That headline isn’t the beginning of a joke. It’s the start of a story about statistical improbability — a story that just happens to be true.
However many months ago it was, a friend asked me to play drums in her band. And though she didn’t need to, she sweetened her pitch by telling me that I’d really like working with the other guys in the group.
“They’re both Jewish and vegan,” she explained.
What are the chances? I asked myself, eager to associate with such like-minded folks.
Before I started working with the group, the guitar player bailed on the project and wasn’t replaced. What had been a quartet was suddenly a trio. Still, that two-thirds of the band is Jewish and vegan seems like something of a statistical anomaly.
As it turns out, the bass player — now a close friend whom we’ll call “Dan” — has a degree in statistics, of all things. Naturally, we’ve started scrutinizing the numbers.
According to a July 2012 Gallup poll, 2 percent of adults in the United States “consider themselves to be ‘vegans.’” And according to figures presented in October 2013 by the Pew Research Center, “2.2% of American adults” consider themselves to be “cultural Jews — those who say they have no religion but who were raised Jewish or have a Jewish parent and who still consider themselves Jewish aside from religion.”
While I can to some degree identify with the term “cultural Jew,” I consider myself an “antitheist,” to borrow a word used regularly by the late Christopher Hitchens. But I digress ….
Information from City-Data indicates that “adherents” of Judaism represent 3.5 percent of the population in New London County, Connecticut, where Dan and I live.
Now, I’m not good at math. Fortunately, Dan has the above-mentioned statistics degree and has promised to figure out, statistically, just how unlikely it is that two Jewish vegans in southeastern Connecticut would find themselves playing in a band together.
No matter what the numbers bear out, working with Dan has been and continues to be nourishing — figuratively and literally. Instead of fetching each other drinks on the gig, we exchange vegan snacks between sets.
If someday we’re able to convert the band’s leader to veganism, we’ll almost certainly have a solid argument for changing the name of the group to Oy Vegan.