Wednesday, March 30, 2005
For a community that prides itself on being accepting, classless and purely achievement driven there is a surprising amount of prejudice in Chassidusville. In addition to the obvious and well-documented division between the Sephardim (Jews of oriental origin) and the Ashkenazim (Europeans), Chassidim, who belong to the latter, have been divided within by their origins too.
In former times it was those of Polish and Russian descent who despised the Hungarians who in turn turned their big noses down on the Rumanian ganuvim (crooks) who joined them all in agreeing that the yekkes (of German stock) were the pits. As the Germans considered themselves superior to anything emanating from any of those cultural black holes and the Hungarians considered their superior cooking to be more than adequate to cover for any gaps in their culture or learning they all took a fair share of the biscuit.
These distinctions are diminishing now. Most Chassidim today are of mixed blood and even the Rebbes of some of the Chassidic Houses are of alien bloodlines. New divisions are emerging, however. Thus we, the Chassidim of fair England, look down on our American counterparts as shallow and conceited. We are honestly are not interested in their crummy ‘danishes’ that we keep on having to hear are so much better than anything available in the UK and, having seen what balabustes they are, we are not surprised they have breakfast in Pizza stores. We do not especially like the Chassidic clothes they so insist on flooding our market with or their uncanny knack for making them to look like they don’t fit properly. We are not impressed by their inability to learn to speak either English or Yiddish properly and to be honest we are not always sure which one it is they are speaking.
It is not an anti-American thing though. We also see the Israelis as callous, opinionated and uncouth. From Dibs (Dear Israeli Brothers) when I was a kid through Dibs (Damn Israeli Bastards) when I was a teenager we have now progressed to Fish, an acronym you can figure out for yourselves. We don’t expect them to have any manners or to return anything they borrow. We know they are going to drop into our mikves without showering first and theirs are the fingers perpetually in our serving plates.
The Antwerpians are the Nouveau Yekkes of the Chassidic world. Pompous and arrogant with no saving graces. The one country that exports nothing to the Jewish marketplace or culture bar some second rate chocolate and watery yoghurt is also the home to the most critical of all Chassidim. They smugly and incessantly sing their own virtues, often in the same breath as complaining that their lives are the most expensive anywhere, forgetting we are aware that showing-off is not cheap. I don’t know of any other place in the world where Chassidim speak French and clean-shaven specimens can be seen walking home of a shabbes in their bekishes doing it. We don’t like them, although we can tolerate their children marrying ours, at a pinch, if the only alternative is from across the pond (and they promise not to speak frog when our friends can hear).
Everybody knows the Swiss are pedantic fascists by nature and the Canadian Chassidim have taken over the sense and sensibilities of pre-war Hungary to proudly wallow in their backward obscurity.
It is only the shgatzim who do not have these notions. They recognise a kindred spirit as soon as they hear the first expletive and can immediately bond. In their own circle they know no yichus, although their numbers are swelled with many who have it in abundance, and in the universal tongue of the street they are joined as one. Maybe they do utter a profanity here and there but at least they are united in their common language.