Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jewish Exceptionalism

Being a rather self-centred minority [and what minority isn't?], Jews display a sense that we are exceptional in more than just our mission. We tend to assume that our foibles are Jewish-specific, as though we were the only neurotic, guilt-ridden people living in patriarchal societies dominated by women, chronically showing up late, spending as little as possible, and so on.

Some of us were disabused of this notion of ethnic exceptionalism by the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding; I understand that one could have substituted "Jewish" for "Greek" and most of the jokes would still have made sense. But the confused sense of our own quirkiness remains for many of us.

So it is, for example, that Jews are wont to joke ad nauseam about the phenomenon of Jews schisming and opening new houses of worship at the drop (or donning) of a hat, but apparently Asians have a saying about Koreans and their church schisms, "When two Japanese meet, they set up a business firm; when two Chinese meet, they open a Chinese restaurant; and when two Koreans meet, they establish a church." [See also Eui Hang Shin and Hyung Park, An Analysis of Causes of Schisms in Ethnic Churches, Sociological Analysis 49:3 (1988).]

And so it is that Jews joke about "Jewish time" being behind the rest of the world, but searching for "Asian Time" at the Urban Dictionary yields:
The phenomenon of adding 30 minutes to the local (Zulu) time of the observer's location.
During event planning, care must be taken to analyze each party's inherent participation in said phenomenon, adjusting the allotted preset time (+30 minutes) to vary according to transportation, clothing, hygiene, and facial appearance preparations. This can affect arrival times to an event by as much as +45 or reduce the Asian Time to only +15, but never eliminate it.
The primary victim of this phenomenon must consider the implications of Asian Time and the effects of his/her decisions.
"We've said to meet up at the cafe at 8am, but I'm guessing they will show up at 0830 because they run on Asian Time."

And so it is that we - and the world - talk about Jews being cheap, but it appears that the Scotsman takes the cake for frugality. [Look at that link, and then ask yourself what would have happened, had Studebaker-Packard made a stripped-down car called "The Jew"!]

What does it all mean? Not a whole lot; just saying.


  1. Being English, I knew about the Scots-frugality stereotype (George Orwell records a joke about a Jew and a Scotsman at a talk who suddenly discover there is going to be a collection at the end; as the plate reaches them, the Jew pretends to faint and the Scotsman volunteers to carry him out. Not particularly funny, but as Orwell says, it's interesting to compare the stereotypes: both are stingy, but only the Scotsman is portrayed as strong), but I had no idea other people run on 'Jewish' mean time too. That being the case, maybe we should all just agree to quit worrying and take an extra half-hour in bed...

  2. This is taken to the degree of idolatry in Israel. Anything good always has to be from some Jew. Yet even I have to admit that where ever there is some great advancement there is always some Jew in the mix.--like the DNA story.

  3. Daniel-
    Indeed; the idea for the post came about on Friday when I was waiting for someone at a subway station and overheard someone else talking about her friend who was late, saying he was on "Asian Time"...