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When We Overhear Distasteful Opinions

My husband and I recently attended a birthday party for our 4 year old nephew. It took place in a large backyard. There were a lot of people and everyone was having a great time.

There were small tables set up in the yard. My husband, our 16-month-old and I were sitting at one table eating dinner. A few feet away were three women. It was Fay, her 17 year old daughter Mary, and another woman I had not met. I know Fay and Mary as they had been at numerous family gatherings. My husband and I are not related to her.

Our tables were close enough together that it was impossible to not overhear their conversation, although nobody else was close enough to do so. They started discussing Fay’s job, which led into her mentioning a certain religious group always causes problems for her. As I am part of this religious group (Judaism – I am not sure if you want to include that or not), I was surprised at what I heard. The women then spent about 10 minutes talking about how “disgusting” people of this religion are, how they can’t stand them, and they are always the most difficult people to deal with. They also discussed many fallacies about the religion (sex through a sheet, etc.).

This whole experience was very upsetting to me and I was nearly in tears. I did not say anything because I did not feel that a 4 year old’s birthday party was the time or place. My husband agreed that I should stay silent.

My questions are: Did I do the right thing in staying quiet, or should I have politely informed them that I am part of that religion and find their comments highly offensive?

Do I discuss what happened with my sister-in-law? They are her family members and I do not want to upset her, but I do feel uncomfortable about being around them in the future. I had not originally planned on telling her. It should be mentioned that she is a wonderfully sweet person and would be devastated that something so upsetting had happened.

Thanks for your help!   0819-14

Had you said something to Fay you would have acknowledged that you were eavesdropping on their conversation whether you intended to do so or not.   Just because we may be placed in situations where we hear things we’d rather not does not mean you need to pay attention to it.   The presumption most people have is that their conversation is private and if it happens to be overheard, that unintentional hearers will, at least, pretend to have not heard it.  And you are correct that a 4-year-old’s birthday party is not the time for a confrontation on religious differences.

Judaism is not the only religion to  suffer from stereotypes and hatred.  Religion is not the only area of life in which people have negative opinions and stereotypes.  The point being that there are a lot of ugly opinions about a lot of things out there and a large part of learning to live a happy life is to recognize the badness, realize you cannot singlehandedly change all the badness in the world, don’t perpetuate any new badness, bide one’s time to speak out about badness when the circumstances favor it and, finally, never let someone else’s badness ruin your happiness.

As I understand it,  your sister-in-law is your husband’s sister, not yours.  I’m a firm believer that any information that has the potential to blow up one side of the family should be addressed by the spouse whose family is causing the drama.   That means it falls to your husband to use his discretion as to if, when and what he would say to his sister regarding the inclusion of guests to his family’s functions that hold obnoxious opinions.

As for you, I would never let the distasteful opinions of someone else dictate my relationships or actions.  If you love your sister-in-law, keep attending her family functions but now you know who the snake in the family grass is and you are under no obligation to get friendly with Fay.  Civil, yes, but bosom pals, no.

{ 201 comments }

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  • B September 22, 2014, 3:24 am

    I have the sad, horrible suspicion that Fay and Mary *do* know that you practise Judaism, OP.

    I find it hard to believe that two grown women just randomly started slagging it off *at a kids’ party* where they would just happen to be overheard by the one person in the room who belongs to that group. Who starts spouting religious bigotry in that situation? That’s incredibly dubious to me.

    Even if not, who wants to be around anyone that revoltingly prejudiced? Stay away from Fay and Mary. Maybe your husband should tell your SIL. It’s not on her but she needs to know. If I were the hostess, I would *absolutely* want to know (so I could ban them from my house, but that’s just me).

    • Steve September 22, 2014, 7:58 am

      This is a very interesting question: Did they know? Did they do this on purpose?

      Many casual bigots are cowards. They are happy to spew their sewage in front of friendly crowds, where everyone agrees with them. Unfortunately for them, they are also prone to making incorrect assumptions that everyone does agree with them. As soon as that assumption is challenged, this type of person tends to tuck in their tails and piddle submissively on themselves.

      I would have sent your husband over to the table to say, “My wife is Jewish. ” Most likely, they would’ve turned red and sputtered excuses. If not, then escalate. What works for me is to raise a finger and say simply, “One more word. One. More. Word.” I rarely need to specify the or-else.

      If all else failed, your husband should’ve asked his sister to speak to or remove them. It is a host’s obligation to keep guests from being insulted.

      • monkey's mommy September 23, 2014, 8:39 am

        If that works for you without getting you clocked, good for you. Raise your finger at the wrong person one good time and you might rethink that strategy.

      • crebj September 24, 2014, 10:32 am

        *All* guests, including those with less than party manners. The “or-else” comes close to bullying.

      • Spencer September 24, 2014, 5:15 pm

        Escalating is always poor etiquette. You’re using implied threats to get what you want. That’s just bullying. I’m sure you’ll find it works even when you’re dead wrong.

        In this situation, I would have done everything I could to politely inform them that I wasn’t comfortable with the anti-semitism without doing anything that grinds the event to a halt. Like, joking that I’ve heard those stories too, but nobody at my synagogue has met anybody that does that. That way, they can quickly backpedal or outright apologize and still not feel directly challenged. Not sure if that’s the best way to tackle it, though.

    • lakey September 23, 2014, 12:20 am

      I kind of disagree with Administrator. I wouldn’t say anything that would be confrontational or cause awkwardness for the hosts and other guests, but I would look for an opportunity to make a quick, low key comment to Fay along the line of, ” Just so you know, I’m Jewish.” Perhaps, OP could catch her near the end of the party, in an area where there weren’t any other people around. If there weren’t a chance like that, I wouldn’t say anything.

      I do think these women need to have their poor behavior pointed out to them, and if possible, I’d prefer to do it without embarrassing their relatives.

  • Kimberly Herbert September 22, 2014, 3:36 am

    The OP said she didn’t want to talk to her Sister-in-law because they were her family. So I’m going to she is married to the brother of the OP or OP’s DH. The OP and her DH need to talk to the brother. Tell him exactly what was said. (I suspect that the husbands are brothers – because the OP says she is Jewish not that her family is. So, I’m guessing a mixed marriage.)

    Then the bigoted trio should be banned from any more family parties, until they decide to grow up and join polite society. I banned one of my cousins (and I wasn’t the only family member to do so), because of similar behavior. She pitched a little fit about her freedom of speech and then decided to grow up. If she still has those opinions she at least knows to keep her mouth shut about them.

    I have friends that are old enough to remember lynchings down here. Their stories make my blood run cold. With some of the pure hate pouring out of national figures especially elected officials saying 1st amendment doesn’t apply to Nonchristians – I’m scared we are going backwards towards those dark times. So refuse to be silent when I hear this trash.

    • GG September 22, 2014, 7:21 am

      I can’t remember the exact quote but I read somewhere that “freedom of speech” is the worst way to defend your opinion. It means that the only merit your view has is that it’s literally not illegal to say.

      • Miss Mercy September 23, 2014, 11:36 pm

        Ooh, that wasn’t the cracked.com article about freedom of speech by any chance, was it?

    • Wild Irish Rose September 22, 2014, 9:44 am

      I had to laugh about the “freedom of speech” thing. If she had said that to me, I would have reminded her about how “freedom of speech” actually applies–which is to say, the government can’t stop you from saying stupid things out loud, but *I* have the right (nay, the responsibility) to keep you at arm’s length if you can’t stop being offensive just because you have the “right” to say something offensive. I think I would also throw in a little reference to “hate speech.” People tend not to understand just how “freedom of speech” works.

      • Amanda H. September 22, 2014, 1:17 pm

        A friend and I actually had a discussion about this the other day, in regards to a forum argument she’d seen elsewhere.

        “Freedom of Speech” protects you from the government. It doesn’t protect you from getting kicked out of my house because you can’t keep your trap shut.

      • Jays September 22, 2014, 5:02 pm

        Yes! As a former reporter, I really hate this. You (general) have the right to say whatever you want, but other people have the right to react as they see fit, including their own freedom of speech to call you (general) an idiot!

        • Enna September 26, 2014, 11:07 am

          But slander and libel are illegal… or there wouldn’t be libel or slander laws. In the UK promoting racial hatred is a crime.

      • lakey September 23, 2014, 12:29 am

        Regarding freedom of speech: a person has a right to say whatever he wants, and I have a right to not associate with him.
        Also, actions have consequences. If I go around insulting people, sooner or later, someone is going to confront me with it.
        I’ve known a couple of women who use the word; I simply cut way back on having any contact with them. Life is too short to spend time with miserable people.

        • admin September 23, 2014, 5:10 am

          Miss Manners advocates the social cut when encountering bigots. Making new friends who are not biased is taking a proactive approach.

          • Enna September 26, 2014, 11:10 am

            This is a very good point. I have done this myself. Well one bigot I knew mouthed off at some teenagers (I don’t know if it was racist or just random sweaing) but later on his car was completley smashed up. The children’s seats were slashed. Now what Bigot Man did was wrong but what those teenagers did (if it was them) wasn’t right either.

    • Steve September 22, 2014, 1:01 pm

      Absolutely, the sister-in-law needs to know. It is her choice if she continues to extend her hospitality to these miscreants. But it is also the OP’s right to know if they will be present at another family functionbefore she accepts an invitation.

    • OP September 25, 2014, 9:01 am

      You are correct that the husbands are brothers. Sorry for not being more clear about that!

  • Lex September 22, 2014, 3:42 am

    Knowledge is power. You will always be exposed to the ignorance and bigotry of others who either don’t care or are oblivious enough not to think about whether or not their vociferous opinions will offend others. Clearly these two women were ‘caught up in the gossip’ and relished sharing their mean spirited thoughts about Judaism to the exclusion of sense.

    We’ve all done it. We’ve all got caught up in a conversation that has taken an unexpected turn and only later realised that we shouldn’t have said some of the things we did. I know I’ve done it in my younger years and even now cringe when I think about some of the things I once said.

    As an example: I was 13 and learning about The Cavaliers and Roundheads in History at school. It should be pointed out my school was a Catholic school so when learning about Oliver Cromwell, and kids being kids, we learned a LOT about the various gory atrocities committed by the ‘Protestants’ and about how severe and restrictive life for a Protestant was. Given that we learned this in History, and given that I was generally pretty clueless, I didn’t realise that ‘Church of England’ and ‘Protestant’ were sort of the same, and that the non-Catholic religion of Ireland was also Protestant. No-one had ever told me.

    So, my parents were friends with an Irish couple. I assumed they were Catholic. It never occurred to me that they would be anything else until I found out they attended ‘Church of England’ services. I still didn’t associate CofE with Protestant so one evening at their house they become involved in a conversation about Religion (always a bad idea at the best of times but this couple were big drinkers so conversation went where it will) and I was reading quietly in a corner when I overheard the phrase ‘Protestant’. Wishing to impress with my recently acquired knowledge from my History classes I launched into an account of various atrocities committed by the Protestant forces. Long story short, turns out my parents friends were Irish Protestant. My litany did not go down well. I was 13 and my sister and their younger daughter were friends but they didn’t want to involve me, so I was bored and lonely during visits to their house and I wanted to appear learned and studious. It backfired and it still shames me to this day. BUT I learned a valuable lesson about tempering my opinions regarding certain topics, so the episode was a valuable learning experience for me.

    As it stands, I have stepped out from under the shadow of my Catholic upbringing and embraced my long-hidden atheism and am not afraid to admit that I neither know enough or care enough about any Religion to participate in a conversation regarding the merits or demerits. I usually excuse myself by admitting I have no knowledge or opinion on the subject or I bean dip like a good’un.

    These women you overheard are clearly spouting ‘knowledge’ they may have learned previously that is no longer relevant to the Religion in question. It is merely highlighting their ignorance and lack of learning. In ALL religions you have moderates, devouts and strictly Orthodox, so as a follower of Judaism YOU might not adhere strictly to ALL tenets of the religion, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t others in the population that do. The best thing all round would be to take the moral high ground. Understand that these women are small-minded gossips and temper your interaction with them accordingly. Give nothing away that they can use to gossip about later.

    • Steve September 22, 2014, 8:02 am

      What you’re saying boils down to, “Many Jews are disgusting, hard to deal with, and follow bizarre religious customs, but there are some good ones.” Is this meant to be an example to us of enlightenment?

