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The Secret Society

April 30, 2012
Just kidding.  And this photo was actually taken in Serbia, at a famous cafe.

We have a secret symbol, hand-shake and eyebrow waggle too.

She waited until no one else was in the room before popping the question.

“Are you Jewish?”

I looked around quickly and then stared back at my coworker with her long curly black hair and the last name of ‘Cohen’ (not her actual name).   I took the chance.  “Yes,” I said quietly.  “You?”

She nodded.  We smiled at each other.  “I knew even before I found out your last name,” she confessed.


“You have been to Israel before, but nowhere else in the Middle East.  You have dark hair, and are from Washington D.C.  And you didn’t know it was Easter this past week, so obviously not a Christian.”

“I’ve been travelling!  I lost track of time!  That one doesn’t count.”

“Even still,” she teased.  She proceeded to tell me that there was a small, intimate community of Jews in Amman.  All of them knew each other it seemed.  She was willing to invite me into the community, if I wanted to be introduced.  She warned me that some of them were a little shy, given the nature of the prejudice that existed against Jews in Jordan.  I assured her I could be discreet.  She forwarded me an invitation email to a dinner that explicitly said: “Do NOT forward.”

And somehow no one knows what constitutes as a Jewish last name here either. Safe.

Matzo. I call it 'just a kind of big cracker' at work. Nobody knows matzo here anyway.

In Jordan, there is very little distinction given between ‘Zionist’ and ‘Jewish.’  If you are Jewish, you are considered to be pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian.  Considering Jordan is by some accounts 70% Palestinian, this understandably leads to the Jewish community here existing on the down-low: Judaism is completely haram.  I counted myself lucky that on my very first day of work I met someone who could acquaint me with this endangered species.

The very next night, I had an experience that I never dreamed could be possible: a Seder in an Arab country.  We sat down at my co-workers dining room table, and ate our matzo (smuggled into the country by an American friend) and our home-made charoset.  We asked the four questions, and role-played wicked, wise, simple and unknowing children.  We dipped our finger into our wine, reducing the cup of joy one plague at a time.  And when the ritual was over, we ate.  Near the end of the meal, each one of told the group where they thought they’d be next year for Passover.  The UAE, Holland, the US, Egypt, the UK.  The answers were as varied as the group.  We giggled like children as we searched the apartment for the afikomen, which one sly member of the group hid while the rest of us we getting silly on red wine.  He kept hinting its location with terrible puns such as “You’ll never recover when you realize how long it took you to find it.”  (It was under the tablecloth.)

And I could be myself wholly for a moment, laughingly throw out a flippant ‘Mazel Tov,’ have my Passover celebration and eat it too, safe with the other ‘Chosen’ people.

And, c’mon:  It sounds pretty cool to be able to say I belong to a secret society, nu?

Disclaimer:  I am aware I just ‘outed’ myself on the internet to any passing Jordanian that might be reading this.  But honestly, if you found out about my blog and read this far, you probably aren’t the type to condemn out of instinct.  Or so I hope.  Insh’Allah.

One Comment leave one →
  1. bmmayer1 permalink
    May 20, 2012 3:54 AM

    Nice 🙂

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