Russian “Foot-stomp” Tradition

Melanie Holpert studies History and Film at the University of Southern California. She is originally from Chicago, Illinois but now lives in Los Angeles, California while she attends university. Her parents are both Russian and practice Judaism—they have strong ties to Russia and are very committed to preserving their heritage. As such, Melanie’s parents and extended family imparted a number of Russian traditions to her and her older sister. Of these, Melanie most vividly remembers the superstitions. Below, she recounts one of the conversion rituals she learned as a child:

Melanie: “Well, I’m Russian… and especially Russians Jews are like this… if somebody steps on my foot, well if its in a big crowd I won’t do this… but I have to step on them with the same foot that they stepped on me with.”

Isabella: “What happens if you don’t reciprocate the gesture?”

Melanie: “I have no idea. Nobody really knows, but it’s supposed to be bad luck.”

Here, Melanie describes a conversion ritual that is supposed to preemptively prevent bad luck. Though Melanie admits to not understanding why she practices this tradition, she practices it nevertheless and feels uneasy if she does not reciprocate the gesture.  There is often an inexplicable quality to superstitions and this conversion ritual typifies that aspect of them.

This particular conversion ritual is interesting because it has the potential to evoke poor reactions from people that are unfamiliar with it. One might be upset if their foot is stomped on, simply because they made a mistake and stepped one someone else’s foot. Unlike other conversion rituals, this one demands participation from both parties involved.