Every race, ethnicity and gender experiences stereotyping to some extent. Most stereotypes are negative and incredibly assuming, and over time, they can cause real harm. Let’s face it – with raging anti-Semitism around the world, Jewish people have been subjected to stereotypes for ages. Quite frankly, these stereotypes need to go. The following are the worst offenders that should be the first to disappear.
The Hooked Nose and Dark Hair
In cartoons and satires, Jews are typically drawn with long hooked noses, large lips and curly dark hair. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard “You’re pretty for a Jewish girl,” or “You don’t look Jewish.”
While I am a mutt (Dad is Jewish and Mom is a convert to the Jewish faith), the comments are incredibly insulting. Just as not all Latinos look alike, not all Jews look alike. Strict physical categorization of a certain culture is not only offensive, it’s just flat-out wrong.
In fact, stereotypes of Jewish appearances have actually changed over time. Back in Dickens’ era, Jews were always depicted with red hair. If a character had red hair in a novel, this was code for the character being Jewish.
Bottom line: Jews are not identical. Comments that point out the extent to which someone looks Jewish are incredibly rude.
The Jewish Princess
Who hasn’t heard of the Jewish-American princess? In reality, there are plenty of money-hungry, materialistic people in the world, and they come from all different races, ethnicities and genders.
As a people, we Jews may value hard work, education and the fruits of our labors, but not every single Jewish-American woman is pissed off if her purse isn’t a Michael Kors bag. I don’t have one, yet you won’t hear me throwing a tantrum about it. I truly do love a great trip to Sephora and a killer pair of heels, but I am capable of being an independent woman and paying for myself, thanks.
I think instead of trashing all Jewish-American women for being “princesses,” we Jewish ladies should embrace this princess nonsense and spin the stereotype as:
- We work hard and then want the fruits of our labors to show. Sometimes that’s with an outfit and other times, a great job, a prestigious degree or a boatload of friends we love and cherish to death.
- We believe in looking our best when we present ourselves to the world. Taking pride in looking pulled together is nothing to be ashamed of.
- We may shop (though not all of us love shopping) and if we do, we shop smart.
- We do not believe we are better than others. We simply want what is best for ourselves and the people we love.
The Cheap & Stingy Jew
The stereotype of the miserly and cheap Jewish person has been around since the Middle Ages. Christians weren’t allowed to lend money and charge interest. This meant that while not all Jews were money-lenders, more Jews were in the role than Christians since it was restricted by the church. Thus began a now centuries-old stereotype.
To be honest, I find this stereotype to be not only offensive, but also untrue. Some of the cheapest people I know are not Jewish!
Instead of getting bogged down in such a negative representation, turn it around to represent what Jewish people really care about: taking pride in our work, making smart decisions with our finances, and investing in important matters like family and education.
The Self-Hating Jew
While anti-Semites may believe that we Jews all walk around hating ourselves, the assumption simply doesn’t ring true. I understand this stereotype stems from Nazi times, which explains why some people may assume that Jews are embarrassed or ashamed of our identity. But in reality, most of us are cool with being one of the chosen ones.
What does exist, however, is what I refer to as “dark humor.” You’ll find this tone in the work of many famous Jewish comedians and comediennes. Jews don’t hate ourselves; we’re just an honest and realistic group of people who find laughter in light in even the darkest of times. To me, that’s pretty admirable.
The next time someone makes a comment based on a Jewish stereotype, ignore it. And if you feel comfortable doing so, set the record straight by letting them know that the stereotype is not only untrue, it’s also offensive. You should embrace being a part of a loving, intelligent, family-oriented, dynamic, creative, hard-working and educated group of people. You’re one of the chosen ones, for goodness sake – be proud of it!