Last night (Friday), I was busy freshening up the muffin case. A man (probably about middle aged, dark hair, salt/pepper beard and wearing some phone earpiece) walks up and asks me if we have any challah bread. I replied that if we did, the challah could be found over on a certain rack. However, it isn't a big seller and so we only make it once in awhile. I then suggested to this customer that he gives us a call ahead of time and we'll have a loaf ready for the next Sabbath.
"No. That's ok." he tells me. The customer then went on to talk about traditions. From there, he talked about what it must have been like to have been the first person to taste some grapes that had been sitting in a bowl for days. Grape juice! Wine! Being the nice person I am, I smiled and nodded - no biggie. The customer then went on to lament about how people don't know where their family came from. I don't remember exactly how he worded this metaphor, but he used an example of being tied to a string. While talking, he slowly creeps into my space.
"Do you know where your family came from?" he asked me.
"Yes. My mother's side is from the Ukraine and my father's side is a mix of Ukraine, Ireland and Scotland."
"When did your family come to the states?" If I remember right, he was referring to my mom's side of the family.
"I think it was around the turn of the century."
He then asked why. "To escape political turmoil, I think."
My family's name (referring to mom's side)? "Goldstein." I replied.
"Ah! You're Jewish!" he exclaimed. "Do you practice?"
Oh shit, I think. "Unfortunately, I don't." It is at this point I find myself suddenly uncomfortable - especially since I'm scared of backlash for not practicing. The customer said something then - something about me working. It's then around this point that the evening manager, T walks by saying he has a cake order for me. I apologize to the customer - saying I need to go.
He understands and says, "You are Elizabeth the Jew Yiddena." As I am not fluent in both Hebrew and Yiddish, I had no idea what that meant and actually thought he said "Yinnen".
As I walk towards the back doors (YAY for my department being hidden from the store!), I wish the customer a wonderful night. He replies back with, "Not "sir", but Seth!"
Back in the bakery, T asks me if I'm alright and what the customer said to me. I explained what happened and told T the guy called me a "Jew Yinnen". T had noticed the guy basically had cornered me and came to my rescue. He also said that what the customer did was actually harassment and that he had no right to ask me personal questions like that. For the rest of my shift, I kept having this feeling the guy may have insulted me, but wasn't entirely sure.
Later on, while writing a statement about the incident, I remembered my book of Jewish Folklore and that it had a glossary of terms in it - which I mentioned to T. That's when we discovered that the guy had called me a "yiddena" - which is Yiddish for a Jewish woman (or basically a female Jew as I had stated on the FB post). T assured me an email will be sent to the other managers about what happened.
Fast forward to this (Saturday) afternoon. I'm sitting in the breakroom waiting for 3 o'clock to roll around. I'm eating and reading when I notice somebody sitting in front of me at my table. It is Tr - the produce manager. That he sat at my table surprised me, as the managers don't normally do this. Tr asks how I am and wanted the full story - as the email T sent out was brief in regards to the situation. I explained what happened and Tr replies that T's email had him worried - especially since I wait for the trolley outside when I leave work. Tr goes on his way and awhile later I start my shift.
Walking into the bakery, A (my manager) says something about having heard of my incident. W (his assistant) tells me not to share the story yet, as R (the grocery manager) needs to hear it too. She pages R to the bakery and once again, I explain what happened. That's when I discovered T had made the encounter much worse than it really was. According to R, T made it sound as though the customer was making sexual advances towards me.
Apparently T can be a little dramatic at times. R also said that the customer just sounded like someone who is a "close talker". The three managers then joke about how they will now call me "Challah" from now on. No biggie - we always joke around with one another. Not long after A, W and R went off to take care of other things, the store manager and assistant store manager walk in to talk to me. They leave after a few minutes - just as A returns.
"Isn't it nice to know the store cares about you?" he asked me. Considering what I've gone through while working here, the store is like my family.