Nakedly Jewish, in Front of a Cast of Gentiles

Confronted With Religious Identity at 30,000 Feet, and Other Tales of Jewish Recognition.

In corners of the world I never expected my Jewishness to surface, my ancient heritage finds me. Or is it the other way around?

Whenever I?m in Manhattan?s Diamond District, I get a twinge of nervousness and guilt: I worry about how I?ll react when an Orthodox Jew stops me and asks, with that unmistakable Yiddish inflection, ?You Jewish??

A ?yes? will prompt a polite request to step inside a ?Mitzvah Mobile? to put on tefillin. Usually I?ll smile, say I am indeed Jewish but that I have an appointment, and hurry away. I feel guilty, as if I?m too rushed to be Jewish, and make believe I?m scurrying off to something more important.

And then one day, I was flying home from Brazil. I was sitting in business class on American Airlines and got up to splash some water on my face on the red-eye flight.

A bearded man walked into the business-class section from coach and asked, in that familiar two-word phrase I had heard so often on the sidewalks of New York, ?You Jewish??

Read the entire article here, at