Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ask A Jew

Originally, I was going to write a post today about my experience going to Monsey, NY for the first time on Wednesday for a friend's wedding. I had jotted down a few notes about how I couldn't decide if the employees in the grocery store stared at me because I had on a blue dress (normally, women wear very muted colors in that ultra-Orthodox enclave), or because my legs were bare below the knee or because I was wearing open-toed shoes with red polish common among harlots.

I also thought about opining on the women who power walked at 10 p.m. wearing snoods, dress skirts and sneakers while chatting in Yiddish. Or the yeshiva bochur (15-year-old kid) who claimed he'd never heard of I-287 when I tried to ask him for directions. Note: I later found a cop.

All these observations and culture clashes are certainly the stuff pithy blog posts are made for, but then I sat down to my computer this afternoon to find an email from someone I knew in college.
"Question: My husband's cousin is having his bar mitzvah and we can't go. What is the going
rate for $ as a gift. Also, would they have Bar mitzvah cards at Target? Thanks for the info.
Hope you're doing well!"

Or this one I got a few months ago from a high school friend getting married next year.
"I am looking for a little insight regarding Judaism and marriage and rabbis.We are trying to
research options, but could you recommend a rabbi in Phoenix? I would be interested in
learning more about him or her."

These are just the latest examples in a life's vocation I have decided to dub, "Ask a Jew." For better or worse, I seem to have absorbed more Judaic knowledge than many of my peers during my time in various Jewish educational settings. Plus, I tend to shoot from the hip, so people generally figure they're getitng straight-forward and honest information from me.

I'm always flattered when I get these questions, because it makes me feel good that others are comfortable enough to ask me everything from the deeply spiritual to the obscurely ritualistic to the blithely ignorant. It appeals to my inner know-it-all which I've certainly blogged about in the past and my sister has now suggested I pen a Dear Esther column here on Shtetl Fab or in another venue. Perhaps.

Of course, being a hustler as well as a maven, I also wonder how I can make money off this knowledge. One friend suggested (along with a Yiddish-language question) that I could set up a PayPal account and charge by the question. Interesting, but how do you set prices for that sort of thing? Higher cost for harder questions?

If I were smarter all along, I would have started to compile them in one place and then made a book. A nice book promotion tour would be the perfect way to scratch my itchy wanderlust feet. Wherefore art thou Simon and Schuster?


Matt said...

These should be your biggest problems. Mazel Tov.

Ben-Yehudah said...


Very clever and cute post!

Let's see. Maybe prices should be based on how "life-changing" the question is.

Should I get divorced, have a sex change operation, and move to Fiji would be like a 97 rating.

Should I have pizza here or there on Motza"Sh? - both equidistant from home, both with same heksher, both with same crowd - would be like a 3 rating.

m.v. said...

So what it the going gift rate? Not that I am in danger of being invited and Kansas City rates are probably a fraction of fancy NY rates. Anyway,I subscribed to both of your blogs and will be waiting for an answer. Good luck on the book.

Shtetl Fabulous said...

In lieu of the book, I've launched a sister site: Ask A Heeb. You can find it at

The going rate varies, I suppose and certainly geography plays a role. So far people seem to think $5 is appropriate for a question answered.

Nitzana said...

Very funny! It sounds like you have the experience of being asked by other members of the tribe, but many times I feel in the midwest I get asked by the goyim. I can't tell you how many times a dozen questions appear because they say they have never met a Jew before!