Boy Vey!After a week of pursuit and nagging, Kristina Grish finally acquiesced and agreed to drinks and an interview with the Grand Muffti. When Muffti called her a ‘hottie’ a few posts back, he was dead wrong. ‘Hottie’ is a majour understatement and it is crystal clear why Jew after Jew succumbs to her temptations. Of course, Muffti didn’t, but that’s largely because she was totally uninterested she has a (lapsed) catholic boyfriend who goes by the unfortunate sobriquet ‘Mr. Maybe’. Her eye-candy features aside, KG is also an engaging, fun, intelligent woman who charmed Muffti with amusing anecdotes and interesting insights. Muffti returned the favour by laughing a lot, asking a couple of questions and, well, paying for dinner and drinks.

Muffti had a great time and he hopes Kristina did too. We talked, we laughed and Muffti walked her home. He’s thinking about writing a book of his own, How Jews can Rob Shegetz’s of Their Shiksa’s and he can now honestly report that if you are as charming as Muffti, prepare to coif more than three black current mojitos [hat tip to Voyage]. Unfortunately, there aren’t any dirty details to relate, and not because Muffti is some kind of gentleman. Perhaps, however, there will be another outing sometime soon where Muffti won’t have to front like he’s some kind of reporter. You will be glad to know that Kristina promised Muffti a real date if things don’t work out with Mr. Maybe. That has to be worth something, right?

Below is a review of KG’s latest work, Boy Vey! The Shiksa’s Guide to Dating Jewish Men, accompanied by bits and pieces from the interview. Quotes from the book have a page marking; otherwise, all quotes are directly from Grish’s lovely lips. KG cast a lot of pearls, but since this swine forgot to bring a recording device, you’ll have to settle for the few choice quotes that were preserved. Oink, Oink.

Boy Vey! provides an overview of essential aspects of the Jewish male psyche [read: neuroses], family [read: mother] and linguistic idiosyncrasies [read: Yiddishisms]. It offers advice about a span of topics as diverse as:

  • where to meet your Jew: including a state by state breakdown of Jew to goy populations.
  • what to expect your Jew to look like naked: ‘more body hair than a yak’, but no tattoos and a decent sized member.
  • what to bring for Passover dinner: no loafs of bread, no Manischewitz.
  • how to speak of your Jew to his family: three words, Dote, Gloat and Emote!

The book is breezy and humorous in tone, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it lacks content. While Muffti at first thought that much of it was fairly obvious, that reaction is probably a function of his growing up in a Jewish household, serving as a Ba’al Kreeah at shul and attending a dreary Jewish high school. There are many valuable facts about kashrut, the holidays and Jewish traditions that would benefit any woman who hasn’t been immersed in Jewish culture.

KG’s research involved a wealth of personal experiences, random interviewing as well as consultations with professionals in the field (psychologists, match makers and the like). The ‘personal experience’ aspect was extensive enough (averaging 2.5 Jews dated per year) to result in her mother proffering the following toast at a dinner party:

… To my daughter, who has been quite the ho-bag for the past few years..

KG, however, assures Muffti that the charge is unjust since she didn’t sleep with all of them. How many didn’t she sleep with? She isn’t saying and it’s none of your business.

Why did KG write the book? Partly because her experiences dating Jews had led her to realize that what was needed was:

A very carefully and respectfully written, researched and personalized book about dating Jewish men from an outsider’s perspective – with parentheticals, like ‘you know you are entering a world that’s not your own. So bring a macaroon cake.’ I thought that someone needed to speak from experience with a little bit of chutzpah who isn’t Jewish. Plus, there’s a lot of market demand: With 53% rates of intermarriage, you can see why some women might need a reference.

Partly because KG really, really, likes Jews. When Muffti asked what made her realize she liked Jews in the first place, she answered:

So I was having dinner with my best friend Amy [Jewish], and seeing this British bloke at the time. I told her how everything should be falling into place more easily than it was: we had the same sense of humor, we liked going out to the same places, we had mutual friends…this should have been working. But something wasn’t clicking for me. So she says: ‘You’re kidding, right?…K, I don’t like the fact that you date every man that I should be dating, but you have a very specific type and it has been Jewish for the last 6 years. You have only successfully dated Jewish men and you have veered away from them.’

Finally, partly because writing the book was Kristina’s way of showing respect for that forbidden love a shiksa has for her Jew. Various problems and faux pas could be avoided with a non-threatening, personal reference guide like Boy Vey.

