The Woman Who Never Says Hello

I have never felt completely comfortable in our synagogue. We fall within the norm for age and religious level, and even our large family is not unusual. But we are the only native English speakers, and most families send to a different elementary school. Sometimes I speak to a few of the women after shul, but I have virtually nothing to do with them otherwise.

There is one group of women who attend shul regularly and have children close in age to my younger ones. One or two are friendly to me, another one or two acknowledge my existence, but there is one who ignores me. If I catch her eye after shul, she averts her eyes. Sometimes, to make a point, I “get in her face” and wish her Shabbat Shalom. She replies and even smiles a bit. But she never greets me first.

I’m convinced that she holds no grudge against me, nor is she a snob. I am just not on her radar screen. She has her own friends, and I don’t fit into her picture of her social circle. If she ever thought about me, which I doubt, she would figure I had my own friends to greet. Why would I need her?

One year we had children in the same gan. When I saw her, she treated me the same way she did in shul. Then one day we both arrived a few minutes early. Several of her friends from shul had children in the same gan, but they weren’t there that day. She came over, sat down next to me, and struck up a conversation.

This year she again has a child in gan with mine, but her friends’ children have all graduated. I wonder what will happen.


  1. Hmmm…not sure what to say about your woman “friend”, but I’m curious about how you picked your shul. Are there others in your area? Do people “shul-shop”, as they do in my town? Do your other family members feel comfortable there, or is it just convenience and habit?

  2. I have heard the same description of me at shul. It is most certainly not because I disklike anyone or have a problem with anyone. I’m often uncomfortable in big social groups so I tend to stick to the few people I am very close friends with. When they are not around, I still try to stick around and socialize rather than to run right home. Maybe this woman is the same. (I’ll be interested to see what happens at the gan.)

  3. It’s not just in the religious world, although at least in my experience in the secular world there’s a bigger snobbery component. I have to admit that I was thrilled when a certain child was not placed in Itai’s class, because his mother has this way of acting that makes me feel like we’re back in elementary school which I really dislike.

  4. Mmmm. Strange that only a few people talk to you. Is there no more friendly shul nearby? Is this woman shy?

  5. Wow, sounds like my shul back in J-m. We were stuck there because the other shul was even snobbier, but in the one we went to, there was also one woman who just wouldn’t say hello, even if we directly passed by each other and even after going to shul together for six years!
    We go to this South African shul now, in Ranaana, which is mostly populated by young british families. They are the polar opposite. We got more shabbat meal invitations during the first month we lived here then all six years of living in j-m.

  6. Its a world-wide problem. Or at least in Los Angeles, too. I just say “Shabbat Shalom” and not push it unless I would really like a relationship with a person. Very cliquish.

  7. mother in israel says

    Leora, good question! The shul was close to our house, important for high holidays with small children. It was accepting members, and we like the rabbis so far. Don’t forget that shul is not as important as a social center as it is in the US, although there are shuls that do serve that role.
    Orieyenta, perhaps.
    Robin, oy.
    ID, there are friendlier shuls, but they aren’t perfect either. The one we used to belong to didn’t have room for us at the time, and was a longer walk.
    Abbi, that’s great!
    Hi Miriam. So it’s not just an Israeli thing?
    Batya, small communities tend to be easier.

  8. I’ll never forget our first few weeks in Bayit V’Gan, 37 years ago, after our first-born was born. It seemed to take forever to find the right place. I never felt 100% comfortable there. Shiloh was a good fit from day one.

  9. melissa qubti says

    that is really interesting… we have exactly the same scene in church….it’s all very cliquey(spelling!)…..apart from my few close friends you kind of feel on the outside of it all!! thanks for your email,my computer was down all this week but I will answer it soon!!

  10. Jacob Da Jew says

    Yeah, theres always this one guy in shul who acts that way. I think its more of a personality issue rather than a religious one.

  11. I guess that’s a big difference between Israel and “Chutz l’Aretz.” I would change shuls if I didn’t like anyone at my shul. Other than at shul, I have very few opportunities to interact with Jews not related to me.

  12. Maybe she doesn’t like your blog?

  13. I knew a woman like this in my neighborhood (but different shul)–classy, well dressed, efficient, clearly executive and I was a bit intimidated by her constant rushing by and never saying hello, never stopping to talk even when we were in the common garage at the same time….later we became very good friends and I found out her secret: this very attractive, high-powered executive was painfully shy around people she didn’t know…..

  14. mother in israel says

    I think that Israelis as a group tend to be less friendly to “strangers.” But there are some lovely women in my shul.
    Fern, it’s true, that I don’t need the shul for my social circle.
    Jameel, hope she doesn’t read it.
    Aliyah–thanks for visiting! It could be you’re right.