Damned If You Do: Jews in the Spotlight, Stereotypes, and Identity (Full Piece)

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

*Author’s note: I began working on this piece around Easter, last month in March, hence the quasi-anachronistic opening. Also, to read the comments on the introduction of this piece, please go here. Lastly, please note that the thoughts and opinions expressed in the interviews completed for this piece reflect the sentiments of the interviewees and not necessarily the views or opinions of the author and/or Racialicious as a whole. OK, let’s begin!

Despite all the Easter hype, I found myself thinking a lot about Judaism in America this past week. Eliot Spitzer, New York’s Jewish political golden boy and possible presidential hopeful, had been outed for a prostitution scandal, New York Magazine had run an extensive article on actress, singer, performer extraordinaire Bette Midler, Dick Cheney had traveled to the Middle East, one of his topics of discussion being the state of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the New York City version of Bravo’s reality show Real Housewives featured a Jewish-American family. It seemed as if everywhere I turned, I noticed some element of Judaism, be it people, politics, or general culture.

In the meantime, I also began to contemplate the state of Jews in the media, their portrayals therein, and how Jewish-American identity was being shaped as a result. Despite the frequent, conspiracy theory-steeped accusations of Jews having a media takeover, it’s quite a wonder that the portrayals of Jews, including Jewish-Americans, are not exactly the most flattering.

Take a moment to think to yourself of the Jewish stereotypes to which you have been exposed, or to go further, try to count the positive portrayals of Jews (Right off the top of my head, I can only think of Anne Frank and the cast of Fiddler on the Roof) in comparison to the negative ones. What do you come up with?

For the most part, the stereotypes people come up with are, for lack of a better phrase, “positive stereotypes” they see on television or through other forms of media, and those are the ones they internalize. The financially successful Jew. The hard-working, scholarly Jew. The Jew with entrepreneurial prowess. The Jew who is a survivor. The Jew who is politically active. Of course, turn those on their heads, and they easily become “negative stereotypes.” The Jewish American Princess. The nerdy, socially awkward, neurotic Jew. The money-grubbing, “crafty” Jew. The Jew who plays the Oppression Olympics with the Holocaust as the ultimate social injustice. The Jew who is a Zionist fanatic. Hence the reminder that even so-called “positive stereotypes” can be one’s worst enemy. In fact, they are central to understanding the media-based stereotyping that occurs in relation to Jews.

For one thing, according to the media at least, all Jews are white. They all blindly support the continued recognition of Israeli statehood, despite the limited connection they may have with the Middle East geographically or culturally. Also, all Jews, using media representations alone, are well off. If the caricature-like images of Jews were to fall from our television sets, they’d find themselves out of their element as there would be no dollar bills and diamonds to roll around in to pass the day. Just like any other racial, ethnic, or religious group, Jews are subject to intense criticism at the hands of the media, and in ways many of us lack awareness to notice, mainly because we have so deeply accepted the “positive stereotypes” that we fail to realize the power they have in bolstering “negative” ones.

A “model minority” of sorts, many American Jews, no matter the sect to which they belong, or whether they consider their link to Judaism as one of religion, one of ethnicity, or both, are lauded for their achievements while simultaneously being pressured to perform a stereotype to keep them up. For this piece, I spoke with several Jewish friends, two of whom took the time to respond to a set of questions on Jewish identity. In their responses, which read like a race and culture bildungsroman of sorts, Yael, a former college classmate and up-and-coming actress, and Alex, a co-worker, discussed what it was like to “come of age” as a person of Jewish heritage in America. I have included the full-text interviews at the end of this piece, as I feel their words most poignantly capture their experiences in ways that I would be hard-pressed to replicate in my journalism-meets-prose-meets-term paper blogging style. It simply wouldn’t do their words justice.

