Bageling on Passover

Last year in preparation for Passover I was doing a last-minute grocery shop run with Yadid who was 11 at the time. Like many people I have a routine serpentine path through the store. As is often the case I run into people many times who have a different path through the store as we cycle through  the aisles. To this ends on that trip to the store it was not particularly noteworthy that we saw an individual woman a twice as we were making our way through the store. But when we ran into her for the third time in the bread aisle the women said, “It is a tough time of the year to be in the bread aisle.” I turned to Yadid and told him that women just bageled herself. Looking around and only seeing sliced loaves of bread, he was confused.

Clearly I was not talking about the noun bagel which comes from the Yiddish beygl, ultimately from a Germanic root for “bend” which is a tasty donut-shaped bread roll. Rather, I was talking about the verb. Bagel is defined by the trusted Urban Dictionary as:

When a secular Jew lets a religious Jew know he/she is Jewish through indirect means.When a religious Jew(beard, peyos, tzitzit etc…) is walking down the street, a secular Jew who was previously talking to his friend about something secular will suddenly switch the topic to keeping kosher or going to Shul to tell the religious Jew that he is Jewish as well. Hence, the religious Jew was bageled.

Seeing that Yadid wears a Kippah and Tzitzit it was important to explain to him how other Jews will seek to connect with him. In my experience this happens very often and speaks to some basic, tender, and lovely aspects of what it means to belong to the Jewish people.

With this situation in mind I read a great article in Newsweek last October.  The article tells the fascinating story of Dr. Joshua D. Schiffman a 41 years old who lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, Maureen, and their three children. With his name alone my Jewdar was going off. He is the director of the pediatric cancer genetics clinic at Intermountain Primary Children’s Medical Center and the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. He treats children who are sick, frightened , and facing death. The article says:

A lot of his time, though, is spent trying to unravel the genetic and hereditary workings of cancer, figuring out how we inherit cancer risk, much like the chow chows marked for melanoma from birth. His only complaint about Salt Lake City is that the bagels are inedible. One can’t be much surprised about that. ( Newsweek 10/8/15)

So my Jewdar was spot on. But, what does it mean that he could not just say he is Jewish and that it is hard for him in Salt Lake City? Rather it is coded in his comment that he cannot find an edible bagel. Schiffman like the woman in the supermarket were outing themselves as Jews with declarations of their connection to bread. On Chag HaMatzot, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it is fitting to take a moment and recognize that we are all bageling ourselves as a nation on Passover. Eating Matzah and not eating bread is a basic, tender, and lovely way to belong to the Jewish people.

Chag Kasher v Sameakh

1 Response to “Bageling on Passover”


  1. 1 Sheldon Bernick April 28, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    During chol hamoed most Jewish schools are closed Yesterday volunteering at the Franklin Institute we had many families “bagelling” They were from Lakewood Brooklyn and Baltimore


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