 2007

I can imagine Lubavitchers or other Jewish outreach people using that line in a brochure or poster, but I can't imagine them using it in conversation. I think their opener would be more of a direct "are you Jewish?" question, cause Jews don't proselytize.

Smells more like a Jews for Jesus thing to me. They do proselytize.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2007

By the way, that Wikipedia article I linked to appears to be very biased towards Chabad-Lubavitch, so don't go there looking for objectivity.
posted by amro at 10:03 AM on May 21, 2007

Huh. Odd. Was the person asking the question jewish? As I see it, it could be any of the above. Or it could possibly be that your personality seems to have traits similar to what they consider jewish & maybe they just phrased their observation in a weird way.

I've had a lot of people ask me if I'm jewish over the years (mostly in LA). Part of it was my sense of humor, my skin/hair tone & my somewhat Roman nose. But someone once said the fact that sometimes I enjoy dissecting stuff in conversation also gave the impression. Growing up Protestant, it was always implied that I was supposed to take everything at face value & not question or debate things. In contrast, judaism thrives much more on questions and discussion. (i.e. -- curiosity).

So it could be that he's asking if you're a goy & noting that you seem to be filled with curiosity in a way he considers to be similar to people who are jewish.

Or I could be talking out of my ass. That's possible too.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:17 AM on May 21, 2007

n.m. cowbell: the Lubavitchers actively prosyletize to other Jews. I was a bit mystified at the question, but the Lubavitchers was the first thing that occurred to me.
posted by adamrice at 11:06 AM on May 21, 2007

Every time I've been approached by some Chabad folks, all they ask me is a straightforward "'Scuse me, are you Jewish?"

Same here, but she could be dealing with a particularly cheesy Lubavitcher.

Um, Maia, could you give us a little more context? Was the asker Jewish? Was this in a bar or on the street or what?
posted by languagehat at 11:26 AM on May 21, 2007

Regarding the Lubavitcher speculation, I suspect that those people tend to be rather recognizable, or at least they have been in my experience, so I assume either Maia would have known it was them, or could describe the asker and we could confirm if that is who it was.

The phrasing is odd enough that I would suspect Jews for Jesus, but I've never struck up a conversation with them on the street, so I don't have any idea.
posted by andoatnp at 11:51 AM on May 21, 2007

In my mind proselytize = try to get someone to convert to your religion. Jews are already Jewish, so what Lubavitchers do isn't quite 'proselytizing.'

What I mean is: to a Lubavitch or other Orthodox Jewish person, whether or not you're Jewish makes a huge difference. They'll generally only continue with the outreach if you are. What was said to Maia doesn't seem to be focused on "are you Jewish" as much as "hey, come look at what I have to share with you," which is why I'm guessing Jews for Jesus.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:14 PM on May 21, 2007

Perhaps, like me, you've shown a lot of admiration for Jewish music and culture, but aren't really all that into the religion? I'd say I have an unlimited Jewish curiosity, but no real background and only an aesthetic interest in the religious aspects.
posted by wackybrit at 12:21 PM on May 21, 2007

When I saw this, the first thing I thought was "job interview at the Holocaust museum".
posted by yomimono at 1:41 PM on May 21, 2007

I am in an area with a large Jewish population, so I wind up seeing a lot of similar ads. It sounds exactly like an ad for Birthright Israel -- free trips to Israel for Jewish college students to learn more about the religion.
posted by booksandlibretti at 10:58 PM on May 21, 2007

veronica sawyer: i strongly doubt it was NJOP. They do "outreach", but they don't walk up to strangers/people on the street. They have programs that they advertise and then people sign up and come to *them*.
posted by prophetsearcher at 6:23 AM on May 22, 2007

Yeah, it's probably a longshot. But they do often mention "curiosity" in their appeals to new members.

I immediately ruled out Lubovitchers (though it's the most obvious answer) because I'd think it would be obvious what the intent of the question was.
posted by veronica sawyer at 6:33 AM on May 22, 2007

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