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View Diary: Are Jews white? (343 comments)

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  •  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

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    •  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).

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