      • Lex September 23, 2014, 3:23 am

        Err…. No. Not at all. Did you actually READ my post? What I am saying is that these women have cleared heard rumours which MAY or MAY NOT have ONCE UPON A TIME been based in fact or at least partially, and instead of verifying their opinions and actually, you know, LEARNING about something, they assume the information they have is accurate and gossip accordingly. I am not passing any comment or any statement regarding the tenets and customs of a religion I know little to nothing about. I am simply saying that just because one Jew/Catholic/Muslim/Buddhist/Scientologist/Zoroastrian/Jehovas Witness/Anglican/Baptist/Sikh/Hindu/whatever DOESN’T adhere to all tenets and instructions of the religion, they cannot speak for other members of the religion as Orthodox practitioners often take great care and pride to preserve honoured traditions – I specifically refer to Haredi Jews and their specific style of dress – not every single Jewish Man dresses in this way but just because the OP and her family don’t doesn’t mean other Jewish men don’t (as an example). I haven’t referred to a single example of such in my original post, nor have I passed comment on the relative perceptions of these customs. Your reply, ‘sir’, is offensive.

        • monkey's mommy September 23, 2014, 8:41 am

          Agreed. I read your comments yesterday and fully understand what happened to a teenage you.

      • jazzgirl205 September 23, 2014, 10:25 am

        “Stepped from under the shadow of my Catholic upbringing” doesn’t sound quite right either. I find Catholicism quite enlightening.

        • Cattra September 23, 2014, 11:31 pm

          I concur jazzgirl205

        • Lex September 24, 2014, 3:42 am

          I suppose it is perspective. Even from a very young age I was very logical and analytical and found the teachings of the church, whilst morally guiding, to be contradictory and confusing. I struggled to reconcile myself to the idea that I should live my life according to an arbitrary set of rules (which apparently seem to apply differently to different people) set by some ‘all powerful’ conscious entity that no-one could prove existed. Over time I came to the realisation that I was an atheist and the one time I broached this subject with my family I got chewed up and spat out, so I continued to attend services and make lip service feeling like a fraud and a hypocrite. I think it is offensive to people who truly believe in a religion for a person to ‘fake it’ and so doing this made me feel like a bit of a heel. When I was finally free to make my own decisions, it was literally as though I was able to step out from the shadows and finally be myself. I still get grief for it: LeBoyfriend and I are getting married and my family want me to ‘fake it’ so I can get married in a church but to me and LeBoyfriend who are atheist, this is offensive. We are having a civil ceremony and staying true to ourselves so our consciences remain clear. My Sister married in a CofE church she’d never attended in her life because it was where her Husband was christened and it looked pretty. The hypocrisy was staggering.

          That being said, a person can be atheist and still adhere to and take guidance from Christian teachings. I firmly believe (for example) that Jesus Christ was an actual person. It is my belief that the events of the new testament (well, most of them) documented an attempted political coup that went wrong but the moral guidance and teachings of the Christian faith are as relevant to Atheists as they are anyone else in the world. I just can’t, in good conscience, attend mass where I pledge my faith to a Lord God I don’t believe in or pray to the divinity of a person who I believe was just a man – a good man, a good teacher and a moral beacon, but who I don’t and can’t believe can hear me or affect my life in any way as he was executed 2014 years ago.

          To not believe in an afterlife, a heaven (or hell) can be very liberating because it means you need to make the most of your life and life a happy life while you can. Why spend your life miserable and unhappy in the hopes that when you die your miserable, unhappy life will grant you some amazing rewards for your sacrifice? The same goes for Martyrs – I believe that people that sacrifice their lives under the illusion of receiving some post-death reward are mistaken.

          Those are my personal and beliefs and feelings on the topic. I know other Atheists who regularly harangue believers and constantly lecture them on their stupidity. I think this is wrong. People are entitled to believe in and adhere to whatever belief system they want as long as they don’t impose it on others or place their own beliefs above the beliefs of others and use it to justify their actions. I also don’t think anyone has the right to pass judgement on people of other religions or belief systems. ‘You need Jesus’ and ‘Heathen unbeliever’ for example. People should keep themselves to themselves and keep their own council.

          As I said, I have my own thoughts and feelings and reasons why I don’t and can’t believe in religion and I stand by my right to think and feel these things for the reasons I have stated above. If others disagree with me or think I’m wrong that is their prerogative but just as I don’t tell them what they should think and feel, I don’t expect them to do the same to me.

        • Enna September 26, 2014, 11:13 am

          Each to their own…

  • crella September 22, 2014, 4:04 am

    How unfortunate and hurtful, OP! I’m sorry that it happened to you.

  • Wendy September 22, 2014, 4:24 am

    I fully understand why this was upsetting for you but before you completely write off your sister in laws family you might want to consider that if she knew she had upset you she might be horrified. While I’m more than certain the majority of people who follow your religion are lovely people a few bad apples ruin it for everyone and you will find that in every aspect of life, it’s not right and certainly not fair but there is a reason stereotypes excist. People of the Muslim faith are especially feeling this right now, yourself and others of your faith, Mormons, I’m a nurse and I can’t tell you the amount of people who assume I’m out to marry a doctor, people with cancer (my patients) often complain that people they meet assume they shouldn’t have hair and if they do they must not be that sick, I’m sure everyone here could come up with an example that fits there own life/situation. I would give her the benefit of the doubt and next time this occurs maybe it will be in a situation where you can correct some of her wrong ideas.

    • B September 23, 2014, 2:42 am

      There is a massive different between people assuming nurses want to marry doctors, and people being exposed to religious hatred! And as for this:

      “While I’m more than certain the majority of people who follow your religion are lovely people a few bad apples ruin it for everyone”
      Er…excuse me? Most Jews are lovely but a few ‘ruin it’ for everyone???

      Wow. You actually find that an acceptable statement?

      • admin September 23, 2014, 5:03 am

        Playing devil’s advocate ….Isn’t Wendy’s premise accurate? Consider…Michael Bray goes to federal prison for bombing abortion clinics and Paul Hill shoots an abortionist in the back killing him and hence forth all pro-lifers struggle against the stereotype that they condone this behavior. Disgraced televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker present a stereotype of all Christians being greedy hypocrites. A small minority of pedophile Catholic priests certainly has cast the entire priesthood into suspicion. A handful of former national leadership of my own denomination are the subjects of lawsuits by victims of pedophile assault and I have personally met people who will not step through the doors of our local church despite the fact that no one within 300 miles of us had anything to do with the cases. It doesn’t matter that we’ve had a background check process in place for 15 years, that there are safe guards in place for interacting with children and have made it clear that we call the police if there are allegations of abuse. But no, because of the actions of a few people who chose 20 years ago to cover up the illegal actions of one man, the rest stand condemned. So I know firsthand how difficult it is to combat a stereotype with the truth and to be honest, some people are “truthers” meaning they believe their perceptions are the truth and there is nothing you can say to change their view point.

        I believe moderate, reformed Muslims are experiencing the same crisis where the bad apples are defining what it means to be Muslim in the minds of not only the general populace but more importantly, in the minds of those who want to be that kind of radical Muslim.

        • B September 23, 2014, 5:14 am

          I agree with that premise. I agree that a few bad apples can see a lot of innocent people affected by prejudice as a result thanks to ignorance, hate and stupidity.

          To me, her statement read as a few bad apples ruin *that group*, not that group’s public perception. That’s not ok. And comparing it to nurses is ridiculous.

          • Jessica September 23, 2014, 9:16 am

            I think you are reaching too far, she wasnt comparing it to nurses she was citing ways stereotypes can form. And yes there ARE bad Jewish people, there are bad Muslims, there are bad Christians ect ect, this is beacause they are HUMAN. There is going to be bad people who identify with any religion or race or belief. I think people need to stop looking for offensive statements when it comes to religion. There is another stereotype at work right here… that people who talk about a religion will somehow hate on another one or portray it negatively in some way so they LOOK for things to take offense at.

          • Lenore September 23, 2014, 9:27 am

            She wasn’t comparing it. She was using it as an example as how people jump to conclusions about a group of people because of the actions of the few. It’s not as bad as, oh, say, beating a gay guy to death because people think gay = pedophile, but it’s also not up to you to belittle her experiences with having people judge her for being a nurse and assuming she did it to land a rich doctor.

            And yes, that is what happens – people assumed my mom, her sister and my cousins went into nursing in order to land rich, successful husbands. It’s not like they’re wanting a career of their own, or they want to help make a difference to those who are ill and suffering.

            Nope, they chose an underpaid overworked job where they’re puked on, peed on, pooped on, berated, belittled and abused, just to find a husband. Because as we all know, women are not complete until they’ve landed themselves a husband, dang nabbit!

            Tell me again how her personal experiences are ridiculous?

        • Lil September 23, 2014, 8:50 am

          She says, “While I’m more than certain the majority of people who follow your religion are lovely people a few bad apples ruin it for everyone and you will find that in every aspect of life, it’s not right and certainly not fair but there is a reason stereotypes exist” Saying that stereotypes exist for a reason implies that there is a legitimacy to the stereotype. I cringed when I read it. I’m thinking she meant well but she did phrase it in a REALLY unfortunate way. It’s almost a textbook example of how not to advocate for tolerance and equality. I also think that “Steve” in the above post was actually trying to respond to this post, not the one from “Lex.”

  • just4kicks September 22, 2014, 4:24 am

    Well, that could not have been fun for you, OP. I do agree with admin that your husband should mention it to his sister at some point when it’s just the two of them. “Hey Sis, we had a great time at the party last week! I just wanted to let you know that Fay and her lady friend said some awful things about my wife’s religion that really upset her. We couldn’t help but overhear them.” Then the ball is in her court and her decision whether or not to address it with Fay and company. I would avoid them like the plague at the next gathering if possible.
    It’s hard when your feelings are so trampled on NOT to jump in and address their statements, but, it’s doubtful you would get a much deserved apology if they are that biased and rude. Not to mention causing a scene at a child’s birthday party. I do agree they were just awful and am so sorry there are still such ignorant people in this world.
    May I ask one question??? “SEX through a SHEET?” What does that have to do with Jewish people? I have never heard that, and probably be rude and ignorant for even asking you, but what the heck?!?

    Good luck to you in the future dealing with Fay and her big mouth.

    • GG September 22, 2014, 7:28 am

      I was raised Jewish (pretty religious upbringing too but I don’t follow any religion anymore as an adult) and I’ve had people ask me about the sheet thing once they find out. It’s not true. Even the most ultra orthodox people would never have sex through a sheet. I’m not sure how that crazy notion go started.

      • admin September 22, 2014, 12:42 pm

        Some ultra conservative Amish sects (like the Swartzentrubbers) still practice bundling in bed during courtship. Truth can be stranger than stereotypes sometimes.

      • Amanda H. September 22, 2014, 1:31 pm

        The same way any other crazy notion gets started. People hear one tiny detail about something, blow it out of proportion or make assumptions, and that gets passed around as “gospel truth” (pun only partly intended). Some mutations are far more ludicrous than others, where you end up with something reasonably mundane within the religion being seen or heard out of context, and people not in-the-know let their imaginations run wild (and to weird places) and simply make up “information” about it rather than actually getting the whole story from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

        • Ergala September 23, 2014, 5:27 pm

          As a Mormon I am asked many many times about our “magic underwear”…..*sigh*

      • Melissa September 22, 2014, 2:32 pm

        I clicked on the link, and the sheet myth was in a movie called Like Water for Chocolate, the story took place in Mexico which is mainly Catholic

      • Snarkastic September 22, 2014, 4:37 pm

        I’m a Conservative Jewish woman and, uh…I thought that was a really old-timey Hasidic practice. Am I wrong here? No one really taught me anything about it at home or in Hebrew School, it’s just something you pick up on the…streets? The streets, I guess.

      • Lizajane September 23, 2014, 9:17 pm

        Dang. I’m disappointed and relieved. I totally wanted to ask about the sex through a sheet thing but was afraid to ask. I hoped it involved a high thread count. Much smoother.

    • Asharah September 22, 2014, 11:00 am
      • just4kicks September 22, 2014, 12:50 pm

        Thank you all for answering my question. Very enlightening!

    • Steve September 23, 2014, 8:06 am

      Throughout many of these comments runs a belief that stereotypes have a basis in reality. Quite often, stereotypes have their roots only in the mental diseases of the bigots. I will give you an example from Hurricane Katrina that has been analyzed by later research.

      News reports coming from the Superdome portrayed black people on a rampage of rape and murder. These reports were later discovered to be false. Even more striking, however, were very widespread reports of a distinctly repulsive behavior. According to both print and broadcast media, black people waiting in line for hours at the Superdome were defecating themselves where they stood. Subsequent research revealed that not a single one of these reports was founded on an eyewitness account. Not one person of any race who was present at the Superdome at that time ever witnessed such behavior. All of the accounts were completely fabricated in the newsrooms. So where did they come from?

      It turns out that the same behavior has been frequently reported on numerous other occasions — and every other account was fabricated as well. Its origins lie not in observed reality, but in the brains of those reporting on it. When you view a certain class of people as animals, you attribute animal behavior to them. But there is no grain of truth to the stereotype. People of ill will are simply making it up.