Nevertheless, there are several unifying themes that appeared among the interviewees, as well as conclusions that could be drawn from personal observations and prior academic readings (including the highly recommended short essay “‘J.A.P.’-slapping: The Politics of Scapegoating” by Ruth Atkin and Adrienne Rich) that deserve special attention:

1. Double Agent/Double Consciousness

As a result of many (though, obviously, not all) American Jews exhibiting physical characteristics we would now neatly categorize as “white” due to the politics of the melting pot era, there is the possibility of Jews being generally completely impossible to discern from the white population in the United States of predominately Western European (English, Irish, Scottish, French, Italian) descent. Yet this visual assimilation of sorts creates similar problems as it does for those who may be of one race or ethnicity, but who possess the ability (intentionally or not) to pass or be mistaken for another race and/or ethnicity, particularly for those who do not opt to dress in a way that conforms with religious requirements and/or reveals one’s religious and ethnic affiliation (i.e. something as formal as the dress of the Hasidic Jewish population to a simple yarmulke or gold Star of David necklace). This ability to be viewed as simply “an average white person” can create interesting social and psychological challenges for white Jews, as they may benefit from white privilege, which I will go into later, but still bear the burden of anti-Semitism and a history of oppression.

In addition, the fact that many white Jews are simply viewed in the same way as other whites can often times mean white Jews (or Jews of color* in a white or POC group) are privy to “accidental” anti-Semitism that results from overhearing stereotypes, jokes, or downright hateful comments toward Jews with the offender not realizing the “average white person” before him or her happens to belong to the group he or she is in the process of ridiculing. Several of my friends recounted stories like this, with their serving as an unintentional “double agent” of sorts—appearing on the outside as an every day Anglo-Saxon and due to said perception, witnessing or overhearing comments as a result of an identity mix-up.

When I say “double agent,” I mean a person who can appear one way on the outside, but not give away certain aspects of one’s identity. It’s not a term I employ to incite anger or evoke a Red Scare past.. In this act of “passing,” if you will, be it intentional or otherwise, a Jewish person (white or of color) can hear an offensive anti-Semitic comment or joke and make the choice to either a) participate, b) dismiss it, or c) shock all the bigots by revealing his/her/hir identity and use their initial act of passing as a psychological weapon to deter said bigots from using similar speech in the future. The perpetrators of the anti-Semitism might give future comments a second thought if they realized that the Jews walk among us . . .  ::cue Twilight Zone Music::

What a scary thought, eh? That one can actually commit a boldface ethnicity-based offense and, without warning, be taken down by the big reveal! [sarcasm] It could be that I am putting too much emphasis here on the ability to possess double consciousness as one with dual identities, but in the end, I think it lends itself as a powerful tool in both combating hate and possessing empathy for other marginalized groups.

*I should note that even Jews who are not white face this obstacle within their own communities of color, though the vitriol geared toward Jews in this case would most likely refer to white Jews, as the largest Jewish population in the United States happens to possess said phenotype. Nevertheless, the sting of anti-Semitism in this case can certainly be just as powerful, as it still means the denigration of one part of someone’s cultural and/or religious heritage.

2. Self-Deprecation

Much like our other conversations here at Racialicious regarding race-related humor, the discussion surrounding Jewish comedy often draws attention to the thin line between funny and offensive, making the situation all the more difficult, as many of those poking fun at Jews, including Jews themselves, often resort to ridiculing privilege as a means of getting a laugh. Be it wealth (the usual subject) or frugality (to maintain said wealth) to the infamous subject of Jewish womanhood (from mothers to young, spoiled “Jewish American Princesses“), Jewish comedians (and comedians making fun of Jews) take the usual route of exaggerating a stereotype or drawing one fact out to the degree that it wreaks of excess. Yet again, much like with comedians from other marginalized groups, the humor surrounding stereotypes can grow to become a dangerous weapon once employed outside of their respective communities. The technique of ethnicity based self-deprecation not only presents stereotypes, but also fortifies pre-existing ones and provides the audience, who, in some cases, are not from within the community being discussed, with mental ammunition with which to continue an ongoing ridicule of said community in their own minds, until, eventually, their prejudice turns into discrimination.

But much like with any other group, self-deprecation finds its way into the home and daily conversation as well, pushing the envelope insofar as proper conduct is concerned. The joy with which some shared their JAP sightings here on Racialicious was a tad bit disturbing, but I do not take for granted the possibility that the term has been thrown around with such frequency that it is a part of the vocabulary for many people who fail to consider the underlying meaning or history behind such a term. And I dare say it may not be entirely their fault. One need only look to the “N-word” debate for evidence of this.

