Skip to main content

View Diary: Are Jews white? (343 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Then How Can Someone (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ubertar, mamamedusa, Athenocles

    (like me and my family) look Jewish?

    http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&search-type=ss&index=books&field-author=Benjamin%20Gross berg&page=1

    by claytonben on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 08:01:06 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  A lot of non-Jews could pass for Jews (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mamamedusa, miss SPED

      and vice versa. Look at the number of non-Jewish actors who have played Jews (Jason Biggs, Tony Shalhoub, John Turturro, etc.).

      •  I don't really see the point of this comment (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Athenocles

        Actors play people of different ethnicities than what they are all the time. They're actors.

        "Barack Obama must be a Dadaist because cow." --Bill in Portland, Maine

        by ubertar on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 08:19:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, but it does have to do with looks (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mamamedusa, Athenocles

          You wouldn't expect Yaffet Koto to play a Jew (even though he, in fact, is one). People tend to cast actors as ethnicities they could reasonably pass for. Jews, Italians, and Arabs frequently play one another.

          •  your earlier comment was in response to (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Athenocles

            the idea of "looking Jewish", and seemed intended to minimize it. Now, you're saying that some people who are not Jewish happen to look Jewish. To which I say, "so what"? It only confirms that there is at least a perception of a "Jewish look".

            "Barack Obama must be a Dadaist because cow." --Bill in Portland, Maine

            by ubertar on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 09:29:42 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  lotsa goyim look Jewish (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Athenocles

                I definitely look Jewish, and there are some people that I have to repeatedly explain that I am not one of the "chosen folks". Part of that is context; the neighborhood I live in has a large Jewish population, and as a Democratic activist and a tax geek I "should" be Jewish. Now if I were to move from Squirming Oaks to Glendale, maybe I would look more Armenian. (My mom is Armenian and my dad is Anglo, so I am a fake Jew...)

              I'm not a Limousine Liberal; I am a Prius Progressive

              by Zack from the SFV on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 09:56:30 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, it is subjective (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Athenocles

              And I should have made that clear. I also suspect that we Jews tend to have a better understanding of this than non-Jews. I read an entertaining and informative book called Just Because They Were Jews, by M. Hirsch Goldberg, and it debunks many stereotypes about Jews--not just the big ones, but the little ones as well.

              Among other things, it mentions that there was actually a study of the noses of Jews and non-Jews that concluded that only about 13% of Jews have the putative "hook-nose," while the majority of Jews have a "straight" or "Greek" nose.

      •  aha (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mamamedusa, Athenocles

        Many of our coworkers and friends know that we are a blended family, a Catholic married to a Jew.  I have black Irish looks, dark hair, potato colored skin.  My Jewish spouse is totally non-descript looking. I can't tell you how many folks through the years have thought that I am the Jew and he is the Catholic.
        You are so right.

    •  The same way someone... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      resa, zemblan, Kylopod

      ...can be Jewish and not "look it." Some such people aren't converts, either.

      There are ideas people may have of what "looks Jewish." Some people who look that way are Jewish; some Jews are people who look that way. But the simple fact is that Jews have acquired enough in-group diversity over time that there can't actually be a comprehensive Jewish "look" -- though there can be a variety of common ones.

      (At the same time, Jews contribute to out-group diversity too, and sometimes invisibly through name-loss, name-change, conversion, adoption, silence. I'm not by any means suggesting that anything you don't know about your background represents some "Jewish in you" because whatever look you mean can come from lots of sources.)

      So whatever you, or people in your family, or people looking at your family, think you or they mean when you or they say you look Jewish, your or they are referring to an idea to which anyone can be compared and seen as resembling or not.

      It's interesting, and spot on, and important, how the diarist repeatedly connects Jews to Arabs, but there's a further parallel worth noting. Jews have genetic distinctiveness, but they can't really be designated overall in racial terms because the population rests on a pillar of religion (which can be acquired or discarded) as well as a pillar of inheritance. Arabs are in a very similar situation, except that the acquired trait is language.

      But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. (Thomas Jefferson)

      by Athenocles on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 01:04:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Great points (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Athenocles

        There's this family I grew up with, partly of Hungarian Jewish stock, and I've long noticed that various Jewish entertainers look similar to them, from the Marx Brothers to Paul Simon. Yet it is not a classical or stereotypical Jewish look.

        Gene Wilder and Carol Kane both look distinctly Jewish but are fair-complexioned.

        The funny thing is, though, I also have the sense that many Jews physically resemble their non-Jewish countrymen. For example, many of the Russian Jews I've known since childhood actually look like ethnic Russians.

        I also have the subjective impression that Jews and Italians often (but not always) look similar to each other, and that when I think someone looks Jewish, they may end up being Italian (and vice versa).

        A recent genetic study suggested that 20% of Spanish and Portuguese people are of Jewish descent. So you're right, mixing over time has rendered the concept of a Jewish look subjective and arbitrary (though not nonexistent).

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site