  • just4kicks September 22, 2014, 4:28 am

    And, also, I’m born and raised Catholic and many people have said to me over the years, “Ugh. How can you condone what those awful priests do to those poor children?!?” Um, I DON’T, I think it’s despicable and heartbreaking , but it doesn’t have anything to do with my personal faith in God. It HAS affected how I view religion, but that’s nobody’s business but mine.

    • Asharah September 22, 2014, 10:58 am

      Has anyone thrown in the “bombing abortion clinics and shooting doctors” rant with that?

      • just4kicks September 22, 2014, 1:41 pm

        More times than I can count, yes.

    • Amanda H. September 22, 2014, 1:33 pm

      I’ve gotten something somewhat similar on occasion (as have friends and family in the same religion as me), only in our case it’s “How can you condone [misconception] in your religion?” and our response is, “Um, we don’t, because it doesn’t happen.”

    • Cat September 22, 2014, 7:25 pm

      My reply is, “There is no rule in Catholicism that says priests can’t go to Hell.”
      A Franciscan brother once came to St. Francis of Assisi and said, “Last night, I dreamed that I visited Hell and there were no Franciscans there.”
      St. Francis said, “You did not go deep enough.”

  • Margo September 22, 2014, 6:05 am

    I think it would have been appropriate for you to have moved away so that you didn’t need to hear the offensive opinions, and for you (or your husband) to mention to your SIL that you unavoidably overheard the comments which Fay and Mary were making and were upset. You (or your husband) can make clear that you in no way blame SIL for Fay and Mary’s prejudice and that you are letting her know so that she is aware of their attitude and that they had no qualms about freely expressing their views at a large, mixed event at SIL’s home.

    It think it is up to you and your husband which of you speaks to your SIL – I agree that in many cases it is more appropriate for the person whose family is involved to have the conversation, but I do think that depends on the relationship you have with SIL.

    Now that you know what Fay and Mary are like, you can also ensure that you don’t sit near them at any future gatherings.

    • OP September 25, 2014, 9:05 am

      It would have been difficult to move away as we had food/drinks/toys on the table, as well as our small child strapped to a chair at the table.

      If either of us speaks to my SIL (who is not related to my husband – her husband is the brother of my husband), it would be me, as she and I are much closer than he is to her.

  • Alli September 22, 2014, 6:49 am

    I do think history makes antisemitism particularly disgusting. People who take this position are spreading the same lies that people used to justify one of the worst mass murders in history.

    I do try to stand up against this kind of thing. For instance, I remember in one of my classes in college, someone was loudly ranting about how evil (religious group) was. I looked over at another classmate, who was almost in tears, because she belonged to that religious group (and very obviously, she wore a symbol of the religion). So you bet I said something, and, fortunately, that guy immediately stopped. (Is it eavesdropping if someone is apparently deliberately talking so loud the rest of the room can hear clearly?). To me, showing that girl that people weren’t okay with those kinds of statements was more important than any potential rudeness of calling out that guy.

    • admin September 22, 2014, 6:59 am

      The difference being that your ranter made his statements in public which invites public reply but when 3 women are seated at their own table, talking amongst themselves, they have a reasonable expectation that their conversation is private.

      • Lenore September 22, 2014, 7:59 am

        Begging your pardon, admin, but if you’re talking in public, you need to think that there is a chance someone *can* over hear you. It’s one thing to talk in your own private home, where you can say what you like, how you like and when you like – unless people are bugging your house, they can’t make an issue of it.

        But if you’re in a space where there are other people, you need to realise that what you say can be overheard, and you shouldn’t be surprised if someone calls you on it. It’s one thing if you’re talking about how hard it is to potty train Junior, or sharing a recipe for zucchini bread. But participating in hateful practices in public, no matter how low-key or softly you may do it, it’s still in public, and you still affect those around you with those actions and words.

        If the OP was at a restaurant, for example, and overheard the trio talking about dining and dashing, should she have ignored it? If they’d been at a park, and the trio was talking about a young unwed mother in the most unsavoury terms, should she have ignored it? If they were at a child’s party, and the trio were casting aspersions as to the birthday child’s parenthood, should she have ignored it? (Also bearing in mind, children hear a lot more than we give them credit for. A *LOT*)

        It may seem silly, but given the recent history of my country, I believe that if hateful and inflammatory words are not dealt with, they evolve into hateful and hurtful actions. If I were OP, I would ask my husband to please discuss this with his side of the family and ensure that either that trio is never invited to the same functions as them, or that they receive a talking to.

        • keloe September 22, 2014, 2:44 pm

          I was always taught that if you listen to a conversation that you are not a part of (or read a letter not meant for you) and happen to hear (or read) something you don’t like, you have no right to comment. Particularly if the people involved are total strangers. Their words were not directed at you personally, therefore are none of your business.

          I am sorry the OP had to endure such an unpleasant situation. Personally, I would have moved out of earshot. I think she should remember what kind of people they are and avoid them in the future. If the situation allows it, also inform her sister in law about this wish and explain the reasons (it depends on the family dynamic, so that’s her call and no one else’s, apart from her husband). I don’t see how anything could have been gained by public confrontation. People do not change their opinions on the spot when confronted in public. Maybe particularly when confronted in public.

          As for conversations overheard in restaurants or parks? Unless somehow involve disturbing the peace (e.g. too loud) or involve otherwise objectionable actions, yes, they should be ignored. Even for practical reasons – people will rarely react positively to being confronted and lectured in public by strangers, especially for opinions (for actions too, but I think opinions are tougher). If you exclaim indignantly “I happen to be X (insert religion/nationality/race/ethnicity/orientation of your choice)! How dare you spout such ignorant nonsense! You should know that…” they are not likely to revise their negative opinions of X on the spot. They are much more likely to add some more negative characteristics to their list, such as “aggressive”, “eavesdropping”, “embarassing”, etc. (this is not my own opinion, I’m just trying to imagine what a bigot suddenly publicly confronted by a member of the group he or she was slagging off would think). People tend to see themselves as victims in such situations, not acknowledge their shortcomings.

          Certainly, misinformation and bigotry should be stamped out. I just don’t think this is the way to do it.

          • Jared Bascomb September 22, 2014, 7:19 pm

            I almost wholeheartedly agree with keloe.

            Do NOT respond to conversations, however offensive, in a public place (ie, restaurant, bus stop). These are private conversations in public places and should be ignored unless the peace is being disturbed.

            That said, I think the OP’s situation is a bit different. She’s at an extended-family event (private) and overhearing a supposedly-private conversation that insults her (in a generic way).

            Admin will undoubtedly disagree with me here, but I believe the proper response would be to stand up in preparation for departure, and tell the offending party something along the line of, “Apparently you don’t want any [insert group here] around, so I’ll be leaving. Have a nice afternoon.”

            Here’s a bonus: You don’t actually have to be a member of the maligned group to do this — you can take offense on their behalf! (Or say that a close family member is whatever group is being disparaged.)

            Believe me, this works wonders. I had a non-religious co-worker totally shut down someone who was raving at him on the phone by saying, “Sir, I am a Christian, and I find your language to be totally offensive.”

            Just give them the ol’ quick slash.

          • H. Vane September 22, 2014, 7:56 pm

            You know, I don’t think it’s that you don’t have a right to comment, it’s that you have an excuse not to comment. One should never be afraid to stand up against horrible behavior just because it would be rude. Remember that sad story not too long ago about the poor girl who was being sexually harrassed at her 16th birthday party by her own family? Someone should have marched up and shut that down as soon as it happened, etiquette be damned.

          • Lenore September 23, 2014, 9:37 am

            I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you here. In most circumstances, it’s fine to just roll your eyes and ignore it (which is normally my reaction to bigotry and willful ignorance).

            But in some cases, you over hear things that require a reaction. Also, I’m not saying that you (general you) have to directly confront them. Sometimes a look and a raised eyebrow is enough. Other times, you quietly call the authorities/security/party hosts over to deal with it.

            There’s also a big difference between “HEY! I happen to be of *XYZ that person is being ignorant about* and it’s NOT *expletive* true, you *expletive expletive*!!!” and “I beg your pardon, but you’re being somewhat offensive. Please keep your voices down.”

            Bad things happen because good people do nothing about it. Remember, a lot of atrocities that were committed in the past could have been avoided if people had been called out on their hateful words. Words become actions.

          • kingsrings September 23, 2014, 4:05 pm

            I completely agree. There are just too many different opinions out there on what constitutes offensive conversations. In this case I don’t think anybody could argue that this is indeed a very offensive, bigoted conversation. However, I can also remember a time several years ago when some friends and I were having lunch at a restaurant and discussing a political issue. It was clear that the two people sitting at a nearby table could hear us and were quite displeased with our conversation because they didn’t agree with our views. They were shooting us dirty looks, rolling their eyes, and muttering underneath their breath at us. If they hadn’t been nosing their way into our conversation, their delicate sensibilities wouldn’t have experienced their offense at it. Yes, some thing you just can’t help but overhear, but it’s still your choice to block it out. We were having a private conversation among just ourselves that they weren’t a part of.
            I’ve been offended many times by people making fun of my religion. Saying the most bigoted comments, mostly online. I don’t know why people think it’s okay to make fun of someone’s religion on Facebook or other social media and not even think that people OF that religion wouldn’t see it when they make it public for their friends to see. It’s even funnier when such people claim to be tolerant.

        • Snarkastic September 22, 2014, 4:39 pm

          This is kind of how I felt about it…

        • Enna September 26, 2014, 11:23 am

          I am quite concerned that the trio of ladies were talking in such a racist way at a children’s party. I know several people with children and they wouldn’t want someone to be racist where children could pick it up.

      • A different Tracy September 22, 2014, 9:39 am

        Unless, as someone suggested, they were deliberately having their conversation loud enough to ensure the OP overheard it. I wouldn’t have said anything to them, but I wouldn’t have sat quietly listening to it, either – I would have moved to a different table.

  • Abby September 22, 2014, 7:29 am

    I don’t think SIL is the sister of OP’s husband. She said neither she nor her husband were related to the trio, but SIL was. SIL must be either married to OP’s brother or the wife of OP’s husband’s brother. Oh wait, I take that back, because that would mean OP’s brother was also Jewish, unless he converted. So, SIL must be the wife of OP’s husband’s brother.

    I agree that OP wouldn’t have much to gain by confronting them directly, but I do think OP’s husband could mention to his brother in passing what happened. If my family had offended someone I considered close to me, to the point where they didn’t want to be around my family anymore, I’d want to know.

    • OP September 25, 2014, 9:08 am

      You are correct that SIL is the wife of my husband’s brother.

      My husband and his brother are both very non-confrontational people, so if I even somehow got my husband to talk to his brother, I doubt it would get beyond that.

  • JS September 22, 2014, 8:05 am

    admin – it sounds like the seating arrangements were such that overhearing was both unintentional and unavoidable. Would it have been permissible, then, to lean over and say “I hate to interrupt, but you may not be aware that our tables are close enough that we can’t help but overhear you. It sounds like you’re discussing private matters, so I thought I’d let you know”?

    Alternatively, or in addition, I might suggest taking Fay aside the next time you see her, and say “Fay, I couldn’t help but overhear some of the things you were saying about Jewish people. As a Jew, I was pretty shocked to hear them. Do you really believe that?” And just see what she says.

    I believe that we have a moral imperative to root out hatred and bigotry wherever we can safely do so, and the best way to do that is to shine sunshine on it.

    • admin September 22, 2014, 5:52 pm

      You offer an elegant, gracious, and very civil solution to the dilemma.

      • Enna September 26, 2014, 11:26 am

        I was going to say the same thing as the admin. I can understand why the OP and her husband would be reluctant to say anything at the time: talking to the host would be a good idea though.

    • Yet Another Laura September 22, 2014, 9:45 pm

      My thoughts exactly. I have been in the position of calling out relatives making bigoted comments about their own sister who had recently died. They forget that such comments applied to her. Never would they disrespect her, but there it was, spoken in front of her daughter and the widower.

      People don’t seem to realize that voices carry. In my situation, I was at the Christmas dinner table with them while the bigotry was flying and getting toxic waste in the gravy.

      • jazzgirl205 September 23, 2014, 10:47 am

        I am a blonde fair-skinned person of Mexican descent. I have encountered a lot of bigoted comments against Mexicans. I try being subtle, “Funny, that doesn’t describe my Grandmother at all.” Once, a man commented to my husband, “These Mexicans are everywhere you look!” DH replied, “Yes, they’re certainly everywhere I look – in my house in my kitchen, in my bed.” It took a while for the man to get it.

        • Athena September 24, 2014, 12:10 pm

          Jazzgirl! You are of my kind! Except I started dying my hair red. But I am the whitest little Mexican you’ll ever meet, and it is astounding how many people look me up and down, then start blasting their offensive remarks. I can usually just sort of tilt of my head and go “Por que?” which shuts them down.