3. Simultaneous Shame & Pride

This theme came up primarily as a result of discussions surrounding Israel. In the face of ethnic conflicts erupting left and right, many young American Jews have mixed feelings on the Israel/Palestine conflict and the political debates which surround it. As a result of the countless atrocities occurring on both sides and the varied media coverage, aligning oneself with either Israel or Palestine may cause considerable ostracism and inner conflict. One the one hand, Jews are expected to support the actions of Israel, just as Americans are expected to support the actions of the American government as they are elected officials to represent us. In many ways, Israel is seen as the gatekeeper for an imagined past and the connecting point for a severed cultural heritage. As in all diasporic communities, the homeland, literal or figurative (in the case of nations that no longer exist) represents a satiation of longing, a location on the map that corresponds to the beating of one’s heart. Israel is no different for many Jews. However, considering the media coverage that shows that Israel, in its dealings with Palestine, is far from ideal, it is no wonder that a chasm can form in one’s own mind surrounding the issue. For many Jews, it’s difficult to reconcile the concept of Homeland, a mythic, utopian place of cultural revival, with the concept of Reality that shows the Israel/Palestine situation is anything BUT clearcut.

This schizophrenia occurs within many marginalized groups, as we have all witnessed when the tables turn and one is expected to reflect on the actions of those who share his/her/hir identity. I’ve engaged in this frustrating activity many times, wavering between a complete lambasting of the group to which I belong and holding in my own anger for the sake of “protecting” or “shielding” my group from further external criticism. In the case of Jews who support certain provisions to secure the independence of Palestine, for example, the act of self-criticism, and some even argue self-hatred, could be considered to be at its peak, yet in this act, such Jews are also risking being misunderstood within their own communities, just as Jews who express continued support for Israel, may be misunderstood by those who have little or no connection to Israel in a cultural sense.

*Author’s note: Please DO NOT turn this post into a bulletin board for you to express anti-Israel or anti-Palestine statements unless you are discussing this through the lens of media portrayals and how it relates to the formation of identity. Everyone already knows that discussions regarding this issue are difficult to have, but also happen to turn into cyclical nonsense that doesn’t add much to the conversation. Please see our moderation policy for more details.

4. Precarious Privilege

As I mentioned earlier, the aspect of double consciousness that takes place for many people who are raised Jewish or who possess Jewish heritage, yet who can easily blend in with non-Jews, makes for a tricky existence. Quite frankly, it’s a double-edged sword, making one’s ability to assimilate more easily achieved, yet also rendering one’s privilege precarious, volatile, and temporary. In noting this, the mention of Al Jolson in the comments from the sneak peak “intro” version of this post becomes all the more significant. Considering the anti-Semitic prejudice and downright discrimination (a la Jim Crow) in some parts of the United States and the world, it’s no wonder that white Jews, just as the Irish or Italians who were also involved in or descendents of melting pot era assimilation, sought to differentiate themselves from blacks, Asians, and other groups who were incapable of assimilating fully on the basis of their appearance alone. This act of separation, in some cases, like Jolson’s, more bold than others, could be considered a defense mechanism or a survival technique in an age of fierce job competition, scrambling for resources, and even government recognition. This, of course, is not to offer any excuse, but instead to explain some of the pre-existing tensions between white Jews and communities of color who allege that Jews benefit from white privilege without paying a price for their ethnicity and/or religious practices as other groups do.

Of course, there are many Jews who recognized that this historically slippery grasp of whiteness could be channeled for good, including those who worked alongside blacks during the struggle against Jim Crow segregation or those who have used their families’ connection to the Holocaust as a means of understanding and empathizing with other historically oppressed groups.

5. Ethnicity/Religion Debate

There is little to be said in this category beyond what many of us may have already heard. It’s a debate I hear quite frequently and on which I have little authority to present in full. But over and over, I hear people (of all backgrounds) assert that being a Jew relates solely to one’s religion and that one cannot make claims to being Jewish as an ethnicity just as one cannot make ethnicity-based claims to being a Catholic. No one checks the “Baptist” box on the SAT, so why should Jews have the right to consider this aspect of themselves as a part of their ethnic identity? It’s a debate that wages on, particularly when one considers which parent is Jewish or whether or not the person of converted or whether or not the person in question underwent Jewish rites of passage. Yet of the Jews I know, either practicing or totally secular, their Jewish heritage means to them in many ways what my experience as a person of color means to me.  It’s more than an accident or a characteristic worthy of media exploitation. Instead, it’s a sense of being that one can always come back to even when ridiculed, challenged, and questioned to the degree that one can answer for nothing more than the term itself. It’s something they were born with or something they chose to convert to, it’s something that encompasses their family’s traditions or the new ones they are making for themselves, and it’s something that allows for a connection to their history. Being Jewish is a daily reminder that when it comes to identity, there’s more than what meets the eye.
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Full-Text Interviews (with Alex and Yael):
1. Name/Age/Birthplace/Current Location/Occupation: Alex/ 22/ Lower Manhattan, NYC/ same/ Billing Analyst

