How to be a Mensch amongst the Madness

At times, the world can be a difficult place to live for someone just trying to be a “good guy.” Familiar adages told time and time again such as “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” “nice guys finish last” and “ladies really love a bad boy” unfortunately drive the point home that there aren’t too many advantages to being a nice guy.

No one is a better example of the pitfalls of trying to be a mensch in an indifferent world than Larry Gopnik in the upcoming film from Joel & Ethan Coen (The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men), A Serious Man, in select theatres now. In the film, Larry tries to lead a good life and strives to be a mensch, but the world never seems to reciprocate the favor.poster

But JDaters, don’t worry. Look deeper. Being a mensch does have its benefits.

Here’s a list of menschy qualities and how to use them in your dating life…and beyond.

On the simplest level, a mensch is a “good guy”

How many people can you say that about? “Ah that so-and-so, he’s a good guy.” It’s much more difficult to find a through-and-through “good guy” than it seems! Does a “good guy” kiss on the first date? Yes, but he also opens the car door for his lady friends (and mother) whenever the opportunity presents itself. A mensch helps his friends move, sees his bubbe as often as possible and tends to be more of a peacemaker than a confronter. A mensch stands up for himself, but he also knows that arguing with a knucklehead is useless.

Here are some mensch-like qualities:

Rectitude – A mensch can assess a situation and use his rationale instead of getting too emotional. Joe Friday on Dragnet and Rabbi Shmuley are guys who all have the rectitude quality. Now, Mr. Spock has it in spades, but he may be an unfair barometer to judge one’s own behavior.

Responsibility – A mensch not only knows when to take out the trash and does it consistently (much to the enjoyment of Mrs. Mensch), but he also feels responsible for the well-being of his fellow man and abides by tikkun olam or the moral imperative to “repair the world.”

Decorum – A real mensch knows how to act appropriately, which is a lost art nowadays. Confidently being able to assess which fork is used for eating salad is commendable, but real decorum shows that you can navigate through difficult social situations. A mensch tactfully tells someone when a small portion of lunch is stuck in their teeth, knows how to compassionately tell their JDate that they won’t be having a second JDate and (the most advanced mensch) can handle the ultimate no-win scenario: the “Do I look fat in this?” question.


At times, it can be difficult to live up to mensch-like standards, when it’s seemingly easier not to, but as was said in the beginning of this article, being a mensch has its deeper rewards. A woman may like the “bad boy” she meets in the bar or online, but a mensch can make it through a much more difficult, trying and ultimately terrifying assignment – dinner with his JDate’s mother – because, above all, a mensch is a “nice Jewish boy” and that alone goes a long way.

A Serious Man, from directors Joel & Ethan Coen and starring Michael Stuhlbarg, is in select theatres now. Check to see when A Serious Man comes to your town here.

One Comment
  1. “…above all, a mensch is a ‘nice Jewish boy’ and that alone goes a long way.”

    So only a Jew can be a mensch?

    I did not know that.

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