The door chimed as a male, non-Jewish customer entered Rivka Cohen’s kosher deli. Her stomach churned. George’s dad was well known for anti-Semitism but surely he didn’t take after his dad. After all, she knew George’s wife from synagogue, though her friend hadn’t gone since they were little. She grinned and waved. “Hi, George. What can I get for you today?”
A light gleamed in his eyes. “Turkey and Swiss on rye with the works, please.”
“Coming right up.” She rang up the turkey on rye sandwich separately from his special request, the slice of cheese. Her stomach tightened as she made his order. His special request wasn’t kosher but he wasn’t of her faith, she didn’t have to eat it and surely she wouldn’t become ceremonially unclean over cheese. It wasn’t unclean according to Torah. It was the Rabbis who had interpreted “Don’t boil a kid in it’s mother’s milk” to mean not to even put cheese on a sandwich. They might judge her at her synagogue, if they found out, but no one would see.
She wrapped his sandwich, passed it to him, and gave him his total. After he paid, she handed back his credit card and said with a bright smile, “Have a good day!”
“Thank you.” He tapped his fingers. “My daughter is having a bar mitzvah at our interfaith synagogue in four weeks.”
Ugh. Maybe she had misunderstood, and his daughter had decided to practice her mother’s abandoned faith? Muscles tensing, she forced her smile to stay put. “You mean a bat mitzvah. Girls have bat mitzvahs, not bar mitzvahs.”
“That is so sexist. Our interfaith synagogue practices true equality. Girls have bar mitzvahs, too, and you don’t have to believe Torah is the word of God or commit to keep the Torah to get one.”
That was absurd. She took a deep breath. This wasn’t the place for a religious argument.
The door chimed again as another customer came in. She waved. “Be right with you, ma’am.”
George cleared his throat and leaned over the counter. “You cater, right?”
A bat mitzvah being ignorantly called a bar mitzvah that made a mockery of her faith. She swallowed. It was surely unintentional. Best to let it go. She got out her pad of catering order forms. “Yes, we cater special events. What would you need?”
“Oh, about two hundred shredded pork sandwiches.”
Her face fell. That was it. She put away the catering order forms. “I’m sorry, I’d suggest you go down to Ted’s Barbeque. We don’t serve pork.”
“Excuse me? You got a problem with my love for pork? How dare you! Who are you to judge?”
Huh? “You’re not a Jew. What you eat elsewhere is your business, but we are a kosher deli. It says so on all our ads and signage. Pigs are among the animals of which Torah itself says, ‘You are not to eat meat from these or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.’”
“That is bigoted discrimination. A deli is a deli. I have a right to walk into any deli I please and order a pork product and get service, not judgment and hate over my love of pork. Besides, I am a long time customer, and you’ve regularly broken kosher laws for me.” He pointed at the turkey and Swiss on rye. “Thanks to that, you have to be willing to make me anything I order, for any occasion, or it’s discrimination. If you can’t make me shredded pork sandwiches for my daughter’s interfaith bar mitzvah, then you shouldn’t be in business.”
The bell rang as the customer who had been waiting behind him left.
“Sorry you feel that way, sir,” she said in the most professional tone she could muster.
Her childhood friend’s husband tossed his sandwich in the garbage. “I won’t eat what the hands of hate made. I will issue a stop payment with my credit card company.” He stomped out. “And I will sue and take you for everything you’ve got!”
She gulped. Thankfully, she wasn’t one of the hateful, discriminatory Christians who refused to cater gay weddings at their secular bakeries. Only others who hated Jews wouldn’t see through the ploys of the hateful, bigoted false friend seeking to ruin her financially over her faith. Surely her right to practice her religion at her Jewish deli would be upheld and his lawsuit dismissed.
Author’s note: let’s each work on being aware of our own biases. Let’s each work on respecting the rights of others to earn a living according to their own conscience even if we disagree with them on political, religious, or any other controversy of the day.