Looking on Amazon, Muffti couldn’t help but notice that there are quite a few guides to dating Jews. Some are massively informative (i.e. ‘What to Do When You’re Dating a Jew’ by Vikki Weiss and Jennifer A. Block) and some funny (‘Jewish as a second Language’, by Molly Katz) but none except hers, according to KG, have the virtue of being written by a shiksa for shiksas. Nonetheless, her shiksaness puts some limitations on how free she feels to express herself:

It’s one thing for [comedian] Sarah Silverman to make a joke about the size of a Jewish man’s testicles but to have someone who is outside the faith make an assessment about any man who is in the faith, she’s subjecting herself to a lot of controversial rebuttal.

The book reflects this to a certain degree: even the chapter entitled ‘The First Shtup’ is tamer than one might have expected from a saucy shiksa. On religious issues, the book is offers fairly surface level information. Nothing Jewish is painted in a negative light at all, unless in an overtly tongue and cheek manner. To assist her with post-publication fallout, KG answers emails on religious issues through consultation with a surprisingly sympathetic orthodox rabbi.

As an author, KG largely represents herself as a cartographer mapping out the mysterious dark continent of the modern Jewish man. How accurate is the map? At first, Muffti felt no connection to any of the many men described within the guide’s pink covers. Some of them made his eyes roll (i.e. Andy, the neurotic wimp). Others made him laugh (i.e. Rad Brad, the mildly ridiculous stud). Yet others made him recoil in disgust (i.e. Max, the weepy Yom Kippur philanderer. Grow a pair, dude, or get yer ass to shul.) However, by the end of the book Muffti realized that even he, the blondish-green-eyed-laid-back-atheist-goy-look-alike could squint a shadowy reflection in the waters of Boy Vey. He had a bar mitzvah he remembers fondly, a stint at Jewish summer camp where he had his first kiss (Inge B., sweetheart, Muffti’d like to thank ya!) and a teen tour to Israel where he had various alcohol stained misadventures. He has a mother who treat shiksas with mixed civility and mild hostility. He is occasionally self-effacing (stop smirking, faithful reader!). Most of all, he sympathizes with the men in the book who like having their ego stroked, their skills in bed complemented and a woman who can retain her good spritis and humour when they have problems.

But wait! That last point! Aren’t ALL guys like that? Muffti shares your concern. And truthfully, much of the book has wider application than shiksa-Jew romance. Muffti supposes this is partly a result of the type of Jew Grish has in mind “…he’s likely either reform or simply acculturated, and thus, open-minded about mixing it up a bit.”(p. 4) Nonetheless, there is a sufficient amount of Yiddish-specific content to prevent Boy Vey from merely fronting as a targeted how-to guide. As Grish put it:

A lot of the tips are simply good tips for making your way through a first family introduction, for example – it works dually as a guide book on good dating manners. That’s the skeleton, but the book is specifically geared toward the Jewish faith.

So, the tips are universal (in the American sense, meaning, ‘applicable to Americans’) but the details are particular. Nonetheless, Muffti should note that in striving for generality, one does lose a certain degree of applicability (remember, the reflection was shadowy). A real instance of the form of Grish’s ‘hebrew honey’ is a food loving, overtly oedipal, neurotic professional with a deep sense of guilt and a pillowy tuft of chest hair. Muffti, for one, would not want a shiksa treating him as though he were Woody Allen. He also wouldn’t want her assuming he ‘analyzes the relationship more than [she] does’ (p. 53) And above all else, he rather that she not think Muffti ‘…answers his mom’s phone calls during sex.’ (p. 75) The man that she envisions probably ill represents any particular Jewish man considered as a whole, but is unlikely not to latch on to parts of his personality. Jewish mothers, as well, will probably bear a merely partial similarity to the hostile, whinging yentes she portrays as targets for pacification. Comparison with your mother will probably leave you noticing the differences as well as the similarities. As such, like all guide books, you are advised to learn what you can about the archetype and then apply creatively, rather than blithely assume Grish’s map is drawn exactly to scale.

There is one glaring omission that Muffti found to be puzzling. One might think to warn shiksas that their political opinions about Israel may well not result in casual political chat even with reform or acculturated Jews. It could well be a deal breaker. In Grish’s words:

The whole state of Israeli politics is forever in flux and to include a chapter on that would take the book’s overarching subject and intent to a much more serious level. Boy Vey is meant to be a light read. Israel fits in nicely when I talk about a young boy’s upbringing, when he visits for the purpose of teen tours. I’m not a historian; I’m not a politician; I’m a relationship writer.

