Monday, May 5, 2008

Pasqua, Pasquale, and Pass the Schmaltz

Rode the elevator up with Don Pasquale (of "poor Hitler" fame). He said, "You're leaving soon!" I replied, "Yep. One month from today." Don Pasquale's eyes welled up with tears: "I am truly, truly sorry. I am not just saying that. You and your husband and daughter are truly loveable people. You must find me before you go to say good-bye." Then he kissed me on both cheeks, and released the vice grip he had had on my forearm.

The other day I said hi to one of the little kids who lives on my street. He really lives on the street. He is always running up and down, with or without ball, with or without older brother, never with parent, sometimes dragging littler sister around. He is about 4 years old. I said, "Hi," and he gave me the finger. I thought that was hilarious (and sad, of course), so imagine my surprise when The Husband got all mad at me for talking to the kid in the first place. I couldn't figure out why he was shouting at me, "Don't talk to those people! You don't know those people, what they say about you to their kids!" He thinks his parents taught him to flip people off. Perhaps. More likely his older brothers, but then again, I really don't know those people and The Husband knows better than I do what is and isn't possible here.

Ya think Berkeley will be different?

Passover is long over, but it is worth recapping a bit here. We all enjoyed my mother's denunciation of the Torah and her discourse on Lillith, Adam, and the missionary position. D's charoset was delicious, and at the risk of tooting my own horn too loudly, my brisket and chicken soup were divine. My mom made chopped liver, all the while exclaiming, "These are the biggest chicken livers I've ever seen. I can't imagine the size of the chickens!" (She and my father call Neapolitan turkey legs "dinosaur legs" because they too are rather oversized). Another nonno neighbor, who always greets La Bimba, but not me, had a full volume conversation with me in the salumeria about Passover when he overheard me asking if they carried matzah (pane azzimo). He wanted to know what The Husband did during Passover (particpated, just like I did during Easter), what La Bimba was (Catholic, Jewish, Italian, American, I said, to which he cried, "Basta! Basta! That's too much!"). Classically, he started the interrogation stating, "Don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of the Jews. I love the Jews," always a red flag (with a little swastika on it?). This same man cornered me in the elevator to ask about the orthodox and then cornered my mother to ask about something else (see, I waited too long and now I can't remember all the details). My mother totally iced him saying, "We are all the same. All equal." THEN he cornered my American gal pal neighbor, asking, "Are you celebrating Passover?" Do you think he thinks all Americans are Jews?

I am bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by this interest in things Judaica here in Naples.

In other news...

...nap time.


Gil said...

It really saddens me to learn that the prejudice still lives on and that WWII never happened. I was watching a program on Jews in America on PBS recently and one quote that really struck me is that most people here never met a holocaust surviver. Of course there are plenty of people here that don't know what it is. I can still remember fasting with my Jewish friends when I was in college, 60's, and the great celebrations we had to break the fast. My Wife, daughter and I are heading to Naples on the 23rd of June and I'll ask for matzah when we hit a market.

Good luck at Berkley.

Alex said...

You must have go have shabbat with my friends who live very close to you -Alex and Sara are very cool and everything is K. Check out their website:

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you aren't the only one getting all the crazy questions and commets -they seem to flow in Naples. The funniest comment I got was as follows:
Nap: I've never known any Jews
me: have you heard of Jesus?
Nap: he wasn't Jewish he was Catholic.
I'm still snickering at that one!

Kataroma said...

Good one, Alex! Reminds me of the Kinky Friedman country song "They don't make Jews like Jesus Anymore." :) What do these people learn in catechism, I wonder??

I think Romans hold back a bit more with the comments - of course I'm not Jewish so maybe if I was I'd the get the weird stuff too. I know a few Roman Jews (my gynaecologist for one) and it's got to be tough for them now that we have a fascist mayor. :(

Doug said...

Wait -- you're Jewish? What -- did you have your horns shaved down?

I'm sorry, I can't visit your blog anymore. ;)

As for the prejudice, and to get serious again (I'm Jewish, too, btw, for everyone else!), I look at it as "passive" and "active." This is not too deep, and probably not original, but it serves. "Active" prejudice is based on a real psychological issue, and we all know it when we see it. "Passive" is far more widespread (I like to think), and mostly due to ignorance, not malevolence.

Passive may actually be more pernicious than active; you can see the arguments both ways.

But if someone says to me, as a very nice French Canadian boss I had at a pizza place in college once did, "Why do you need this job? You're Jewish, right: don't you have lots of money?", well, I just laugh, say that I wish it were so, and take it as "passive" -- especially given the all-important context: a very nice, but in this instance ignorant, man. God knows I've made many a "passive" prejudicial comment in my time, and given what humans are, I'll take "overcompensatory interest" over active hatred any day of the week! (And that goes for my own granfalloon or anyone else's, of course.)

Gil said...


No poor Jews I've heard that comment so many times in my high school and college days. Sometimes I still wonder why everyone assumed that children of the Holocaust survivors' had rich parents.