Two weeks before I left for Texas one of the boys made an off the the cuff remark about how there are no Jews in Texas and that my living there would double the population. I knew from experience that he was wrong.
I had been to several Jewish weddings in Texas and knew more than a couple of Jews who were born in the Lone Star State. I also know a couple of transplants who have earned the title of “Crazy Texans” but we’ll leave their stories for a different time.
It wasn’t until I arrived in Fort Worth that I realized that all of my Jewish Texas connections were in Dallas or Houston.
I wasn’t particularly concerned about it because I figured that I would find a shul and that in time I would meet some other members of the tribe. But it wasn’t a lack of other MOTs that I really noticed, it was a dearth of Hebrew.
Where Are The Israelis?
The Los Angeles I left has approximated 1,982,382 Israelis living in it, or roughly half the population of Tel Aviv. Half of them are working at the mall and the rest are in construction.
Ok, that is an exaggeration but it is not an exaggeration to say there are a ton of Israelis roaming around L.A. I heard Hebrew spoken all over the city and I like that. I liked to eavesdrop on conversations because it gave me a chance to practice my Hebrew to try and keep the skills sharp.
Back in Los Angeles a visit to the mall was usually accompanied by an Israeli salesperson approaching me with “a great product to buy for myself or my wife.” Most of the time I would shake my head no and keep going, but sometimes I wouldn’t.
Sometimes I would engage them, but I always made sure to tell them “I am not a fryer.”
A “fryer” or “freier” is a sucker and you never want to be a “fryer.”
A Visit To The Mall
Two days ago I had to make a stop at the mall and discovered there are Israelis in Fort Worth.
I was on my way to Sears when I spotted a guy at a cart selling massagers and I immediately identified him as another MOT. We had the same dark hair, same 5 O’clock shadow but I didn’t have the accent.
If he hadn’t approached me I would have visited the cart just to see if I was right. It took all of five seconds of listening to him speak to confirm that I was. He told me that he had a massager I had to try.
I let him put it on me and then he told me another gentlemen would help me and walked away.
The “new” salesman was a Black guy who sounded like he had grown up in Texas.
“That guy who just left, he is Israeli right?”
The salesman smiled and said yes and then proceeded to tell me about the product. He was very smooth and within a few moments he told me what it cost and asked for the sale.
The Fryer In Fort Worth
I told him that I appreciated his time but I didn’t expect to buy. He asked me if I had any friends or family in the military and when I said yes he offered a discount. I smiled and told him that I wasn’t a “fryer” and then explained to him what that meant.
He thanked me for explaining and then in perfect Hebrew told the other guy that was standing behind me that I spoke Hebrew.
It is too bad no one took a picture of my face because I was shocked.
Wander through Israel and you find lots of Ethiopian Jews who speak Hebrew. Miss Israel 2013 is an Ethiopian Jew and an officer in the Army.
But this guy spoke English like a native speaker.
“Your parents are American right?”
He laughed and said yes. He was born in Israel and his Hebrew is a thousand times better than mine, not to mention he doesn’t have my American accent.
I smiled at him and said, well maybe I am the Fryer in Fort Worth.”
He laughed and the three of us had a very nice conversation. It was a good reminder that things are always what they seem to be.
We’re going to get coffee next week and shoot the breeze. It should be fun, I am looking forward to it.