2. Are you a practicing Jew? I wouldn’t say so.

3. How would your characterize your experience in your faith tradition?  I think that I pick and choose my morality and beliefs from Judaism, Quakerism, and other belief systems.  My “faith” is pretty much something that I have created for myself, and is based in and on myself.
 
4. Do you identify with Judaism/Jewishness solely as a religion? solely as an ethnicity? or both?  I identify with it as both a religion and an ethnicity.  I was not raised in a religious household, but know some of the religious stories associated with Judaism, and the time and purpose of the holidays.  However, since I was never really a practicing Jew, I think that I have always identified more with the ethnicity side of the “Jewish” label.  My father’s family is German Jewish, so the importance of acknowledging and appreciating the heritage behind our Jewish roots was always important, especially in light of the fact that the Holocaust essentially wound up wiping out a lot of our family based on their ethnic characteristics and behaviors.  This combined with my childhood in New York City, blocks from the Lower East Side which was a Jewish neighborhood for so long, to create a profound respect for the heritage of the Jewish people, despite lacking formal education in the Jewish faith.
 
5. Does your family maintain a Jewish household”?  No. My mother is an on again/off again practicing Quaker who has remarried a Jewish man, and my father is more into Ganesh. It was actually an incredibly sad moment when, while sorting through all of the books and keepsakes from my late grandmother’s house, my Dad came upon a beautiful Torah, and realized that he should give it away, because none of us knew how to use it.
 
6. How was it for you growing up Jewish and within a Jewish family based on your surrounding neighborhood, social circles, educational background, and/or general community? Did your experience differ based on the different communities within which you were engaged?

7. If any of the aforementioned communities made you feel alienated, if at all, how did you “find your center,” so to speak, as a Jewish-American? (i.e. Hebrew school, birthright trips, etc)
 
[answer to both questions] New York City is probably the best place in America to be labeled as a Jew.  The city itself is overflowing with every ethnicity and religion, so it is not as alienating as other locations, and the schools get all Jewish holidays off (at least in part.)  I don’t remember feeling all that out of place during elementary and middle school, when I was at a small private school, because it was full of the children of artists and hippies and no one was particularly religious at all.  We always sang Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa songs at the Winter concerts, as well as songs about the solstice if I remember correctly. However, I was distinctly aware that most people were not Jewish, simply because everyone celebrated Christmas.  And I know that I was a large proponent in my household for going deeper into our Jewish faith; I bought my father his first menorah as a Christmas present when I was six.

Religion did not really come into play until I was [in high school] . . . a massive public school that controversially admits students solely based on an SAT-like test.  There, a much larger portion of my friends were Jewish, and very proud about it.  They would have chats about kugel and apples with honey and their bar/bat mitzvahs, and at that point, I think more than anything I felt a little left out, since I had never had those experiences with my family that downplayed the religious and cultural traditions. However, once again, this was still a very accepting environment, most likely because of the NYC location.

