You’re at a party, and two Jewish kids who never met each other are off in a corner talking about their mutual friend Sam Rabinowitz — how it’s crazy that he decided to break up with Marcy, turn down that job in Boston, and travel to Warsaw and teach english.
“That’s Sam though,” one of the kids says.
The other nods his head in agreement, realizing that this random kid named Jeremy really does know Sam. Come to think of it, he kind of looks familiar. Facebook maybe?
“Ohhhh, I know you! Aren’t you the kid with the ski house?”
“Yea dude. Well it’s my Uncles, but he lets us use it when he’s not there. Last year was a great…wait, were you the kid who was supposed to come?”
“Yea, I was.”
The coincidence seems outrageous, but neither of them are that surprised — even though both of them are self-proclaimed “terrible Jews,” (they only go to temple on the High Holidays, and can barely even read Hebrew anymore) they’ve played this game dozens, if not hundreds of times.
Jewish Geography, as it’s called, is amongst the greater pastimes of today’s “culturally Jewish” population — a group of people that is at once secular, but has weirdly and proudly maintained their heritage through a strange combination of bagel fanaticism, birthright trips, and cultural water-cooler talk. It’s a group that’s very specific, but a group that is all part of one giant inside joke — a joke that gets funnier and funnier the more you play these increasingly predictable mutual friend games.
Below, some of the best places to play the game of Jewish Geography:
1. Non-Threatening Pickup Basketball Court
The “good” basketball courts in your city will have the token basketball-playing Jew — the point guard with the oversized shirt, who is much more athletic than you’d ever think. He’s crafty, and all those hours-long shooting drills at the JCC have elevated him to a basketball playing status most Jewish kids never reach — a game that’s actually good, where people don’t call fouls every second.
Meanwhile, you’ll know where to find the rest of us.
2. South Florida Publix Parking Lot
Watch out for the 20 year-old wearing a Boston University shirt, picking up whitefish and lox for his Grandma’s 80th birthday party. Start a conversation with him. Six months later, you’ll know someone who is also interning in LA for the summer.
3. Syracuse/Michigan Game Watch
Last year, Jewish mothers all across the land were very torn when Syracuse and Michigan played each other in the Final Four — were they to root for their son’s alma mater, or the school their daughter currently attends?
For more acceptable combinations, consult this blog.
4. Mardi Gras
If you’re in college, Jewish, and are going to Mardi Gras, there’s a 74% chance that you’re staying at Danielle’s house. You’ve never met Danielle, but she’s Marc’s friend from study abroad. Brett also kinda knows her, because she went to the next high school over and they went to the same parties.
The only two things you know about Danielle is that she wears pink backwards hats that say “rage”, and that she thinks Tulane is the greatest place on the planet. Also, you’re pretty sure that half the reason Marc planned this trip is that so he can try and hook up with her.
Turns out, Danielle has upwards of 20 people using her house as a “home base.” Eight years later, it’s all but guaranteed you’ll see one of these people at a completely unrelated wedding.
Technically not in America, but certainly an essential one. I think the point of birthright, in addition to being the sweetest deal alive, is to make friends with a dude that recently dated someone you had a giant crush on in Hebrew School.
6. Party Hosted By ‘Betches Love This’
Last year, I found myself at the premiere party for the book written by the editors of Betches Love This. More or less, it was the Super Bowl of New York City-based Jewish geography.
7. Camp Reunion
Camp — in addition to teen tours, AEPi, and the analyst program at Credit Suisse — are the primary anchors of Jewish Geography. In college and the professional world, a lot of your “random” Jew-Geography connections will stem from camp connections. Which means that when you have camp reunions, the process will logically reverse itself.
8. Washington DC, During The AIPAC Conference
Especially if you’re of the more religious or Israel-conscious ilk, this is a very big hotspot. If you’re looking to marry a future lawyer named Adam, you won’t be able to not find one here.
9. Murray Hill/Gramercy Area Bar
If you live in or are visiting NYC, very much a given. Even if you are philosophically opposed to these areas, there’s no doubt you’ve ended up there more than you’d like to admit –these areas have been very well profiled in popular culture, and there is little need to elaborate further.
All in all, these are great places to find and/or trick someone into being a potential suitor. Just don’t be surprised when you find out that the girl you’re hitting on at the bar is really good friends with that girl you were talking to on Hinge.
10. Molly Stein’s Pregame
Molly Stein (or for girls, Matthew Stein) is the token nice, Jewish person that, because he/she was in your playgroup since you were six months old, is the person that your parents have decided you should marry.
There is a strong likelihood that while you haven’t remained the closest of friends with Molly Stein, you’ve ended up in the same city, and at some point, will be invited to their housewarming party. It’s all just inevitable.