Think twice before you say you want to date a “nice Jewish boy.”
Jewish gender stereotypes, whether flattering or pejorative, are harmful to the survival of our people. Not only do they express inaccuracies about Jews, but they affect how the outside world perceives us. Before delving into the reasons for this, let’s examine some of the common stereotypes of Jewish men and women.
According to a Huffington Post article by Howard Meyer titled “Enough of the Jewish Stereotypes,” caricatures of Jewish people persist due to their portrayal in popular media. While the media continues to depict Jewish men as hard-working, sensitive “mama’s boys,” they simultaneously paint Jewish women as domestic mothers and materialistic “princesses.” Some may find these stereotypes funny or harmless, but in a country where only 2.2% of Jews make up the total population, these generalizations can heavily shape a non-Jew’s perception of American Jewry.
However, gendered stereotypes are not the only problematic generalizations that Jews constantly put up with. Jews of every culture are under the attack of the ignorant who feel the need to designate Jews into a neat category, or otherwise caricature.
This categorization often crosses the line of humor and leads to misunderstanding and even discrimination, as Jews are prejudged before being considered as business partners, politicians or other positions of leadership.
The misleading characteristics of Jewish men and women have been pervasive enough to lead to intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews, as “shiksas” find themselves yearning for a “nice Jewish boy,” while Jewish men steer clear of demanding “JAPs.” According to Elinor Samuel, a second-year UCLA student, these stereotypes “encourage assimilation, making the Jewish man seem desirable and the Jewish woman not.”
In fact, according to a 2013 Pew survey observing Jewish intermarriage and assimilation, the intermarriage rate is at 58%, up from 43% in 1990 and 17% in 1970.
This means there are less Jewish children to propagate the existence of an already-diminishing population.
“There’s going to be some truth to [these stereotypes],” continued Samuel, “but they’re taking the negatives of one and the positives of another. I think that’s the nature of stereotypes.”
Our Jewish population may be small, but it is certainly not powerless. As long as Jews stand by and let non-Jews spread improper representations of our community, the effects of the message will only grow worse.
This is just one of many issues, in which the Jewish people cannot stay silent on. It is time for our voices to be heard, starting with denunciations of labels such as “nice Jewish boy” and “Jewish-American princess.” Do it for the children.
Jewish Stereotypes by Culture
- German Jews (“Yekkes”) — characterized by their obsessive meticulousness and joyless demeanor
- Lithuanian Jews — most notably fat, lazy and dim thieves
- Polish Jews — oftentimes conniving, manipulative and homely in appearance
- Moroccan Jews — disturbingly bad-tempered, overly emotional and loud
- Israeli Jews — widely observed as hot-tempered, passionate and rude, yet in some cases generous
- Persian Jews — commonly known for being cheap, obnoxious, prudish and exceedingly family-dependent
- Russian Jews — particularly nationalistic, wealthy and aggressive, even the babushkas