The larger irony is this: Jews, for better or for worse, don’t find the whole inter-dating/intermarriage thing all that hilarious.Admittedly, I can’t walk a foot in the Friars Club without hearing the one about the Jew and the Native American who named their kid Whitefish—but arguably, that joke’s less about making light of intermarriage than it is about stereotyping another worse-off group.“To find a Shiksa with a hilariously high-maintenance mixture of strength and prowess is an utter utopia for the libidinous Jew,” observes author Kristina Grish.
The Union for Reform Judaism, concerned about sending the message that the movement “does not care” whether or not non-Jews convert, recently called upon synagogues to increase their efforts to encourage conversion of non-Jewish spouses. To others, it’s telling the truth: we are a Jewish organization; we love you no matter what, but we’d love, lurve, luff you if you were Jewish.In short, the matter is more complicated than it is “kooky”—and fortunately for those mixed couples who are serious about the longer run, there are plenty of “serious” guides to negotiating interreligious relationships, with or without conversion.Repeat the phrase “Jewish man” instead of replacing it with “Hebrew honey,” “love mensch,” or, God help us, “Mr.Tall, Dark, and Circumcised.” Even the flattering stereotypes in this book are annoying.Even when I reached my 30s, the all-the-good-ones-are-gay-or-taken decade, there were always enough to choose from that I continued to see Jewish as a given, not a plus. ), but because there was something I liked about , starring our boyfriend, Robby Benson. ) Here’s where I’m going with this: I don’t mean to sound open-minded to the point of cluelessness, but I’ve never quite understood the fetishization of Jewish men.
Likewise, the handful of non-Jewish fellows I dated—the hockey player, the Scrabble champion, the Mainer I nicknamed “L. Bean”—I dated not because there was something I liked about dating non-Jews (The rebellion! I’m not saying I don’t see that Jewish men are lovable; I get why Woody Allen could be considered hot.“Jewish men feed mind and appetite, and they are the ultimate caretakers without a hint of machismo,” writes Grish. On the upside, the book could pique a non-Jew’s interest in finding out what the hell goes on at Purim and Simchas Torah.“They’re also generous and thoughtful, thanks to a matriarchal culture that’s taught them to appreciate women’s strength, candor, humor, and intelligence.” Oh, except the one who’s dating you in order to “explore your hidden temptress or piss off his family,” in which case you should “dump the loser and hide his yarmulke.” To be fair, Grish doesn’t claim that her book is anything more than a “fun dating guide.” She tells you up front that it won’t teach you about “basic Jewish principles” or “extreme holiday traditions like Purim or Simchas Torah.” But experts like Dr. But beyond that, it only reinforces stereotypes—glib at best, anti-Semitic at worst—that, ironically, anyone could dispel themselves by, um, dating an actual Jew.So on the one hand, you could say this book represents a step forward: not “all” Jewish men are nebbishy. Lest you think, in the book’s defense, “Hey, but every Jewish guy I know folds, never crumples, the paper!” let me add this: I can guarantee you that my father has folded, never crumpled, the paper since the day he was born.Take, for instance, Proverbs 5:3-10: “The lips of a strange woman drip honey…. Keep yourself far away from her.” This is a “dire warning,” writes Benvenuto, with “the ring of a 1950s anti-venereal disease campaign.” Thousands of years later, we still fear the shiksa succubus, though the evidence often comes in the form of rueful jokes about the “loss” of Jon Stewart to a woman whose maiden name starts with “Mc.” “In the guise of spiritual seductress, enticing Jewish men away from their heritage, the gentile woman is a scapegoat for the fear that, by their own neglect, American Jews will bring about the destruction of Judaism,” writes Benvenuto.