        • Enna September 26, 2014, 11:27 am

          jazzgilr205 – what a great comeback!

    • Lanes September 23, 2014, 10:33 pm

      Yes, thank you JS. I was thinking just this – a polite but obvious ‘we can hear you’ type message would hopefully put a blunt stop to the problem.
      It a) deals with the issue on the spot, b) doesn’t put the loud-talkers in any great red-faced embarrassment situation, and most importantly c) leaves the OP in the high-ground for not directly addressing their despicable topic selection.

      I also wouldn’t deliberately mention anything to the hostess. She is not directly responsible for the actions of her guests, she couldn’t exactly admonish her guests for their topic of conversation, especially after-the-fact.
      I would however in response to any further invitations from the hostess, enquire as to whether Fay and Mary would be attending, stating that their behavior made you uncomfortable last time. This way, the hostess will ‘find out’ about what happened with OP’s grace still intact (which I feel would not be so intact if OP were to directly confront the hostess about it specifically).

    • OP September 25, 2014, 9:09 am

      Thank you for the kind words. I love the way you worded the end of your comment!

  • Raven September 22, 2014, 8:38 am

    What is it with people talking negatively about religion in public? A kid’s birthday party is not the place to have that type of discussion – and the particulars of that woman’s opinion are disgusting (but she has to the right to them, as distasteful as that is). Of all the things to talk about.

    OP, my heart goes out to you. It is terrible to overhear something that upsets you so much. As admin pointed out, at least you know who she truly is, which gives you the power to make an informed decision about how you interact with her. Honestly, I don’t think you are under any obligation to interact with her at all. She has the right to her opinions, and you have the right to yours. If you opinion is that she is horrid (I would concur) then you are within your rights to choose to exclude her from your environment. If you feel moved to discuss this with your hostess, that is your choice.

  • Lo September 22, 2014, 8:49 am

    There is nothing shameful about being the better person and refusing to engage with these jerks. It was definitely not the time or place.

    My spouse is Jewish. He has a knack for deflecting antisemitism, particularly the casual sort that people think is harmless. It burns him up inside and he’s a better person than I am because if I overheard someone saying those things in front of him I don’t know what I’d do, I really don’t.

    But we are called to be better people.

    However, now that he party is over I do believe your husband has the responsibility to address this. You better believe that if it were my family we would have words and there would be some serious discussion over whether we felt welcome to ever attend such an event that those people would be at.

    As for the 17 year old Mary. I would give her a little more leeway. At 17 she is old enough to know better but she is also still under the influence of her bigoted mother and having a Jewish person in her life could be a blessing that frees her from that mindset. It’s not your responsibility to tackle her prejudices but it familiarity is a powerful tool in combating bigotry if you can stomach being around her. That’s entirely up to you.

    • OP September 25, 2014, 9:11 am

      I agree with you about Mary. I feel very badly for her and worry about the influence of her mother.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith September 22, 2014, 8:52 am

    I don’t understand the need to put an entire group of people down. Even my brother, the uber-cynic, claims that there is no justification for disliking an entire group when there are so many perfectly good reasons for disliking people on an individual basis. Okay…that’s not exactly a loving way to put it, but it does highlight the stupidity of painting with too broad of a brush when talking about people. OP, you cannot defend yourself overtly, but I would see no harm in laughing at the utterly ridiculous opinions expressed. They will never be able to ask you the reason for your giggles, since your conversation is also private, presumably. It’s not ehell or Admin approved…but I might be tempted to “set the record straight” as I passed by with expository dialog directed (ostensibly) at your other half…either as parody or as factual correction. Some creativity might allow you to say your piece without having to engage them, if you can even be bothered with such idiots.

  • Lady Anne September 22, 2014, 9:29 am

    Back well before 9/11 The Squire and I hosted a young man from Morocco as an exchange student. He was Muslim, and there was then no mosque in our neighborhood. We told him that we go to church every Sunday, and that we wanted him to go with us the first few weeks so our friends could get to know him, and then he could just stay home if he wished, because this obviously wasn’t his “thing”. He did go to church, joined the choir, became good friends with many in the congregation, and even read the Bible story of the Tower of Babel in Arabic on Pentecost. If we had ever “custom ordered” a son, he would have been to one we’d have gotten. He taught us a lot about his faith, and we both learned a lot of tolerance and compassion. We had one couple who had lost their only child at Lockerbie, and he even managed to win them over, explaining how deeply that event had hurt him, personally, and the other members of his faith. “If they think Allah will let them into Paradise with the blood of the innocent on their hands, they are mistaken.”

    We now have a woman in our congregation who has never met a conspiracy theory she doesn’t like, and honestly believes the dreadful things she says about other faiths, particularly Islam. We have tried repeatedly to correct her ideas and point out how wrong they are, to no avail. I point out that she – and I are German – but that doesn’t automatically make us Nazis, or you can’t judge Christianity on what goes on in Ireland, but she will just say, “well, that’s different”. Some people just *know* and nothing will convince them other wise. You just have to work around them, keep repeating the truth, and avoid them if you can.

  • BellyJean September 22, 2014, 9:31 am

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. (Edmund Burke – disputed)

  • Library Diva September 22, 2014, 9:39 am

    My husband’s family has some serious bigots in it. I do a lot of tongue-biting when I’m around them. They’re not talking about me personally, but I still find it really offensive. Most recently, we were leaving town and swung by his grandmother’s house to say goodbye. His uncle was there and started a rant, out of nowhere, about how wrong it was to have a child with someone from another race. There was no reason for him to have said these things. Everyone there was white (I don’t think he would have opened his mouth had there been someone of another race present), nor was there anything in the environment to stimulate this line of conversation: the TV was off, the radio was off, there weren’t even any magazines or newspapers around. It just popped in his head and came out of his mouth. I always want to find a way to let them know I don’t agree with their thoughts, but I also don’t really wish to start a fight.

    • Cat September 22, 2014, 7:04 pm

      If it would help, you might mention to uncle that descent is a geometric progression: 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents… If you figure 20-25 years for a generation, we each, if we are not siblings, have over a million direct ancestors by the year AD 1600. Do you really think all those folks were of one race and were all descended from one race?
      The Queen of England has an ancestor who was a descendent of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba-which would make her black and Jewish by uncle’s reckoning. Mazel tov, your Majesty.

      • Asharah September 23, 2014, 6:39 pm

        Well technically, all modern humans descended from one group that evolved in Africa, so all people ARE descended from one race.

      • Kali September 24, 2014, 4:08 am

        If you go back less than 10,000 years, we are all share common ancestors.

      • Library Diva September 24, 2014, 10:48 am

        He knows. A few years ago, someone got a hold of a free trial of a genealogy service and found out that the family has a black ancestor several generations back. If anything, the jokes have only intensified since then.

        What’s weird to me is that the most bigoted people I’ve ever met tend to live in really homogenous areas where they don’t even come into regular contact with people who are different from them. When the only time you ever see a black person in real life is during your four-times-a-year trip to the mall in the bigger city an hour away from you, why even bother to form an opinion about them?

        • admin September 29, 2014, 8:16 am

          So, being culturally isolated and therefore not exposed to different peoples is solely a white phenomena? Interesting assumption….Years ago I offered educational tours of our farm to local school groups. One such group turned out to be black children and parents from a private school in the bigger city. After the tour we allowed the groups to stay and have lunch on our picnic tables and I nearly always joined them to chat with the adults. We had such a great time chatting, 2 hours in fact, that the leader of the group, a pastor’s wife, eventually confessed to me how nervous they were to even book this tour. Their assumptions were that a rural, white farm owner in the South was going to have racial biases and this gave them some anxiety yet I wasn’t anything like what they expected or presumed. As it turns out, the parents were all conservative Republicans, which, if you believe the news, don’t exist so the whole experience was a great learning opportunity for me as well.

          • Eener September 29, 2014, 5:28 pm

            To be fair, I don’t think Library Diva meant to imply this is solely a white phenomenon. She simply provided an example of bigotry she’d witnessed in her own life. The generalization she made was “the most bigoted people I’ve ever met tend to live in really homogenous areas where they don’t even come into regular contact with people who are different from them.” I didn’t read this as an implication she believed it only applied to white people; rather, the people she’s met who think this way happen to be white.

          • Library Diva October 1, 2014, 1:00 pm

            Thanks, Eener for coming to my defense. You’re right in that I certainly didn’t mean to imply that only whites are culturally isolated. To give another example, I have an aunt who frequently makes cracks about things like “Jewish lightning” (which is when a building burns in a suspected fire for insurance money). I am pretty confident that she’s never come face-to-face with a Jewish person in her life. Her small town is so homogenous that even someone who strongly identified with Irish or Italian heritage would stand out.

            Admin, I’m not sure how you read that into my comment. But I’m glad that you and the predominantly black group had such good experiences with one another.

  • AnaMaria September 22, 2014, 9:43 am

    I would have to respectfully disagree with the admin on this one- I see nothing wrong with the OP turning and politely stating that she practices Judaism. If Fay wants to have these conversations with Mary in complete privacy, fine, but why have them in a setting where others can overhear so easily? This is not a restaurant or shopping center where unintentional-eavesdroppers are strangers; it is a family gathering. Fay should keep in mind that the people who overhear her conversations will be part of her life as long as she is part of this family!

    As a Christian, I don’t mind discussions about other religions (including why Christians disagree with their teachings), but I would be horrified to have to sit at a 4-year-old’s birthday party and listen to someone rant about how disgusting Judaism, Islam, Buddism, or any other religion (or race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.) is to them! I have people near and dear to me of all these backgrounds, and I would not appreciate having to listen to someone trash-talk them without knowing them! OP may have been the only representative of Judaism at the party, but I doubt that she was the only one offended by Fay’s big mouth!

    Of course OP will likely choose to cool the relationship with Fay- but, Fay deserves an explanation and a chance to make things right. If she knows OP is Jewish, she has the option to either apologize for her comments, or choose to hold on to her mindset and accept coolness from OP. If OP is simply cool-but-civil towards Fay, Fay has no explanation except that OP is a snotty person (and, if she learns OP is Jewish, she can use this to further fuel her prejudice.)

    • OP September 25, 2014, 9:13 am

      My problem with confronting Fay directly is that I do not know her very well. I have only met her at gatherings. I do not know if I would feel comfortable with confronting her.

      • Enna September 29, 2014, 12:15 pm

        It entirely depends what you think is right a the time an wht you feel comfortable doing. If it had been someone you knew well you might have. I don’t think you are wrong by saying nothing to the women, but if you had politely said that wouldn’t have been wrong either.

  • Cecilia September 22, 2014, 9:56 am

    OP- So sorry that you had to hear such vitriol spew from these women. I understand it is hard to stay silent when you hear things that upset you and feel like a personal attack.

    I think your husband should speak to your SIL. She is probably unaware that Fay and Mary have such opinions and I’m sure that she would be horrified to find out that they chose to discuss them at her child’s birthday party. I understand Admin’s statement that the women had an expectation of privacy since they were seated at a table together, but if you could hear them, surely they could hear you and your family and know that you could hear them. I guess if they were deep in conversation they may not have been aware anyone could hear them.

    Although I have never experienced religious racism or hatred, being a white girl from the South, I have had a few people make comments to me before. In *my experience only*, *some* uneducated people assume that if you are if have a southern accent and were born here (vs being a “transplant”), you are a “redneck/hillbilly/hick”, that your family is inbred – I actually had a person ask me if my parents were cousins (!) and a very ignorant group of people just assumed that my ancestors had slaves and tried to question me about it.

    Some people will say anything that pops in their mind, without considering how their words may affect others or if what they are saying is even true. Let your husband speak to your SIL and if you have to be around Fay or Mary in the future, say as far away as you can.

  • burgerwhop September 22, 2014, 10:07 am

    1. There’s no reason to bring anything up to SIL as these women aren’t family and SIL has no real reason to “discipline” grown women for their behavior.
    2. I have no problem with overhearing a discussion, finding someone telling a fallacy, and leaning over and correcting it.
    3. When we hold certain positions and opinions, if we truly believe them, what others say really matters little. Debate only gets heated and ugly when the people debating aren’t totally convinced. For example, if someone said my mother was ugly, it wouldn’t bother me in the least because it’s either 1. true or 2. false (and I could care less what they think) and I feel really sad for them for not knowing the wonderful, great person my mom truly is.

  • WendyW September 22, 2014, 10:21 am

    I wouldn’t say anything to the SIL. 3 people having a private conversation at a large party, expressing their opinions to each other. It happens. Everyone has incorrect or small minded opinions about something, it’s inevitable. This just happened to be one that hit home for you. They could just as easily been discussing the evils of high fructose corn syrup and how anyone who feeds it to their kids is poisoning them and deserve to have their kids taken away.

