Arts & Culture

Have You Gotten “the Borough Park Stare”?

I am sitting in a random kosher pizza shop in Brooklyn. I am sitting here, eyebrows furrowed, pissed off at the racket we know as the kosher pizza shop cartel. Three dollars for a slice of pizza. The quality of … Read More

By / December 30, 2008

I am sitting in a random kosher pizza shop in Brooklyn. I am sitting here, eyebrows furrowed, pissed off at the racket we know as the kosher pizza shop cartel. Three dollars for a slice of pizza. The quality of this one-side-of-a-grilled-cheese-plus-blood-sauce-sandwich hasn’t risen in tandem with its escalating price; how can it? My plan to bankrupt the place by loading up on staples from the tables (oregano or crushed red pepper) are hardly shifting the imbalanced weights of the joint’s crooked restaurateur. To add insult to injury, there are three little kids staring at me, pointing, as if I am some sort of oddity, some sort of alien dropped from sky, weirdly landing in Brooklyn at a kosher pizza shop.

If I only knew Yiddish, I could tell them to fuck off – nicely of course, they are little kids after all. Maybe I could get fancy and ask them their names and then explain to them that beyond their little world of Williamsburg or Borough Park there lives a whole species of people like me – and guess what, we are just as Jewish as them. But my Yiddish is so poor I can only pretend that I understand what they are saying as they twirl their side locks while pointing at me as they continue to talk in derisive tones about me right in front of my face.

My friend calls the reprehensible gaze of these children "the Borough Park Stare." He used to refer to it as getting the ‘BeePS’, as if it were some club term. It wasn’t, it was merely an annoyance that all people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, get from little Chassidic kids.

My father loves to mess with little Chassidic children in part because it allows him to let his Yiddish (which he loves so much) roll out in spades. I think it scares the shit out of them when some guy in flannel shirt, blue jeans and a baseball cap starts talking in Yiddish to them. So my pop related a story that happened to him in New Square – a sheltered village, a real life modern day Chassidic shtetl – many years ago. He was walking along one of the town’s artificially quaint streets and these two kids started debating in Yiddish whether or not this strange humanoid was Jewish. Mind you, he was wearing a yarmulke. Finally my father got so frustrated with their stares that he told them in Yiddish that he was in fact a Jew, simultaneously illustrating this fact by reaching into his fly and pulling out his tzitzit.