When I went to [college] there was a much starker line between Jews and Non-Jews.  The [Center for Jewish Life] had been recently built, and the center invited all Jewish students to Kosher meals, particularly on the Sabbath, for free.  I was not on that mailing list.  I guess I hadn’t checked the “Jewish” box on my application- but then again, I feel like that is intrusive and way too hard to explain so I don’t fill anything in for the “religion” fields anyway.  [The college I attended] is known as a WASPy school- even though it does have a pretty large population of not only Jews but people of all religions (as I’m sure they proudly display in their diversity profile.)  Therefore, to me it seemed like many of the Jewish people I knew were defensive about their faith, but I’m sure that was due not only to the [college's] environment but also the neighborhoods that they grew up in all across the country. At any rate, Judaism almost seemed like an exclusive clique that only key people knew the code to get into. My friends would proudly declare their trips home for Passover, or their Rosh Hashanah celebrations at the Center, and many boys wound up joining a traditionally Jewish fraternity in order to help preserve their cultural roots.  At first all of this seemed a little bit much to me, but as I spent more time with my friends over the years, it became pretty clear why this was so important.  I had many Christian friends who would make rude comments about Jews or Judaism- like “Ha ha ha did you remember to light your candles tonight?” or “Ugh, I can’t stand that girl, she’s so Jewish” or the most recent rebuff one gave to a guy hitting on her “Please step away from me: you’re gross and you’re probably a Jew.”  They don’t think twice about these things, how they are marginalizing some of their best friends based on stereotypes and bias that was instilled in them from who knows where.
In these cases I feel stuck in the middle- torn as a person who is both excluded in a sense from celebrating many of the holidays of my heritage, and degraded because of my roots in the Jewish culture.  With these two sides in mind, I don’t know that I have found my Jewish-American center yet.
 
8. What stereotypes come to mind when you think of the word “Jew”? If you recall, through what medium did you first learn of these stereotypes? (film, tv, news, friends, family, etc) Let’s see: cheap, conniving, manipulative, ugly, big nose, small, bagels, pickles, knishes, studious, Florida/New York/Long Island, JAPpy, loud… And most of them probably came from TV and friends.  One that really sticks out in my mind was when my dad was appalled at the portrayal of the goblin bankers in Harry Potter: older, wrinkly, small males with long noses, small glasses, big ears…it was, upon second glance, the stereotype of the old Jewish miser.
 
9. Have you ever experienced anti-Semitic prejudice (thoughts and verbalization of hatred/dislike for Jews), discrimination (acting upon such thoughts), or challenges as a result of your faith/ethnicity?  I’ve experienced unintentional prejudice, witnessed discrimination and challenges.  I think this happens for a very simple reason: I don’t “look Jewish.”  I have pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes.  If we were in Nazi Germany, I would have been the person answering the pounding on the door. Non-Jews think that they can speak freely around me (I’ve heard some really horrible anti-Semitic comments during sorority rush) and Jews assume that I am a WASP, so they leave me out of arguments and discussions on religion.
 
10. How do you feel about characterizations of Jews, American or otherwise, in the media and the arts (both fictional and non-fictional)? I always feel like Jewish characters in the media, whether their religious affiliation is stated or implied, is generally extremely stereotypical, and always includes some sort of negativity.  Take for instance Janice on Friends- I don’t think that her religion was ever state outright, but I always concluded that she must be Jewish because she fit the JAP stereotype to a T.  Also, if you want to continue with that same show- Monica and Ross are from a Jewish family, but Ross’s son Ben (whose mother is Christian) prefers Christmas to Chanukah.  Ross winds up dressing as a “Holiday Armadillo” to show his son the importance of both sides of his heritage.  This is the way that I think Judaism is generally portrayed in the mainstream: as an odd deviation from the norm.
 
11. Has being a Jew ever made you feel apprehensive about engaging in certain activities, social circles, etc (i.e. dating a non-Jew) and if so, what did you do, if anything, to combat this feeling? I actually feel more apprehensive about dating Jews rather than non-Jews, because I don’t feel like I am Jewish enough.  I try to explain and demonstrate how open and excited I am to learn new things about my heritage, but often, that’s a make or break point.

Also, my senior year of college, I was required to attend an Easter Brunch at the extremely fancy hotel at [my college] with my roommate and her Catholic parents.  I felt completely uncomfortable until I looked around the room and noticed many people in my same position: the poor little Jews who don’t normally get to experience Easter Brunch whose friends’ parents had decided to introduce into the grand tradition.  It was comforting to see others in my same position, know they were feeling the same way, and just get beyond the bizarre scene that was unfolding around me.
 