    It wasn’t directed at you, you just overheard it. You could either have ignored it, telling yourself that they were simply being ignorant, or you could have spoken up, saying you couldn’t help but overhear and corrected their information. I would do the first but I know others who would take the opportunity to speak up and correct the fallacies.

    They weren’t out to upset and target you, you let an overheard conversation get into your head and mess with it. If I were SIL and you brought this to me, I would apologize that you were upset, but if the ladies in question were otherwise pretty decent people, I wouldn’t say anything.

  • MyWorld September 22, 2014, 10:25 am

    I happen to be Jewish as well and don’t think I could have kept quiet. I certainly would not have been loud or involved anyone other than the people at that table, but I would have gone over and quietly said that while I was not trying to eavesdrop, their conversation was loud enough, and tables were close enough together that their discusson was clearly heard at your table and you happen to be Jewish. I probably would have told Mary and her daughter that I was terribly sorry as I had not realized how offensive I was to them, and then walked away.

    I still remember from over 40 years ago, my father was hired year after year to cater a summer event held by a fire department a few towns over. It was my total joy that I got to go along and attend. I played with the same group of little girls each year. When I was 8, and at that event, one of the girls mentioned something about a girl at her school that she did not like, and one of the other girls said “Well she is a Jew, what do you expect” I looked at her and said that I was Jewish too, and when she said nothing, I went back and stayed by my parents for the rest of the day. My father continued to cater that event for many more years, but I never went again.

  • Shoegal September 22, 2014, 10:37 am

    I understand why the OP was upset but like the Admin stated – their opinions or statements were part of a private conversation at their own table. It was a highly inappropriate conversation in a social setting if you ask me, but I do think it is completely relevant that these guests were trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to have a discussion among themselves. If you happened to overhear them and were upset and offended – then you should have moved so as not to encourage further discomfort.

    I also fail to see what purpose it would serve to bring up this incident to your Sister-in-Law. What exactly do you want her to do about it – apologize to you? call out her family members? Ban them forever from entering her home? I really don’t think anything of any good would come from that and she is basically powerless in changing their opinions.

    Personally, I abhor discussing politics or religion at any social gatherings. I often state that I am ignorant to most political issues and really don’t want to engage in a conversation where I am forced to defend my own personal beliefs. I can agree that we can all disagree and be done with it.

  • Princess Buttercup September 22, 2014, 10:41 am

    I would have gotten up and moved out of hearing range. Just because people spew filth does not mean you must listen to it. And if they were at all observant they might notice the move and wonder if it was because of their discussion and maybe they should tone it down.
    Though realistically my smart alekness would be wanting to make a showing by getting up, going to them and sweetly saying “I couldn’t help over hearing your conversation. I’m sorry you have had a bad experience with some members of my religion, I do hope you are not closed minded enough that you won’t give others you meet in the future a chance.” But that’s not really appropriate for the situation so I’d be wanting to do that by trying hard to keep it in.

    The related family members should talk and mention what vileness happened at such an inappropriate time and then the family member related to the speaker should mention that they should really consider their words in public carefully because there are always people listening and words that are not well thought out can make a speaker look very bad.

  • Harley Granny September 22, 2014, 10:43 am

    So…..over hearing a conversation is now eavesdropping….interesting…I did not know that. I totally don’t agree with Admin on this one point by the way. Yes they were having a conversation amoung themselves but they obviously were talking loud enough for others to hear. Therefor they have no reason to have any expectation that it was private.

    Now onto the OP. You showed more class than Fay and Co. If possible for future gatherings I would ask is they are included in the guest list. If they are….I would either politely decline the invitation or prepare yourself to avoid them.

    I would only offer the reason why if I were asked.

    My brother converted to Judism about 10 years ago and one of his former “friends” had the gall to invite him and other friends to a Klan meeting. Some people are just clueless by nature.

    • admin September 22, 2014, 12:21 pm

      Unintentionally overhearing a conversation is one thing but when you take your focus off of your dinner partner and other guests seated at your table and focus your attention on listening to another table’s conversation, you have become an eavesdropper.

      • Devin September 22, 2014, 1:37 pm

        I find I ‘Unintentionally Overhear’ bigoted or racist conversations at work quite often because the gossips don’t realize there a key words and tones that often draw my ear (and others who work in my area). When they take the ‘gossip tone’ and start on about ‘those people’ or ‘the blacks’ or when discussing one person they always start with ‘well you KNOW so n so ALWAYS… insert negative attribute’. Since I’m at my desk I can’t just up and move and though most people expect privacy in their offices, the walls are much thinner than these gossips realize. I’ve developed the walk to the copier test when I hear this starting. Usually if they think someone can overhear they move away or stop whatever offensive comments they are making.
        I have a feeling OP wasn’t eavesdropping when something like ‘well THOSE Jews ALWAYS…’ and then it is quite distracting to not ‘overhear’ whatever is said next.
        Since these weren’t strangers, I think a “I’m sorry I couldn’t help but overhear” is completely acceptable.

        • OP September 25, 2014, 9:19 am

          I wasn’t actively listening until I heard the words “disgusting jews.” After that, I couldn’t help it.

          • admin September 29, 2014, 9:13 am

            Playing devil’s advocate (a role that seems natural given the name of the web site), are there not conflicts and bigotry even amongst Jews themselves so which “disgusting jews” are being referred to here? In Israel, the Ashkenazi (European) Jews do not get along well with the Mizrahi Jews (mainly from Arab world) since the creation of the state of Israel. Ashkenzai schools have come under secular court judgement in recent years due to the active segregation of their children from having contact with Mizrahi Jewish children. If ultra-orthodox parents are willing to protest in the streets and go to jail to keep their daughters from having any contact with a Misrahi Jew, it wouldn’t be implausible to believe the Ashkenazi consider the Misrahi “disgusting”. http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1997685,00.html So, why would it be implausible to consider that maybe Fay and her table companions were actually discussing a subset of Jews they did find “disgusting”?

      • AnaMaria September 22, 2014, 3:06 pm

        I don’t think we know enough details to say that the OP was eavesdropping, though. Maybe she stopped talking with her husband and started listening in when she heard the word “Jew,” but I think it’s also perfectly realistic that she and her husband were sitting in comfortable silence enjoying dinner, or interacting wordlessly with their tot.

    • just4kicks September 22, 2014, 1:48 pm

      It’s a well known story in our family that my husband’s grandfather was a member of the Klan. He would tell his wife (my husband’s grandmother) that he was going out to play poker a few nights each week with the boys. Only when he died, and his wife was cleaning out the attic of his personal effects, she discovered a box containing his Klan hood and outfit and very racist literature from that group.

  • nannerdoman September 22, 2014, 11:09 am

    I admire the OP’s restraint, which I may not have been able to achieve. By all means, the family member closest to the SIL should let her know what happened, and the OP should make an unobtrusive point of avoiding Fay and Mary should they show up at future gatherings.

  • monkey's mommy September 22, 2014, 11:21 am

    So sorry OP! I’m Mormon, and you wouldn’t believe the incorrect things I hear about myself from people who “know all about being Mormon”. I just roll my eyes. I do wish my husband’s other wives would step up with the housework though 😉

    • Mary September 22, 2014, 1:37 pm

      You almost made me spit out my drink! That might actually be a perfect response if you come across someone insulting your religion. 🙂

    • Amanda H. September 22, 2014, 1:43 pm

      Oh, good grief, yes. So many misconceptions floating around.

      In high school, I was actually asked by a classmate if I was going to go off to Utah to be a plural wife once I graduated. I just gave him a baffled look and said no.

      • admin September 22, 2014, 5:40 pm

        I’m not sure the stereotype of Mormons having plural wives is all that undeserved. Look at the reality tv shows about Mormons…every one of them is about polygamy. There’s “Polygamy USA”, “Sister Wives” and “My five wives” (or something like that). The number of documentaries about Warren Jeffs seem to be increasing. I can’t think of a single reality show about mainstream Mormons. And if Kody Brown and the cast of Polygamy USA claim is true, closet polygamy is more pervasive that one realizes. So, can you blame people if they make assumptions based on what they consume from television?

        • Stacey Frith-Smith September 22, 2014, 7:13 pm

          Maybe. Look at what television and movies have to say about women, Christians, Muslims, men, teens, children and the elderly who are respectively portrayed as objects, rigidly judgmental, violent, stupid, destructive, a burden on parents, and grouchy/ a burden on society. It’s true that we sometimes become overly fascinated by what is portrayed on media and that any show that successfully engages the audience by pandering to our predilection for the sexy, raunchy and action filled is apt to be cloned until it ceases to attract any significant share of viewers. But we should be cautious about taking our cultural cues, values, and even basic information from entertainment (and media generally).

        • Cat September 22, 2014, 7:31 pm

          They believe everything they see in movies too. “The 300”. “Glory”, “Red Tails”, and “The Davinci Code” are filled with silly scenes and inaccurate statements, but people believe that it is all true. After all, they saw it in a movie!

        • Annie September 22, 2014, 7:58 pm

          Yes, I can blame people for making assumptions based on what they consume from TV. They choose what to consume and how much of it to believe.

          When I visit certain countries, men walk up to me on the street and proposition me because TV has taught them that American women have no morals. I don’t give anyone a pass for choosing to believe that entertainment = fact.

        • H. Vane September 22, 2014, 8:04 pm

          Mormons ceased all practice of polygamy in the late 1800’s (1887, I believe). It is now an excommunicable offense. The people who practice polygamy are members of breakoff sects, not members of the LDS church. Please do not confuse us with them – we find forced marriages to underage brides truely vile as well. And Admin, I’d honestly appreciate an apology on your comment. Just because TV says it is does not make it true, and it is a sterotype that we mormons have been fighting for more than a century. We’re sick of it. People, check your facts.

          • admin September 23, 2014, 5:52 am

            I’m fully aware of the history and I am also aware that Kody Brown’s family as well as the Centennial Park polygamists (Polygamy USA) actively fight the stereotypes that they are related to the FLDS and Warren Jeffs. The shows are their public platform to denounce any connection to the FLDS (the internet being another). The Browns, Hammonds, Cauleys, etc would agree with you…they find forced marriages to underage girls vile as well yet they are still polygamists. Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff and pro-polygamist activists have stated that the number of polygamist communities in the suburban Salt Lake City area is “burgeoning”, at least 40,000 people according to Shurtleff, and they all call themselves Mormons. So I don’t think it is fair to condemn people who do not live in Utah, who are not Mormon and may not know or understand the machinations within the religion when they believe the Browns, Hammonds et al when they declare they are not just Mormons but true Mormons following Joseph Smith’s original prophecies. They use a highly rated television show to disseminate that viewpoint.

          • monkey's mommy September 23, 2014, 8:48 am

            Love this!!!

        • monkey's mommy September 23, 2014, 8:46 am

          Yes. I can blame them. Those people are not true LDS Mormons. They are doing their own thing. That’s like me assuming you speak in tongues every week at your over the top southern Baptist Church on Sundays just because I’ve seen it on tv- doesn’t mean it happens.

          • admin September 23, 2014, 6:02 pm

            You are missing the point. When the stars of a top rated reality TV show say they are Mormon, the viewing public isn’t likely to care or understand the theology differences as to why you and other LDS disagree. Kody says he’s a Mormon therefore he believes he is a Mormon.

            Second, I am not Southern Baptist. Most Southern Baptists are dispensationalists which means they reject charismatic gifts for today but there does exist a wide variety of beliefs on the subject and there are SB churches which view tongues as valid although they are in the minority. Yet no one disavows them as Southern Baptist so your analogy fails. And would you care to explain why this religious theology and practice is “over the top”? In what way does it harm you?

        • Lil September 23, 2014, 9:15 am

          “I can’t think of a single reality show about mainstream Mormons.” Why do mainstream Mormons have to have a reality show to prove they aren’t polygamists? Is that how we are learning what certain groups are “really” about now?? By how they are represented in reality shows. Yikes! I’m not Mormon. I’m not Christian and I’m REALLY not a fan or organized religion but even I feel bad that modern Mormons are constantly having to defend themselves over a practice that only fundamentalist offshoots of their religion still embrace. It’s as if a group of Catholics splintered off and started dunking women into pools of water to test them for witchcraft. It doesn’t mean all Catholics believe in testing for witchcraft. The splinter group doesn’t represent any other group except themselves–even if they are returning to a practice that the original group once regarded as part of their faith.

          • admin September 23, 2014, 4:45 pm

            I think it is a fairly accurate statement to say the entertainment industry has a wide and captive audience. What airs on TV quickly becomes a youtube video. I can’t even pump gas anymore without a small TV screen on the pump displaying some TV show. I don’t think Mormons are the exception either. A friend and I counted 9 reality shows on TV which “star” Southerners in what we consider to be a very unflattering light. It’s like Yankee producers from New York swept through the South finding the weirdest of the weird to star in their own reality shows. Oh,these people exist but they are the oddity, not the norm. The stereotypes about Southerners existed before the reality shows but the stereotypes persist, get deeply rooted when there isn’t much of a balance offered by the boob tube.

