You Are Nothing, But You Know

I really like one of my doctors. She was counseling a patient in the hallway, who was obviously an orthodox Jew. "You MUST eat. You must not fast!" She apologized to me, and asked "Are you a Jew?" I hesitated, then said my father was bar mitzvahed. "OK, then you are nothing, but you know. I'm Jewish, or I used to be. I was orthodox. I wasn't just orthodox, I was very orthodox. Extremely orthodox. Actually I was Hasidic. And I can't stand that religion stuff."

People in places without many Jews might need some background.

Jews are ordinary in New York, but they are not obvious unless they wear traditional clothing, something most never do. Matters of health are supposed to take precedence over religious rules. Jewishness is sometimes cultural, not religious, so a listener must guess which is meant. A bar mitzvah is a coming-of-age ceremony for men. Some say you are Jewish if, and only if, your mother is Jewish, so it doesn't matter what your father is. Still, "sort of Jews" are expected to know how things work. Hasidic Judaism is an ultra-orthodox movement. Medicine is not a suitable job for a Hasidic woman, and a woman who persists would be shunned by the community.

It's complicated.