12. How has being a Jew shaped your life decisions, if at all?
The only real decision that I made based on being Jewish, (aside from deciding that I have to go on Birthright within the next year,) was when I decided to learn German.  It may seem like a weird choice just on the surface, but the entire Jewish half of my family is German, and I desperately want to visit Berlin and tour through Germany to really understand where we came from, and what the history of that family was.  My mother’s family is mainly a British amalgam of Quakers, and I have their family tree back to the 1400s in a binder somewhere in my room.  But the only information on my father’s side was that many in my grandfather’s family back in Germany did not survive the Holocaust, and that some ancestors on my grandmother’s side were the first Jews to cross the country in a covered wagon.  (For that reason I strongly believed that my family probably in some way owned the Levi-Strauss jean company for a lot of my childhood.) But anyway, this lack of solid information is a little depressing, so I’ve decided that I have to go and follow up on our family history.

13. In your job/ career, have you ever had to combat stereotypes/prejudice toward Jews, and if so, how did you accomplish this? I can’t actually think or any experiences that would fall into this category.
 
14. Please comment on this statement by Fran Lebowitz (via New York Magazine):
 
Law & Order’s Judge Janice Goldberg—better known as Fran Lebowitz—would throw the book at Eliot Spitzer if given the chance. “I think he should go to jail,” she said at a BAM event on March 13. “I’m really angry. Because at first I didn’t like him—I don’t like rich people in politics—but then when he started arresting everyone on Wall Street, I loved him. Now I see I was right to begin with.” Does she mourn his lost chance of being the first Jewish president? Nope. “In every generation there is a rich Jewish boy in New York that people say is going to be the first Jewish president,” she says. “But this is never going to happen. Because people don’t like Jews. You must have noticed that by now. And I will also tell you, as a Jew, I don’t want there to be a Jewish president. We have enough problems. Imagine if they could blame this on us, too.” Her advice for the new gov? “I would like for him not to commit a crime, okay?”
 
After reading this quote a few times with different reactions, I’m actually going to have to agree with Ms. Lebowitz on this point:  I don’t think America likes Jews.  I don’t think that most of the world likes Jews.  And I think a lot of Jews don’t like Jews. (For that reason I don’t think Spitzer ever really had a chance at the presidency either.)  But to address the last part, “We have enough problems. Imagine if they could blame this on us too,” I think this is an often overlooked part of the Jewish experience. Jews are very concentrated in a few parts of this country, but otherwise serve the role of a token minority.  They are looked to for explanations on all things Jewish, and often, are the only live basis for “Goyim” to base their knowledge of the whole Jewish race on.  When I arrived at [college], one of my friends was placed in a room with someone who turned out to be the first Jewish person she had ever met.  For the next year, everything that this Jewish roommate did that was annoying was attributed to the set of characteristics of all Jews. It took a lot of explaining and cajoling from myself and other people to convince her that this was not actually the case. However, in the larger picture, blame is a scary thing to Jews. The Holocaust is still very alive in the collective memory of the Jewish consciousness, when the downfall of the German economy led to blaming the Jews led to genocide. And the Jewish population is so small that one prominent member getting blamed for a large mistake could easily trickle down the rest of the group.  It is a legitimate fear.
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1. Name/Age/Location: Yael/ 21/ Minnesota/New York/ Student & Actress

2. Are you a practicing Jew? If so, how would you categorize your practice (i.e. reform, conservative, orthodox, etc) Yes – between Reform and Conservative.

3. How would your characterize your experience in your faith tradition? I have strong faith though I disagree with many of the traditional practices.
 
4. Do you identify with Judaism/Jewishness solely as a religion? solely as an ethnicity? or both? Both. It is obviously a religion, though some don’t practice it, and it is most definitely an ethnicity. Look at an Israeli passport, under race it still says “JEW.”

5. Does your family maintain a Jewish household”? Yes. No one keeps Kosher anymore, but my father is extremely active and celebrates on Shabbat, and my mother follows many of the customs she grew up with.

6. How was it for you growing up Jewish and within a Jewish family based on your surrounding neighborhood, social circles, educational background, and/or general community? Did your experience differ based on the different communities within which you were engaged?

7. If any of the aforementioned communities made you feel alienated, if at all, how did you “find your center,” so to speak, as a Jewish-American? (i.e. Hebrew school, birthright trips, etc)

[answer to both questions] I was lower middle class growing up and the other Jews I know were rather wealthy, so I always felt like I didn’t quiet fit in because our lifestyles were so different. That difference became more and more clear as I got older. However, when I was young I didn’t notice as much. I grew up with mainly black girls who had never known a Jew and I was often embarrassed. I never have dated or been attracted to a Jew and I think I do hold some shame around my ethnicity. I was seen as white by the blacks and other by the whites.