        • Library Diva September 24, 2014, 9:16 am

          I suppose you can’t blame them for having the assumption in their heads, but I think it’s rude to verbalize it, especially to someone you don’t know well.

          I was shocked at how many people asked me about guns when I was an exchange student in Wales. The underlying assumption to all of the questions was that everyone owned a bunch of guns and bullets just flew everywhere in the States. Looking at the types of American television shows and movies that were popular in the UK at the time, I understood where they got it from. Even “ER” usually featured a gunshot wound or two. I didn’t really take offense, but my hostess did on my behalf. It was funny, the first time someone came up to me in a club and asked me point-blank how many people I’d seen get shot, she told the guy that he was being rude, and that I probably didn’t wish to discuss that! (For the record, to this day, the only people I’ve seen shot have been in movies and on TV, and the only guns I’ve even seen in real life have belonged to police officers).

          I just think that random stereotypes about a person’s religion or ethnic background aren’t appropriate ice-breakers, especially when you assume the stereotype applies directly to them. If Amanda’s classmate absolutely couldn’t restrain his curiosity about plural marriage, the least he could have done is ask if it was true that it’s still common in her church, rather than “You’re Mormon? So are you going to drop out and move to Utah to become the tenth wife of some dude old enough to be your dad?”

    • mark September 22, 2014, 9:02 pm

      The salt lake church has never renounced polygamy. Indeed two of its current apostles have two wives Oakes and Nelson. The first wife in each case has passed on first but by Mormon doctrine they are sealed(married) to two wives. After renouncing Mormonism I was quite amazed at what I had presumed was ignorance of Mormonism by others was actually ignorance on my part.

      • Amanda H. September 23, 2014, 2:55 pm

        Mark, what are you talking about?

        https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/od/1?lang=eng

        First of the Official Declarations in the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the Standard Works of the LDS church. Which specifically says the church will submit to the laws of the country, which say not to practice polygamy. So I’m not sure where you’re getting your “never renounced polygamy” from.

        As for current apostles who have more than one wife, as you yourself pointed out, the first wife in each case passed on before the apostle married the second. Yes, doctrine says he is still sealed to the first wife, but it is not the same thing as having multiple wives alive at the same time, which is what the law pertains to.

        Please don’t spread misinformation.

        • mark September 23, 2014, 5:25 pm

          Please show me where the church has renounced polygamy? The church suspended the practice of polygamy. But it is still part of the doctrine of the LDS church. And in fact at the time of the first manifesto the church in actuality did not suspend the practice. Likely a few hundred additional polygamist marriages were performed by LDS apostles until the second manifesto was issued in 1904 by Joseph F. Smith as a consequence of the Reed Smoot hearings. The LDS church has not removed section 132 from the Doctrine and Covenants or repudiated it, and since this is where the doctrine of plural marriage is taught, I believe it is shows that the LDS church retains the doctrine of polygamy. And having been a practicing member of the LDS church for years, I’ve heard this taught for years, that the earthly practice of polygamy has been suspended but it will exist in the afterlife. This is not misinformation, it is LDS doctrine.

          You reaction is why I have difficulty with indignation on the part of believers. I’ve gotten surprise and indignation at details like this, but is the problem in the facts or in the understanding of the believer. I personally believe that polygamy should be legal just as same sex marriage should be legal, so my interest isn’t out of distaste for polygamy, just in accuracy.

          I personally think people should tread carefully when trying to correct perceived misconceptions about their religion or other cherished beliefs, when I’ve done so I’ve been embarrassed sometimes to discover later that I was in fact wrong.

          • Amanda H. September 29, 2014, 3:58 pm

            Do you have references for the apostles continuing to perform polygamist marriages after Official Declaration 1? I would be interested to see them.

            And I see you mean “renounced polygamy” as in “said it’s wrong and removed it from doctrine,” rather than “said that it is against the laws of the land and we will no longer be practicing it.”

            No, Section 132 hasn’t been removed from the Doctrine and Covenants, because it is still part of doctrine, albeit not actively practiced. And the relevant verses in the section merely lay out how plural marriage actually works, and consist of about six verses in total. Yes, it teaches about plural marriage. But then the Official Declaration I linked to is also in the Doctrine and Covenants, and explains that polygamy is no longer practiced, and why. The Old Testament describes many things in the Law of Moses, some of which Jesus clarified or changed in the New Testament (such as burnt offerings), but the parts on burnt offerings and the like in the Old Testament haven’t been removed. Why is this any different?

            The point of the matter is that while the church still believes that plural marriage will be reinstated after the Second Coming, and in what someone else called “spiritual polygamy” (when one man is sealed to more than one wife, even though it’s with only one living wife at a time), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not actively practice what the law and most people consider polygamy at this time. The point is you and several others are conflating the two. What people see in reality television with various offshoots of the church and the LDS church’s practice of multiple sealings (which only applies to a small percentage of members, at that–those who were sealed to a second wife after the first died, and those who were married when polygamy was in fact still practiced) are different enough from each other, and yet many people jump to the assumption that members of the LDS church practice polygamy, which we don’t. My only indignation is that you’re making generalized claims without supporting information, and that doesn’t help the situation.

        • Ergala September 24, 2014, 11:31 am

          I am a Mormon and I can tell you that LDS absolutely do NOT condone polygamy. As in any other religion there are different branch outs and some do practice it, but please do not group us all together based on the actions of one or two. There is one branch off that is lead by women. Does that mean that all of our branches are lead by women? Nope. Men hold the Priesthood as it is stated it should be. Some sects have their own ideals and therefore broke off from the main sect when things either changed with the times or when they wanted to change rules and the movement was denied.

          I absolutely hate it when I read comments and people bash Mormons because of the actions of a few people or smaller groups. The ones where I am are loving and would give you the clothes off their back. I mean that in the literal sense, they would give you their clothes if you had none. They practice what they preach. If you really want information please please please just ask for missionaries to come and talk to you instead of going onto the internet and looking for answers.

        • Yup September 24, 2014, 3:07 pm

          Amanda, it is spiritual polygamy. The same that has been done since the early days. There are hundreds of women sealed posthumously to Joseph Smith (both of their own volition and others are famous dead women). The whole point of Mormonism is the temple. If it happens there, that’s really all that matters, isn’t it? Have you read section 132?

          Mormons are weird, but they (we) like to pretend that they’re not. It’s a bit of a mind trip.

          • Amanda H. September 29, 2014, 4:03 pm

            Yes, I have read Section 132. I’ve read the entire Doctrine and Covenants, several times over, thank you. The verses in 132 relevant to polygamy are right at the end, and simply explain the practice. Official Declaration 1 is also in the Doctrine and Covenants, and explains that the church no longer practices polygamy (per the laws of the land). “Spiritual polygamy” is not covered by the law; it’s something only truly relevant to the afterlife.

          • Yup September 30, 2014, 2:03 pm

            When the afterlife is the focus of your religion, how many wives your husband will have should be of concern to you. Laws of the land of not, Mormonism is very wrapped up in polygamy.

        • KatF September 24, 2014, 8:03 pm

          No, Mark is right. According to US law those cases are not polygamy. However according to the Mormon view, Oaks and Nelson will indeed be married to two women in the eternities. I repeat: Mormons believe that those apostles will each be married to two women in the afterlife.

        • mark September 29, 2014, 9:30 pm

          @Amanda here is a link from an article by D. Michael Quinn. An expert on Mormon history.

          http://www.mormonismi.net/kirjoitukset/quinn_moniavioisuus.html

          As to making unsupported claims and spreading disinformation, I think not. My answers and others I believe offered well nuanced opinions on the current state of polygamy in the lds church.

          The lds church has a long history of deception relating to polygamy and this article demonstrates a part of this. This deception by the lds unfortunately leads many members making claims about how the church abandoned/renounced polygamy when it has not. Just as you did in an earlier comment.

          Bringing this back to the topic at hand many lds church members would take exception with what I’ve shared about polygamy in the lds church here. Since this is a forum that encourages sharing of ideas this is fine, but often my wife and I will discuss topics like this while eating out and fortunately everyone who sits by us in the restaurants appear to have the good manners to mind their own business. Not that I mind a friendly open conversation, but someone trying to “reprove” me is going to get told to mind their own business.

          • admin September 30, 2014, 7:08 am

            My husband and I discuss and debate religious, social and political topics almost weekly during date nights. We have an expectation that our dining table conversation is between only us and that anyone happening to overhear us has the good manners to mind their own business as well. Because I can guarantee there is someone in this world who disagrees with one or more of our opinions but unless invited into the conversation, they would be meddling busybodies to comment on a private conversation.

    • Jaxsue September 23, 2014, 6:09 am

      I have had many friends who were Mormon throughout the years. Amazingly, none of them was a polygamist! 🙂 General comment: the TV shows are extreme, because that is what sells in the reality TV genre. If they showed the average Mormon family, with one wife, it would be like a day in anyone else’s life, and no one would watch it. If one believes that polygamy runs rampant throughout the Mormon church, based on a couple of TV shows, then it’s time to meet some real, flesh-and-blood, Mormons. Honestly, getting to know someone who is Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Hindu, or atheist, etc., is the best cure for ignorance or fear.
      FTR: I was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist home (no longer part of it). I have had my share of weird comments from people who didn’t know much about our separatist sect. That’s why I am careful not to do the same to others.

  • Jaxsue September 22, 2014, 11:26 am

    OP, I am sorry you experienced this. Anti-semitism does seem to have its own level of animosity (if that makes sense). I am a Xian culturally but not affiliated with any sect (I am not religious, IOW), but for awhile I worked in a Jewish-run charity office. I was shocked at the amount of hate mail they received, some of the letters threatening. I had heard that it seemed to be a lightning rod for hate, but when I witnessed it I was shocked. It’s just wrong.
    Even if one dislikes a religion, they should keep it to themselves, and certainly shouldn’t talk about it at a kids’ party! EVERY religion has things that seem odd to outsiders, and every religion asks its adherents to believe amazing things. But that doesn’t mean that its fodder for mockery.
    Honestly, I’d bring it up in a calm moment. If I were hosting a party and any of my guests did this, I’d certainly want to know about it.

  • Melissa September 22, 2014, 11:28 am

    What ever happened to the maxim about not talking about politics or religion when in public? All sorts of opinions come out and you may come out looking like more a fool then people thought you were to begin with. I am so sorry OP you had to overhear such nastiness. Have DH bring to their attention, and if you see them in public be polite and move on, you know their true colors and you don’t need them

    • admin September 22, 2014, 12:16 pm

      Obviously these three women knew each other’s opinions on the subject and felt quite comfortable discussing it.

      • Melissa September 22, 2014, 1:30 pm

        Wow, I used to live in the south and if the conversation took a turn that way and more than likely I would disagree, I told the person that I do not discuss this topic publicly and if they persisted I excused myself. I still think these three broke the taboo I mentioned, and also a firm rule of etiquette. Shame on them

  • Kat September 22, 2014, 11:58 am

    I’m sorry you had to hear that, OP. It must have been hard to stay quiet.

  • YardFruitGal September 22, 2014, 12:03 pm

    Whoever has the direct relation to Mary and Fay should be the one to politely pass on about that you and they should not be…. together at family togetherness, and why you are uncomfortable. It could be they didn’t know they could be overheard, or they did know and did that on purpose.

    Not knowing which side of that coin it is; maybe give a benefit of doubt but also try not to end up in a small gathering of family with them either, to see if things sort out. If M&F have not been otherwise nasty, condescending, or mean; either they don’t know about OP’s religion… or if they do, they have been civil up to this time of the overheard conversation.

    Judaism is both a heritage and a faith, I practiced it for nearly thirty years; but it was not how I was raised. There are many many misconceptions I came across; and some people understood when I said it was my faith, but I had not been raised that way (heritage). Most faiths have many misconceptions from those that don’t practice that faith; that much I have learned. The only ones I have had trouble with are those that have the attitude ‘if you are not of my faith you are vile filth, and not worth being considered a human being’ and I have met those from many different faiths!

    I would suggest about not doing anything just yet, see if M&F do continue in that vein, change how they treat OP and family, or continue as otherwise civil relations. If they do continue to be civil, then don’t go further. If they start a bash session in earshot though like what just happened, find another place to be (if it seems they are not obviously starting up because OP is nearby).

    • OP September 25, 2014, 9:23 am

      Thank you for your advice. I think I will likely let it go for now and see what happens in the future.

  • Lkb September 22, 2014, 12:47 pm

    FWIW, I agree with MyWorld and Princess Buttercup in quietly confronting the boors at the time. confronting the SIL does nothing but make it difficult for her. Saying nothing does nothing to stop bigotry.

