You look *so* Jewish

This is one of my biggest pet peeves – I’ll admit it.  I mean, I get that there are stereotypes and that those come from somewhere, but how one can look a religion?

The whole Judaism as an ethnicity thing bugs me – there are tons of ethnicities represented within Judaism, that to say it either overrides or negates those is ridiculous.  My friends who grew up in other cultures while practicing Jewish are no less Jewish than I who grew up in a Conservative Ashkenazi household.  Nor are the people who “look Jewish” more so than my blonde haired blue eyed pals (including my fab co-blogger, Jessica).

People often tell my husband he looks Jewish and I can’t help but laugh. He doesn’t look Jewish, he looks Spanish – because he is.  However, because people know he is Jewish (the kippah is a give away!), his coloring and beard become signs of his Jewishness rather than his regional orientation which gives him that coloring.

People also often tell me I look Jewish.  I look ambiguous. I am from a melting pot family.  My brother and I look the same. His daughter looks just like us. We all look like my parents.  Beyond that, its hard to determine much else.

Same thing goes for last names, btw. My maiden name was an Sch so people often made comments about it, and one of my great pleasures in life was telling people that “No, actually Sch— isn’t a Jewish last name. My father’s family is Dutch Methodists.” Some people would argue with me, while others would just shut down.  Regardless, sometimes you just have to put people in their place.


So what do you think about “looking Jewish” – lets schmooze a bit on this one…


13 thoughts on “You look *so* Jewish

  1. Oy oy oy!! I’ve been told countless times I ‘look Jewish’ which is so ironic since, as it now turns out, the Jewish roots in my father’s family were somewhat overblown. In fact, a Jewish woman married a widower with many children – the family were in fact Methodist!! And then some Catholic people got thrown into the melting pot for good measure.

    So – it’s all a bit of stereotyping. I have very dark hair, dark eyes and pale skin – I could look Ashkenazi. My very good friend has what people would assume is Sephardi colouring – but he truly IS of Ashkenazic origin!

    So, I’m with you. Being a convert I am more used than most to being scrutinised by others in the Jewish community – at least my colouring doesn’t add to the issue – although it is ridiculous….

  2. I get the, “but you don’t look Jewish!” from people all the time. That’s usually followed by, “Did you convert?” Uhh, yes I did but that’s not really the point. I get that I “look Irish” – red hair, fair skin, blue eyes, freckles – but that really has very little to do with my or anyone else’s religion. It generally bugs me unless it’s from a friend. If she responds before I manage to it’s usually something like, “Nope, she doesn’t. But she’s super easy to spot in shul, one of the few redheads!”

  3. I like this topic. Only one person so far has asked me if I was Jewish, two “oh, I thought you might be Jewish” and one “oh, I thought you were Jewish.” I’m not annoyed by it at all. In fact, the only annoying part is having to answer the question: I’m converting, but my dad was Jewish. So I don’t really know what to say. I’m still not really sure if I look Jewish or just, you know, Russian.

    As far as last names are concerned, I think mine could go either way. No one in my family is even marginally English (there’s a lot of Lithuanian, though), and I suspect that those who are deeply involved in genealogy could uncover that it could just as easily be of Ashkenazic origin.

  4. I was neither born nor raised Jewish. I come from a “standard” Midwestern mixed European ancestry, mostly German and English.

    Nearly a decade ago G-d encouraged me to “get to know [the Jewish] people”. My Path led me to what became my synagogue, where I “hung out” for a few years just learning and taking everything in. During that time, when congregants found out that I was not Jewish, they were flabbergasted and could only seem to say “but you look so Jewish”. I have since formalised my conversion and still, when people are surprised to learn that I have not always been Jewish, hear that I “look Jewish”.

    What does that mean?! How ridiculous it sounds! Judaism is a religion and a citizenship, but the word is a broad umbrella that covers a lot of different people. Studying Anthropology taught me that there tends to be more physical variation within a group than there is between perceived groups.

  5. There is such a thing as looking Jewish because the real Jews are of middle eastern origin. Ashkenazi jews such as most of you here are actually converts whose family converted a long long time ago… You guys are European convert jews. I am not Jewish by religion (we are christian) but I am half Jewish by ethnicity. My father has very dark hair, dark brown eyes, and very tan skin. Not to mention a hooked nose… I have black hair, dark brown eyes, and tan skin although not as dark as my dads. People tell me I look Jewish all the time. That is because I am… we are Mizrahi Jews… by racial ethnicity, not religion… You guys are by religion, not by racial ethnicity…

    • “The real Jews”Do you know how insulting you are by insinuating that European Jews are somehow fake Jews.Middle eastern Jews look like their non Jewish neighbors and there is no jewish look period.The jews of Europe were real enough Jews that the Nazis murdered 6 million of them.If you want to be moronic and post antisemitic nonsense go to youtube there are millions of Jew haters on that site.

  6. hi im a new follower to your blog. i am Christian woman who practices modesty in dress at work and her daily life. I was asked at work if i was a orthodox jew? because i wore ankle long skirts,panty hoses, a under short, turtleneck and shirt and flats. i think its labeling. I told them I am just plain ole Christian and have my own unique style:-)

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