Religion Magazine

What Does Jewish Look Like to You?

Posted on the 25 October 2011 by Starofdavida
What Does Jewish Look Like to You?Procrastinating is always loadsof fun, and thanks to the Internet, it’s really easy to do. There are very manywonderful things to do to waste time, one of my personal favorites beingbrowsing the website iwastesomuchtime.com. (Other cool sites are fmylife.com,dearblankpleaseblank.com, and drawapig.desktopcreatures.com.)
While I was putting off doingsomething important, I noticed the picture above. Yeah, ha ha, very funny,reminds me of the “Death to All Juice” protest sign. However, itoccurred to me: why are these Jews portrayed as male? (The big noses are a little offensive, too.)
When you Google Image “Jew” andskim the results, almost all of the pictures are of white Ashkenazi-looking Hasidicmales. The few pictures that aren’t are mostly anti-Semitic or anti-Israel; womenand non-Hasids make up a small minority. When you Google Image “Orthodox Jews,”it’s the same (except for the much-loved Tefillin Barbie). I alsofind it interesting that there are so many are anti-Israel pictures, a surprisingfact considering that most Orthodox Jews are pro-Israel.
I suppose these results justmirror the reality of the world. When asked to picture a Jew, most people willimmediately think of a bearded rabbi, possibly with a big nose and black hat, even if s/he doesn’t personally know one.Few will think of a woman, non-white, or non-Ashkenaz.
Well, at least it's an improvement from when people really thought that Jews had horns, right? That myth might've taken a few centuries to dispel, but I really do think that in ageneration or two from now, the Google Image results for “Jew” and “Orthodox Jews”will be different. There are so many more women role models within thereligious and secular Jewish communities nowadays, and that number will onlyincrease. In synagogues, there are women like Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Rachel KohlFinegold, Lynn Kaye, and Dina Najman; the children of their congregations won’tbe strangers to women in leadership positions. There is a proliferation of mohelot, female circumcisers, among the non-Orthodox; it's only a matter of time until more observant circles get the hang of it, too. Female mashgihot (kosher certifiers) are also increasing in popularity. Yavilah McCoy, an African-AmericanJewish woman, is active in advocacy for Jews of color. Idit Klein, the executive director of Keshet, shows Jews that they can be included in the community, no matter what their sexual orientation. There are dozens of Jewish women in the music and film industry who let their Jewish identities be known.
I think that Vanessa Hidary reallyembodies the point of this post. Ms. Hidary is a Sephardic woman poet who’strying to show the world that everyone can be a Jew, regardless of what s/helooks like. I had the honor of interviewing her a while ago, and I still keep upwith her work (she released a book recently, The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega). I fell in love with her work when I first heard her poem “The Hebrew Mamita.”
“I'm thinking, I'm saying
What does Jewish look like to you?
Should I fiddle on a f**king roof for you?
Should I humor you with oy veys and refuse to pay?
Oh, 'cause you know how we like to Jew you down
Jew you down, I'd like to throw you down!...
I'm the Hebrew mamita
Long-lost daughter of Abraham and Sarah
The sexy oy-veying chutzpah-having non-cheaping non-conspiracizing always-questioning hip hop-listening Torah scroll-reading all people-loving
Pride-filled
Jewish girl.
Bigging up all people who are a little miffed
'Cause someone tells you you don't look like
Or act like your people.
Impossible, because you are your people.
You just tell them they don't look,
Period.”

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