Fair enough, but Muffti hereby warns the shiksa community: it’s best not to tangle with Israel in a casual relationship and it may cause unbridgeable gaps in a long term one. That advice, furthermore, goes triple when it comes to conversing with the family.

Anyhow, the book is full of other interesting tidbits, including a whole chapter called ‘Why Antacids are the Fifth Food Group’. This chapter includes some (largely Ashkenazic) recipes which Muffti’s mom assures him are waaaaaaay off (‘add dill to the chicken soup and always use Kosher salt,’ she insists, ‘or it will taste like a Shiksa made it!’). Tips for preparing the meal accompany tips to prepare for eating the meal. After a chapter devoted to ‘The Jewish Mother’, there is a chapter on ‘Misphocheh and the Hanukkah Bush’ which gives a run down of the rest of the family (the ratio of mom to rest of family content is striking, but Muffti supposes unsurprising) and a quick primer on Yiddish in a chapter called ‘Talk Yiddish to Me’.

How have things gone for KG since the publication of the book? There have been postive moments. Whereas before hand, her interest in Jews didn’t involve a real appreciation of the religion, it took on a new meaning after correspondence with her readers and admirers:

That’s what’s been so interesting about publishing this book. It’s introduced me to so many wonderfully fantastic Jews, and I’ve discovered new depths of Judaism I hadn’t noticed or been exposed to before. So yes, Jews are more than simply “tall, dark and circumsized.”

Furthermore, the response has been mostly positive:

99% of the responses I’ve had to the book have been positive. I’ve never been asked out on so many dates, sent ‘thank you for understanding me’ emails from men and women, and tell me that I’ve managed to describe their “boyfriend to a T.”

However, 99% still leaves 1% left over and some have taken umbrage. In particular, there was a tense confrontation between the author and a young Israeli woman at a book reading recently. She receives many emails challenging her credentials and dismissing her academic capabilities – which is when she turns to her orthodox ghost writer for advice. People who treat the book as a cry to arms by shiksa’s who will soon invade Jewish homes are likely missing the point.

KG, of course, denies that she intended the book to be received as a training manual for stealing Jews or tempting them away from their faith. Nonetheless, it’s hard to see how it could fail to have this effect, even if unintended. KG makes dating a Jew seem pretty rewarding:

There’s a lot to love about a guy who makes your laughter his priority, who talks about your relationship more than you do, who’s wildly intense inside the bedroom and out, who thinks nudging him up the corporate ladder is a sign of affection. Jewish men feed your mind and appetite, and they are the ultimate caretakers without a hint of machismo. They’re also generous and thoughtful, thanks to a matriarchal culture that’s taught them to appreciate women’s strength, candor, humor and intelligence.(p. 3)

Sound pretty good, right? She even manages to paint a rosy picture of the neuroses and guilt she says permeates the Jewish male’s every waking moment:

…But this is yet another reason the Shiksa/Jew connection is so strong: You provide balance to his psyche, and he provides talking points in the relationship. See, everyone wins. (p. 58)

And armed with her book, it’s so easy to date one of these fine fellows! So, while Muffti sympathizes that the intent of the book is probably often misunderstood, he isn’t confident that one doesn’t mimic our noble friend the ostrich in ignoring the perceived danger of making interfaith dating acceptable, attractive and easy.

Is the book a little shallow? Well, it depends on what you expect from it. In style and form it is a bit reminiscent of a trendy woman’s magazine: points are supported by a few anecdotes, a smattering of brief quotes from an expert or two, very clever applications of the advice, and lots of cute charts and lists. It is limited in its description of the Jewish psyche to some striking features, which fails to do justice to the rich tapestry of Jewish inner life. It is no work of theology: a shiksa may get enough tips to keep her head above water for a little while but at the first mention of ‘Rashi’ she will find herself very, very lost. On the other hand, KG over-achieves what she sets out to do, which is no small challenge:

Boy Vey: The Shiksa’s Guide to Dating Jewish Men is simply that- a fun dating guide written for outsiders, by an outsider. Not to mention one who’s proved to be a natural at the Jewish dating shtick…and sees no reason why you can’t be too. (p. 6)

It may be more Cosmo than Civilization and its Discontents in psychological insight. It may be more Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers than The Shulchan Aruch in its instructions for how to behave with the Jews. But it’s entertaining and informative, and it has more than enough substance to make it a worthwhile read for any shiksa trying to understand her reform Jewish man and his religion. In fact, it may help some reform Jewish men get clearer on their religion and how to treat their mothers as well.

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