  • MyWorld September 22, 2014, 2:07 pm

    My extended family is racially as well as religiously mixed. Several times,while in a conversation , I was shocked to hear a racial slur while discussing someone of another color. Each time I have spoken up and said that is such an ugly word and depending on the person, mentioned that I have mixed race grandchildren. The apologies were alway immediate. I’d like to think that those people now think before speaking.

    On a funnier note- My husband is not Jewish. One of the things we often joke about is that Jews are “rye bread and mustard” and his people are “white bread and mayo”

    The night before the wedding, my husband’s brother handed me a beautifully wrapped box. I opened it to find a loaf of white bread and a jar of mayo! The note read “Welcome to the family Sis” That night I went shopping. The next day at our wedding I handed my future BIL a box wrapped every bit as beautifully as his. When he opened it he found the biggest, nastiest jar of gefilte fish I could buy!. My note read “Welcome to my side of the family. Can’t wait to have you come to dinner”

    We are married 26 years. That jar of gefilte fish gets passed back and forth. At one point my BIL had it baked into a cake. Another time we took it to Hawaii and shipped it to him inside of colored popcorn. It has been decided that whoever dies with the gefilte fish in their possession, shall be buried with it in their arms.

    Our wedding: To keep from offending as many people as possible on both sides of our families, we held our wedding in a victorian mansion rather than a church or temple and had both a rabbi and pastor conduct the service

    • OP September 25, 2014, 9:25 am

      I am cracking up at this! The thought of gefilte fish cake made my stomach turn.

      I’m more of a rye bread and russian dressing kind of gal 🙂

  • Politrix September 22, 2014, 2:16 pm

    First, big hugs to the OP, and warm wishes for a “Shana Tova!” (Happy New Year — starts this Wednesday night!)
    Second, I’m grateful and encouraged by the majority of responses (especially non-Jews) who are in your corner and denounce anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, and won’t give this lady or her “friend” a pass for their hateful remarks.
    Third, I’ve experienced anti-Semitism more times than I can shake a stick at — and I live in a large, supposedly “progressive” urban area! — and it never gets any easier, or less hurtful throughout the years. (Think from second grade on into my professional life, I kid you not. It’s awful.) I can only imagine how upset you must be, OP.
    Here are two things I’ve found are useful to minimize the hurt, though: the first is to recognize, as the admin said, that pretty much every religious and ethnic group suffers the same hurtful remarks — and while bigotry and racism is inexcusable, it helps to know you’re not alone. (It comes up a lot with friends of mine who share diverse backgrounds; we compare notes, commiserate and yes, eventually laugh at some of the bizarre and downright scary ideas people have about our cultures.) It’s also helped me to look outside my own experience and see how mascots like the Washington Redskins, movies like “Coming To America,” and expressions like “that’s so gay,” while seemingly innocuous to some, can really sting to people we may not even realize are our good friends, neighbors and co-workers.
    Which brings me to my last point: assuming the best about “Fay”, her daughter and the other woman — let’s say she really has no idea you are Jewish. You can approach this two ways, as I see it: you can give her the cut direct or have your husband address it privately after the party, OR you could turn to her, laugh and say, “That thing about the bedsheets? That’s an urban myth, you know. Just thought I’d speak up now so you’re not freaked out when dear son/daughter turns thirteen and we invite you to the bar/bat mitzvah.”
    Then you can take the opportunity to shatter all her negative stereotypes by being kind, compassionate and polite, and calmly educate her on Jewish belief and culture. You might not exactly win a new friend, but you will certainly have done your part to dispel stupid, ugly and even dangerous myths.

    (Now Evil Politrix is going to weigh in): Of course, if you feel she’s not responding to your Teachable Moment, you can always say, “Hmmmm, Jesus was a Jew — ya think Mary & Joseph ever did it through a hole in the bed sheet?”) >:)

    • Cat September 23, 2014, 5:16 am

      Please don’t. You really don’t want Christians after you for suggesting that Jesus was not God incarnate, but was the natural son of Joseph-not to mention denying the perpetual virginity of Mary. One bigoted statement is never a good answer for another one.

      • Jaxsue September 23, 2014, 8:48 am

        I don’t see Politrix’s comment as questionable in any way. I do know that in Catholicism, Mary is a perpetual virgin, but that statement does not undo or threaten anyone’s faith in that, so doesn’t come under the “bigoted” umbrella IMO. It is not a belief held among Protestants (the perpetual virginity, that is).

      • Politrix September 23, 2014, 9:54 am

        I concede to your point — and I completely forgot the whole Virgin Mary thing (that was dumb — I shoulda known better, sorry!). But to clarify: I was NOT trying to offend all Christians or their religion with the above — I was just trying to think of a way to remind a hypothetical bigoted Christian (or Muslim, as both accept Jesus as a prophet) that Jesus was (is?), in fact, a Jew. So basically, hating all Jews is pretty hypocritical if you’re a practicing Christian.
        Not sure what I’d say to an anti-Semitic Zoroastrian, tho! 😉

        • jazzgirl205 September 23, 2014, 11:02 am

          As a Catholic, I couldn’t agree more.

        • Library Diva September 24, 2014, 10:57 am

          It’s sad when the fact that their own prophet was Jewish doesn’t even stop people’s bigoted behavior.

          I had an aunt (my father’s sister) who would occasionally make passive-aggressive digs at my late mother for being Catholic. She knew full well that her own father was raised Catholic and that he even had a nun in his extended family, and converted (to the extent that he really practiced a religion) when he married my protestant grandmother. Even just five minutes of thought about her father’s background would have made his Catholicism a reasonable supposition.

          Bigotry, sadly, knows no logic whatsoever. To use a deliberately extreme example, there were high-ranking officers in Hitler’s military who had Jewish ancestry. They were allowed to stick around because Hitler would twist the definition of “who’s Jewish” to fit his own needs at times, but the point is, the officers still chose to participate very actively in this regime.

      • Asharah September 23, 2014, 6:33 pm

        Okay, for the record I’m Catholic, but I do not buy the whole “perpetual virginity” thing. The Bible says Jesus had brothers and sisters and the whole “oh, they were just cousins, it’s a translation error” thing gives me a laugh. If the Bible calls them brothers and sisters, I say they were brothers and sisters.

    • OP September 25, 2014, 9:30 am

      Thank you for the New Year wishes!

      I am laughing at the thought of them receiving his bar mitzvah invitation one day and thinking “Oh crap, remember that conversation we had 13 years ago?”

  • JO September 22, 2014, 3:18 pm

    The best way to combat a bigot is to prove them wrong. When you need to be around these people in the future, just be as nice as you possibly can. Then, if the subject of “those people” should ever come up, look them calmly in the eye and state matter of factly, “actually, I am Jewish myself.” Hopefully that will change their attitude. If not, just avoid them as much as possible. (By the way, I can only imagine how angry and hurt you must feel. I’m so sorry you had to encounter such awful attitudes).

  • David September 22, 2014, 3:35 pm

    OP, I think you handled it well. The only thing I think I might have done differently would be to try to switch tables as it is hard to enjoy food when seated near a bigot.

    Since you don’t know how these particular bigots would react, it’s better to not push that particular button at a child’s birthday party. Yes, maybe they would be chastised but it’s also possible they would have doubled down or gotten loud and it’s your nephew’s birthday party and the day should be about him.

    Your husband should discuss this with his sister in a “thought you should know” way, just as a heads up. I’d want to know if people my child might be near were bigots and so might she.

  • EllenS September 22, 2014, 3:39 pm

    While I agree with Admin that it is a mistake to insert yourself into someone else’s conversation, especially when it is on a charged/offensive topic, I think it would be within the bounds of politeness to let them know their “slip” is showing.

    I might lean over and catch Fay’s eye to say, “I think you may not realize how much your voice is carrying.” And then I would move away and avoid that group for the rest of …forever.

    • Angel September 23, 2014, 4:25 pm

      This is the perfect response–and very polite as well. I personally can’t stand when people have loud and offensive conversations within my earshot. I am not Jewish myself–but I would have been extremely offended by that conversation. I don’t want to listen to hatred and negativity–particularly not at a party where we’re supposed to be light hearted and fun. And I believe most people feel the same way.

  • don't blink September 22, 2014, 4:36 pm

    In my humble opinion, this is a situation where moral outrage trumps etiquette. A polite, firm and quiet statement- something as simple as, ” I am Jewish, ” would have made your point without making a scene. No one should have to listen to such garbage, and I certainly don’t think moving to another seat is the answer.

  • Tee September 22, 2014, 6:57 pm

    I live in New York state. Ten days after 9/11, I was on a place leaving Newark, NJ to visit my brother, who lived in Maui. While at a Borders cafe in Maui, I overheard two locals talking about 9/11, and how they didn’t feel sorry for the people who died in the Towers because they were all rich. I walked out instead of talking with them, mostly because (1) I was so angry I couldn’t speak, and (2) telling them that cops, firefighters, janitors, and food workers had also died probably wouldn’t have made a dent in their views. I don’t know what would be accomplished by confronting ignorant people, except perhaps to make yourself more upset.

    • Jaxsue September 23, 2014, 6:10 am

      That is horrible. I have a friend whose niece died in the towers. She was not rich; she was only 25 and just starting her career. 🙁

    • crella September 23, 2014, 11:18 pm

      Wow. There seems to be a growing attitude that rich people are all evil and anything that befalls them is deserved. It’s so wrong. Most rich people earn their money, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Cat September 22, 2014, 7:17 pm

    If it helps, I converted to Catholicism when I was 23 and my father told me I was a disgrace to the family. He knew very little about Christianity and less about the Catholic Church. He was a Protestant only because he wasn’t anything else. He had never heard of the Reformation and did not know that Protestants are called that because the founders of the Protestant churches were protesting practices of the Catholic church.
    I always figured that, if being Jewish was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for anyone. Bigotry never worked for me anyway. I always find someone of that group, become friends, and one can hardly go around saying, “Well, I hate all of those who belong to “X”, except for my good buddies S,Y, Z and all their families. ” It just gets silly when one has to make so many exceptions to one’s bigotry.

    As to the garden variety of bigots that you encountered-I think I would have made a point of moving away from them before I was tempted to begin a loud conversation about bigots, ignorance, and how sad it is that people have opinions, but no knowledge of the subject.

  • mark September 22, 2014, 9:24 pm

    While boorishness like this is wrong a lot of religionists should look in the mirror to see some of the reason people dislike them. I can well imagine why a lot of loving homosexual couples have a rather bitter taste in their mouth when thinking of my former religion Mormonism, given the persecution Mormons have dealt them and continue to give to them. There is a lot of very screwed up stuff that has taken place in the name religion and continues to take place in the name of religion, and that causes a lot of the problems believers face in regards to people not liking their religion.

    • admin September 23, 2014, 5:12 am

      So, basically what you are saying is that a few bad apples can spoil the barrel for everyone else?

      • mark September 23, 2014, 12:33 pm

        They certainly can. I also think a lot of people are unaware of all that their faith has taught and continues teach as well as the history of their religion, and they sometimes take offense at people informing them of things they didn’t realize about their religion. (I certainly did.)

        I rarely enter discussions with random people anymore now I don’t believe, I really don’t have any great desire to de-convert anyone. But living in Utah with it’s monoculture and the almost casual nature of the discrimination can wear on one.

    • GG September 23, 2014, 5:31 am

      There are many valid criticisms of religions but from the context of the story it did not sound like those women were having an academic debate about the merits and issues that arise from religion. They were spouting off hatred and ignorance at a child’s birthday party loudly enough that neighboring tables can hear them. Problems with religion are not the issue here. If they were saying racist remarks, the reaction should not be that “X race should look in the mirror to see why people dislike them.”

      • admin September 23, 2014, 6:15 am

        While eating in a restaurant last night with my husband, I did a little experiment. I wanted to see how far away a table could be and still overhear the conversations those diners were having. If I concentrated on listening, 20 feet was about the maximum assuming people were using a normal conversational tone of voice. The two women 15 feet from us occasionally drew momentary attention when the younger female made loud exclamations and if I chose to listen, I can certainly hear most of the conversations of the table right next to us. But the other half of the experiment was, how much would I hear if I was focusing my attention on having a discussion with my husband? I don’t think I am unusual when I report that when the hubby and I are having a conversation, we are in our own bubble and I’m almost oblivious to what anyone around us is saying. And if you sat next to us, you would undoubtedly hear some strong opinions on a variety of subjects as we hash out our stance on those issues.

        • MichelleP September 24, 2014, 10:39 am

          It’s been my experience that when people are ignorant enough to spew bile about religious groups, they are loud and obnoxious. People who do this are usually loud due to being passionate about their beliefs.

          OP, you did nothing wrong. Avoid them, and keep pride in your beliefs.

