I’m re-reading The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt and currently reading the essay by Baz Dreisinger entitled “Spot the Jew” in which she discusses “Jewish” features.

If you haven’t read this collection of essays, you should – as a Jewish woman you’ll relate to each woman’s story – as a Jewish man, well, maybe it will help you understand Jewish women. So thinking about my own experiences, growing up in a community with so many Jews that we had off from school for Yom Kippur, and now living in a community where kids have off from school for opening day of hunting season – in both of those places, and other places I’ve spent time in between, Jewish stereotypes reign. I realize that I feed into those stereotypes as well.

About a month ago, I was out at a bar in my town with a college friend who came to visit. There was this guy near us for a few hours who was so “my type” – Jewish looking, in a suburbanized way. I approached him at the bar and straight out asked him…are you Jewish? He laughed and told me that he’s not, but he gets that all the time. What does that mean? Are there people out there who think that everyone with olive skin, dark hair and a slightly larger than average nose is Jewish? Or just hopeful Jewish women who look at the world through Jewish colored lenses?

I was a little embarrassed to have played into those stereotypes. I became hyper aware of my references to things that are “so Jewish”. A few weeks ago, I met a woman in my community who kept saying that she was sure she had met me before. I have a pretty good memory for faces and knew we had never met. My response? “Oh, I look like every other Jewish girl you’ve met.” While I might look “so Jewish” in context (something Dreisinger discusses in “Spot the Jew”), to others I may look Greek or Italian. I seem to be missing the staple of Jewish-ness for women, unruly, curly hair (did you spot the stereotype?). With my stick straight, shiny hair, I could pass for a shiksa. But so many Jews I know could also pass for non-Jews. So what’s with the stereotypes? I’m sure I’m not the only one to accept “Jewish” features at face value…

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  • Try getting the, “But you don’t look Jewish” or “You don’t have a Jewish name” response. Since I don’t fit into your stereotype then I must not be Jewish, right? How silly of me. I’ve seriously worked with people who gave me a ‘knowing look’ when they found out that I was taking the day off for Yom Kippur.

  • I guess I’ve done the opposite. As a shiksa, I was 22 before I realized there was a pattern forming – almost all the guys I had fallen for (celebrities and in real life) were Jewish. I’d see a guy on tv (e.g. Jacob Hoffman) and think, “he’s cute” and later on find out he was Jewish. Even after I clued in that Jewish boys appeared to be “my type” I still had hard a time purposefly pointing them out in the crowd…but I kept doing it.

    I met my boyfriend and had chatted with him online for a week before he eventually told me that he was Jewish. I was completely stunned, but took it as a sign.

    If I consciously think about Jewish stereotypes, I can’t pick out Jewish boys at all. But if I think about who I find “cute” and neglect hard fast rules like noses and curls, then I usually get atleast an 80% accuracy rate.

  • If you’ve read my blog and my article “Funny You Don’t Look Jewish,” then you’ve heard just about enough from me on the subject. In Israel, I discovered I was 100% Israeli-looking. In New York, people stare at my curly fro and without introducing them they’ll ask me if I converted or try to figure out what race I am. It’s frustrating and what’s worst, these stereotypes about what a Jew looks like are so pervasive, I get letters about it from all over the world. Jews look like everybody else. We’ve got all kinds.

  • I’m sick and tired of telling people, ‘just because I’m witty, good-looking and intelligent doesn’t automatically mean I’m Irish.’

  • I tend to have people ask me if I’m Jewish. However, I’m Mexican, Dutch, and Welsh. But, it’s all relative.

  • The writer’s question “Are you jewish?” is the cultural equivalent of throwing a spear. Couldn’t she have stayed home and pinned butterfly wings onto tasteful matte backgrounds? It’s an inquery that leaves the man no place to go, mo matter what his answer. Better not to respond. Yes, identity is real and a natural exploration of it can be really enlightening but this is a power move and somewhat debasing, especially to the writer. “Come here often?” would have been more sustantantial.

  • More ridiculousness. “But so many Jews I know could also pass for non-Jews.”

    There are seven billion people on earth, and hundreds (ok, probably more) of different ethnic groups. Every Jew on Earth could “pass” for a non-Jew.