8. What stereotypes come to mind when you think of the word “Jew”? If you recall, through what medium did you first learn of these stereotypes? In 3rd grade a kid told me the Holocaust never happened and that it was [the] greedy, dirty, Jews that made it up. That was the first time. I didn’t hear much more until entering college . . . when I met a lot of kids who had never met a Jew. I hate all the questions sometimes. “So do you still celebrate Christmas?” Also, somehow people have decided that calling someone a “Big Jew” is acceptable if the person is religious, [but] I find it extremely offensive. The other thing I’m getting a lot now, as an actor, is comments about my physical appearance since I am short, curvy, and a bigger nose. Most of the stereotypes I have heard are from friends.
 
9. Have you ever experienced anti-Semitic prejudice (thoughts and verbalization of hatred/dislike for Jews), discrimination (acting upon such thoughts), or challenges as a result of your faith/ethnicity? Yes. I hear sly remarks regularly, but I also am starting to get “typed out” of roles that are non-Jewish because I am a Jew, when in actuality I look rather ethnically ambiguous. My friends that live in Paris tell me stories every day about extreme cases of anti-Semitism they have to face. I usually deal with rude comments more than anything.

10. How do you feel about characterizations of Jews, American or otherwise, in the media and the arts (both fictional and nonfictional)? I find the media’s reflection of Jews extremely upsetting. Somehow it has become cool to hate Israel and support Palestinians if you are liberal (which I am) and it seems the media tilts it this way. Often people have no idea what they are talking about in regards to the war in the Middle East, and yet almost always side against the Jews. I can’t pick apart why exactly that is the case, but it is clearly due to the media’s representation of us and is a large problem.
 
11. Has being a Jew ever made you feel apprehensive about engaging in certain activities, social circles, etc (i.e. dating a non-Jew) and if so, what did you do, if anything, to combat this feeling? Yes. Very few of my friends in college are Jewish and they often make rude comments (that they think are not rude) about my culture because they don’t understand. I have not yet dated a Jew, but in the past year or so, I decided that I don’t think I can date a non-Jew anymore. There is something only a Jew can understand that is becoming an increasingly bigger deal and affects my life more. 
 
12. How has being a Jew shaped your life decisions, if at all? I am a Jewish educator, which is the best thing I have done with my life. . . I never thought I would be so involved and so excited about it. I am committed to teaching and supporting young Jews. Additionally, on a daily level, I try not to buy from stores that give money to anti-Israel organizations, which happens to be a lot more than you’d think! I also used to vote based on different things than I do now. Now, my number one political topic, when choosing to vote, is the candidates’ feelings on Israel. As anti-Semitism gets worse internationally, it has become more essential for me to secure the safety of Israel.

13. In your job/ career, have you ever had to combat stereotypes/prejudice toward Jews, and if so, how did you accomplish this? Please see above.
 
14. Please comment on this statement by Fran Lebowitz (via New York Magazine):
 
Law & Order’s Judge Janice Goldberg—better known as Fran Lebowitz—would throw the book at Eliot Spitzer if given the chance. “I think he should go to jail,” she said at a BAM event on March 13. “I’m really angry. Because at first I didn’t like him—I don’t like rich people in politics—but then when he started arresting everyone on Wall Street, I loved him. Now I see I was right to begin with.” Does she mourn his lost chance of being the first Jewish president? Nope. “In every generation there is a rich Jewish boy in New York that people say is going to be the first Jewish president,” she says. “But this is never going to happen. Because people don’t like Jews. You must have noticed that by now. And I will also tell you, as a Jew, I don’t want there to be a Jewish president. We have enough problems. Imagine if they could blame this on us, too.” Her advice for the new gov? “I would like for him not to commit a crime, okay?”
 
The country doesn’t like Jews, and I don’t think it’s much of a secret. However, who f*cking cares? If someone wants to be the President, no one with any sense should care what race, ethnicity, or religion they are. If they’re right, they’re right and if they’re wrong… people will go blaming the Jews for something, anyway. A Jewish president won’t start or stop that.