I’m re-reading The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to GuiltÂ 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 â€“ as a Jewish woman you’ll relate to each woman’s story â€“ 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 â€“ 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 â€œmy typeâ€ â€“ Jewish looking, in a suburbanized way. I approached him at the bar and straight out asked himâ€¦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 â€œso Jewishâ€. 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? â€œOh, I look like every other Jewish girl you’ve met.â€ While I might look â€œso Jewishâ€ in context (something Dreisinger discusses in â€œSpot the Jewâ€), 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 â€œJewishâ€ features at face valueâ€¦