I am a religious Jew, and I have had three unpleasant incidences of street harassment. This is the second and the most bizarre one [here’s the first one].
I was sitting on the downtown 1, desperately hoping that it would get me to Penn Station in time to catch my train. I was dressed in a t-shirt and a long skirt that made it easy to pick me out as a religious Jew. A 40-ish ultra-Orthodox guy with a long beard got on the train, picked me out as a “member of the tribe,” and insisted that we converse only in Hebrew. That was weird, but whatever, I’ve had interesting Hebrew conversations with friendly strangers on mass transit before.
It’s a little hard to translate, but this is the gist. He started off by asking me if I knew of a women’s seminary in the area, especially one that did singles’ events. I wasn’t sure. He asked if I could suggest any particular religious woman, age 30-50. I couldn’t. We established that I was 22, and I gave him my Hebrew name, not my English one.
Then he kept going on about how he wasn’t trying to “start up with me,” (connotation: flirt with me,) that he was a sensitive soul looking for a good woman, it wasn’t about lust (pointing at his crotch), not like those young guys who go pick up women at (gasp!) the beach! Then he kept saying, “I have something to say to you. Do you have time?” I kept answering, “So say it. I’m stuck on this train for now.” Based on the rest of what he was saying, I think what he meant was that he wanted to _speak with me_, but he was using the wrong words. (Remember, this conversation was all in Hebrew.) In any case it was clear that he wanted me to leave the train with him and go chat under a light in the park or something. Not happening! At various points in the conversation, he got very offended and angry, to the point that he was scaring me.
I nearly missed my stop as he protested, “But I’m a sensitive soul! I’m religious! How could you suspect me?!” To my horror he too got out at Penn Station. I ran as fast as I could through the LIRR concourse up to the NJ Transit concourse and my train, and either I lost him or he was going elsewhere.
Had he followed me into the station I would’ve reported him, but since he didn’t, I didn’t think there was anything I could do about him. I was just thoroughly creeped out.
Location: New York City subway