      • mark September 23, 2014, 12:23 pm

        Other than the bizarre comment about sex through a sheet comment, we really don’t know what they said other than the OP (unsurprisingly) found it offensive.

        As to what my reaction should be I don’t see where you get to dictate it. And conflating my response with racism is rather bizarre, this discussion is about religion not race. Most (if not all) religions (including atheism as well) have practices within them that range from bizarre to out right disgusting including Judaism and these practices are not above discussion/criticism. I agree having a discussion like this at a child’s birthday party isn’t a good idea. In this situation I would have ignored the other table, life is too short to worry about this.

        • B September 24, 2014, 2:39 pm

          The OP herself lists some of the things they said about Jewish people, including that they were “disgusting”, were a nightmare to deal with and how they couldn’t stand them. So it wasn’t just about what Jewish people practise. It was about Jewish people.

          Saying in public (let alone believing!) that Jews are disgusting is just astoundingly awful.

        • Marian Perera September 27, 2014, 9:02 am

          I’m an atheist. I don’t consider this a religion; it’s the lack of religion, just as not collecting stamps is not a hobby.

          I’m also not aware of any “practices” in atheism, let alone “bizarre” to “out right disgusting” ones.

          • mark September 29, 2014, 3:43 pm

            I’m fairly close to atheist myself and would certainly consider it a religion of sorts. It has a “belief system”, that it doesn’t belief (I would also consider communism a religion/belief system). And as for things that bothered me in the atheist community one is the Atheism+ movement and in particular its “demand” for all atheists to conform to their way of atheism. I was also bothered by the way Michael Schemer was treated(“lynched”) by large parts of the atheist community.

            And as for you comparison to not collecting stamps analogy, I really don’t think it is a very good one. I never heard of a conference where people of “don’t collect stamps” get together to discuss “not collecting stamps” Or create large numbers of huge websites about “not collecting stamps”, or post hundred and thousands of videos about “not collecting stamps”. In the atheism community all these things are common. Atheism can be and often is way more than a lack of belief. It is a community, that is diverse, broad, and not very united.

          • Marian Perera September 30, 2014, 9:23 am

            There wasn’t an option to reply to mark’s comment, so I’ll do so here.

            I don’t equate a lack of belief to a belief system, and even if there was a “demand” by some atheists for all atheists to conform to something, that doesn’t make it a religion for me. Any large group of people will have some smaller radical faction – that alone isn’t enough to make a religion.

            I also imagine that if people were routinely encouraged, or even harassed, to collect stamps, eventually those who wanted to be free of stamps might get together to discuss the issue. That still wouldn’t make not-collecting-stamps a hobby.

    • nk September 23, 2014, 2:12 pm

      A child’s birthday party is not an appropriate place to be spewing hateful comments, no matter what the reason for that hate is.

  • Rachel September 22, 2014, 10:12 pm

    I would have told the family member in charge of the party. A child’s birthday party is no place to be disseminating racist thoughts.

  • Maggie September 23, 2014, 1:05 am

    Why let someone you don’t really know, and certainly don’t care about, control your feelings?

  • Marozia September 23, 2014, 1:19 am

    Religion and politics spouted in public and at the dinner table was regarded as vulgar and impolite by my family. Two young women were discussing religion/religious differences in a line at the local cafe:
    Girls: “I can’t stand those Christians/Muslims/Buddhists, etc, and their stupid views.”
    Me: “Different people, different faiths!”
    Girls: “How dare you listen to a private conversation!”
    Me (giving withering stare): “Some voices carry…”
    Their religious conversation stopped.

  • SleepIsabella September 23, 2014, 2:23 am

    Such a conversation at a child’s birthday party is quite inappropriate. I understand that just because they’re at a child’s party they don’t want to completely remain ~child safe~ with very kid friendly only topics, but there’s a time and place for certain conversations. What if a child was close enough to over hear? I also understand that it’s hard to listen when people are talking about sensitive issues that relate to your interests and personal beliefs nearby, but I got to agree with the admin on this. I’m sorry you had to endure such vile things being said and wish you like on finding the best possible solution that causes the least amount of drama.

  • deary September 23, 2014, 6:57 am

    I think Evil Deary might have waited for a lull in Fay’s convo, and then stated loudly to her DH, “Don’t you just HATE hearing religious bigots spout off their filth in public??!! ‘All Jews are this, all Mormons do that…’ Can you believe in this day and age people can still be so ignorant? And not ashamed to let the whole world know how ignorant they are?”

  • The Elf September 23, 2014, 7:32 am

    Ugh, what a difficult position to be in. To start, Fay and Mary are not only completely rude to discuss such things at a birthday party but are also bigots as well. Let’s just establish that one and move on to what OP should do.

    You have two choices. The first is to follow Admin’s advice and leave well enough alone. Let it go. You don’t have to be anything more than politely civil to Fay and Mary, and hopefully your encounters with them will be few and far between.

    The second choice – which Admin hinted at too – is to approach sister in law with husband. I’d only go for this option if you feel close to SIL, or if the brothers are particularly close. You can say what you overheard, say how much it hurt you, say that you know SIL can’t change the mind of family, but you do hope not to be so hurt by overhearing such anti-semitic conversation again. SIL can then decide whether to disinvite Fay and Mary or speak to them about the problem.

  • Molly September 23, 2014, 8:20 am

    To me, this situation is similar to times when people are swearing in public or talking on phones in a movie theater. Even though you are technically eavesdropping, it is noise pollution beyond your control that is inappropriate for the current situation.

    I think it would be fine for the OP to politely say “Would you mind lowering your voice a little? I am Jewish and I prefer that (my family, my child, etc) not hear your discussion.”

    Of course, not everyone is comfortable doing this. If you prefer to stay silent, I think that is also a good reaction.

  • just4kicks September 23, 2014, 11:42 am

    As mentioned in a few of my comments above, I’m born and raised Catholic. I have always had a question about the Jewish faith, pertaining to the biggoted statement that “all Jews are only interested in money and are tight fisted with it”. With so many fine posters saying they are of the Jewish faith here, may I please, respectfully, ask how and why that came to be??? I am genuinely curious, and am NOT attacking anyone of the Jewish faith. I know it’s a biased and very wrong opinion, and don’t condone or agree with it, I would just like to know why?

    • ketchup October 5, 2014, 5:12 pm

      Ah yes. Actually, in the past Jews often weren’t allowed to do all jobs or own land. The only profession left was banking. Example: a merchant in Venice. Hatred towards Jews is very old, has been around for centuries, and has in fact been the norm in many European countries including Italy, France and England

  • Pktaxwench September 23, 2014, 3:40 pm

    Without touching on how rude it is to eavesdrop,..

    Only you can control your reaction to others. If you are so ‘offended’ by something someone else says, it’s probably because you are insecure about it. If talking about your religion in general, and not you specifically, why would it bother you if you know it’s not true?

    Either way, stop eavesdropping and MYOB.

    • Anonymous September 23, 2014, 4:47 pm

      I don’t think the OP was eavesdropping, though–I think that Fay, Mary, and the other woman meant for her to overhear, because they knew that she (OP) was Jewish, and they wanted to hurt her, without taking any responsibility for their actions. After all, if the OP have called them on it, they could have just laid down the “eavesdropping is rude” trump card, and “won.” So, I think the OP is in the clear here. She stayed quiet, so as not to potentially start an argument and ruin the birthday party, which probably took a lot of restraint. So, Jeanne, I’m going to have to disagree with you here–I think the OP should be congratulated for keeping her cool, not castigated for “eavesdropping” when the whole thing was probably a set-up.

    • The Elf September 24, 2014, 8:54 am

      “The women then spent about 10 minutes talking about how “disgusting” people of this religion are, how they can’t stand them, and they are always the most difficult people to deal with. They also discussed many fallacies about the religion (sex through a sheet, etc.).”

      That goes waaaaaaaay beyond being insecure about something overheard. People who aren’t Jewish should have been offended! The only thing that conversation is missing is a slur that begins with k. If they want to have a conversation that insults 15 million people, they should have it in the privacy of their own home.

    • Alison September 24, 2014, 10:01 am

      Seriously? It’s not eavesdropping if the person is speaking loud enough for others to hear without effort. And yes, it’s okay to get both angry and offended when the other person is spreading vicious and inaccurate information, especially if it pertains to me. Too often we let people get away with boorish and offensive behavior because we don’t want to get involved, or because we are intimidated by others. But hate speech is hate speech, pure and simple, and if we don’t speak up about it, it’s going to get spread further. So yes, I will speak up when someone else is loud enough to be offensive to those around them, because that’s the only way to shut them up for good.

    • Mary September 24, 2014, 10:49 am

      I’m not commenting on the eavesdropping aspect of this story.

      But Pktaxwench, I do disagree with you. If someone is making false statements about a religion, race or ethnicity, they are only spreading lies and if you are in a conversation with them (and did not overhear them) I believe one should correct them.

      I also do not believe that you have to be insecure about something in order to take offense. IF I were black/Hispanic/Jewish/Muslim/Christian and someone was insulting my race or religion, I would certainly be entitled to be offended and I don’t think that means that I would mean I am insecure about myself and my race/religion.

      I think anyone can be offended by someone else’s ignorance.

    • B September 24, 2014, 2:50 pm

      This whole thread has been derailed by the religious practises. The speakers said in public that Jews were disgusting.

      If a Jewish person feels ‘insecure’ about someone publicly saying Jews are disgusting, that’s hardly surprising. Millions of Jews were murdered in living memory thanks to the idea that “Jews are disgusting”, no matter how they chose to react. Your dismissal of the OP’s distress is just so crass.

      • admin September 29, 2014, 8:01 am

        According to several human rights groups, Christians are now the number one persecuted religious group in the world. Yet if someone were to say that some Christians are disgusting, I would be the first to agree. Case in point -Westboro Baptist Church whose members claim to be Christians but in no way (in my opinion) behave like any Christians I know. There is a growing movement of polygamous Christians which I am going to be highly critical of myself. And don’t get me started on the “name it and claim it” prosperity theology televangelists.

    • Kimstu September 24, 2014, 9:01 pm

      @Pktaxwench, did you seriously just ask why somebody would be bothered to hear other people audibly making hateful and bigoted remarks in public? Do you really need that explained to you?

      I would hope that most people would be bothered by hearing others spew bigoted remarks in public, whether or not they happen to be a member of the group being insulted.

      Moreover, fellow guests seated close together at a child’s birthday party are not entitled to the same expectation of privacy and isolation as, say, strangers on opposite sides of a subway car. As the old etiquette rule has it, “the roof is the introduction”, so it’s on you to treat your fellow guests at least like casual acquaintances, rather than like random passersby who have no business paying any attention to you.

      A child’s party is no place to be having conversations that are unfit for the ears of casual acquaintances, nor is it “eavesdropping” if your hosts’ other guests happen to notice the things you persist in saying loudly enough for them to hear.

    • Ai September 25, 2014, 8:46 am

      I have to take issue with your statement that OP is ‘insecure about it’ when the ‘it’ is in fact her religion/culture.

      I’m not going to say she should’ve confronted the women and call them bigots; her reaction to stay silent and admin’s suggestion to have the husband speak to his sister about the conversation are completely valid reactions.

      However, I completely understand OP taking offense to overhearing derogatory things about her religion (her culture); she couldn’t help but overhear those cruel and bigoted things being said by three ignorant women sitting at table next to her (thus not really sure it could count as eavesdropping when everyone is at a party and being very loud) and being part of a group that has LONG suffered discrimination, it must’ve brought up some very painful emotions and memories.

    • Angel October 1, 2014, 11:16 am

      It is not eavesdropping if you are speaking loudly enough so that other people can clearly hear you though. Eavesdropping to me is leaning in so you can hear better–when people discussing a subject are talking in low tones. The OP didn’t do that here. She didn’t need to because these people were speaking loudly enough so that not only her table could hear but others could hear as well.

      When someone is speaking loudly enough so that an entire tableful of people can hear them spewing hatred and anti-Semitic slurs at a CHILD’s birthday party, that’s when it becomes their business. If you don’t want a reaction then don’t start a conversation like this–and expect people to just ignore it. In this case the OP did ignore it and this was the right thing to do at the time–but honestly I wouldn’t have thought less of her or anyone else for calling those people out on it. They are the ones who ought to be ashamed of themselves!

      • admin October 3, 2014, 8:22 am

        From Wikipedia: “Eavesdropping is secretly listening to the private conversation of others without their consent, as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary. This is commonly thought to be unethical and there is an old adage that ‘eavesdroppers seldom hear anything good of themselves…eavesdroppers always try to listen to matters that concern them.'”

        Sorry but a private conversation at a dining table is still private and paying attention enough to listen to what other people are saying is eavesdropping. I can hear the conversations of people 15 feet away from me in a public restaurant if I pay attention but I assure they presume they are engaged in a private discussion of which neither I nor any other restaurant patron are a part of.