What kind of accent?

8 Feb

I just listened to a recording of a meditation led by Joseph Goldstein. He has an accent, I think a Boston accent. He does not have a “Jewish accent.”

I recently recalled two separate incidents in which gentiles at work (not the same workplace or even in the same state) used a peculiar phrase: “a Jewish accent.” On each occasion, I felt shocked and stared at them, and each time they misinterpreted the look on my face. Apparently, it never occurred to them that I might be descended from Jews, since they seemed to assume that I had no idea what they meant by “Jewish accent,” and the first one actually had the nerve to explain it to me.

What they each really meant was a Jew with a New York accent. Do they seriously think that all American Jews live in New York City? It’s true these people in my workplace didn’t keep quiet about being Xians, but did it never occur to them that they might have a Jewish or partially-Jewish coworker?

I wish that in both those situations I had said, “Do you mean a Yiddish accent? Do you mean a Jew with a New York accent? My Jewish grandmother had an accent that was a highly educated cross between Alabama and the east coast. My great-grandmother, who immigrated from Poland, had a Yiddish accent.”

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