American Jew (PoC Profile)

I am not an immigrant or child of an immigrant; my great-great-grandparents are the ones who brought my family to America, but I thought it would be interesting to see how my cultural experience compares to those who are immigrants or immigrant children.

  • Beauty Standards

Of course, there is the typical stereotype that Jewish people have big noses. I’ve heard people comment that someone doesn’t “look Jewish” because their nose isn’t as prominent. Just because someone doesn’t fit the stereotype doesn’t mean their identification is any less true or important. 

  • Food

Food tends to be a big part of Jewish culture. I don’t know if this is true for others, but in my family we have a joke that goes: “They tried to kill us, we won, we ate”. This is pretty much used to sum up every Jewish holiday because the holidays tend to revolve around the Jewish people overcoming an obstacle or celebrating a victory. Some of my personal favorite foods from my culture are latkes, sufganyot (jelly donuts), matzah ball soup, and falafel. On the holidays, my extended family gathers and provides a feast. Some of my childhood memories are of my mom making homemade latkes and my dad and I eating all of them before anyone else could get to them. I also have memories of my great-aunt spooning me bowls of matzah ball soup to hand out to family and of my grandma bringing us lots of kosher for passover foods.

  • History

There’s not much to tell since my family is very Americanized. No one in my family is a immigrant or immigrant child, so there are no stories of that kind to tell. My mother will tell the story though of how when she went to college, some of her roommates had never seen any Jews and thought she’d have horns, because that’s how they were raised. My grandma and grandpa were both born in 1938, so they have vague memories of the Holocaust. 

  • Holidays

In my family, we don’t celebrate any of the minor holidays. We only celebrate holidays such as Passover, Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah, etcetera. On the holidays, most of my extended family gathers at my family’s house. Together we provide a feast of foods like brisket, meatballs, potatoes, latkes, and more. We all chat and tell stories and eat a lot of food. Our families don’t go to temple all together, as most of my family lives out of state and doesn’t belong to our synagogue. I remember enjoying services when I was younger because my parents would allow me to bring books to read because we attended the adult service, and not the kid service. I remember dreading services after my parents stopped letting me bring books because in my mind, they were very boring and dragged on forever. Now, I get a little bored, but my rabbi tells interesting stories and makes a few jokes to keep us entertained.

  • Home/Family life/Friendships

Being Jewish hasn’t really affected any of my relationships. All of my extended family is at least ½-Jewish, so they all understand at least some of the culture and traditions. My town has a high Jewish population, so I’ve never felt out of place because of my religion. My middle schools were dotted with bar and bat mitzvahs, which got repetitive after awhile, but it was still nice to see my non-Jewish friends participating in prayers and songs. 

  • Language

Growing up, my parents sent my brothers and I to Hebrew School at our temple. My town has two main temples, so our classes were pretty small. I’m sad to say that while I do know the Hebrew Alphabet and can read fairly fluently, I don’t know the meaning of the words. My Hebrew School also didn’t teach us to read without vowels (most Hebrew is written without them), so when my family traveled to Israel we had difficulty reading signs and directions.

  • Micro-aggressions

It annoys me when people assume I’m Kosher just because I’m Jewish. It also generally annoys me when people mock my traditions or are just plain ignorant about them. Just because they don’t know about my religion doesn’t give them the right to make fun of it. Ignorance is not an excuse.

This was actually more than a micro-aggression to me, but an acquaintance and I were having a friendly insult battle, and they referred to me as a “terrorist” just because my ancestors are from the Middle East. At the time, I laughed it off, because though it’s a terrible thing to say I know my friend didn’t know what she was implying (which of course doesn’t make it right). But months later, I still find myself thinking about that comment. I don’t make fun of my friend for her Albanian and Greek culture, and yet she referred me to in such a negative way without even realizing the magnitude of what she was saying. 

  • Things I’d like to see less of

I’d like to see less of people caring about others’ religions. This doesn’t mean you should be ignorant about them, but I hate seeing religion cause rifts between people. Just because people believe something else than you doesn’t mean they’re wrong. 

  • Things I’d like to see more of

I’d like to see more people having awareness/knowledge about other people’s religions. Most people only know about their own religion and don’t know anything about other religions. I’d also like to see more of schools discussing the Holocaust and other major events that revolve around religion. I don’t know if this is true for other schools, but in my school we never talked about the Holocaust. Most of my friends only know that it was something involving the deaths of many Jews and it was caused by Hitler, but that’s all they know. They don’t know about the atrocities committed or the lingering affects; the Diary of Anne Frank and all of the people who were killed just because of their belief.

  • Tropes/Stereotypes I’m tired of seeing.

I’m tired of people picturing Jews and only envisioning Orthodox Jews. People think Jew, and they picture a man wearing a tallis and a yamaka/kippah who keeps Kosher and has a prominent nose. Everyone assumes that we all are this religious when whether or not you celebrate the Sabbath and wear religious clothing doesn’t determine your Jewishness. I’m tired of Israel being just thought of as a conflict zone, when if you go there you’ll discover an amazing, rich culture and history. I’m tired of people being ignorant of our struggles and conflicts throughout history

Read more POC Profiles here or submit your own.

anonymous asked:

Why does external appearance/beauty matter? Some of my friends struggle with body image and not being pretty or thin or strong or muscled enough, and I can't relate really well. Any insights into why this matters and how I can support them when I don't struggle with this a lot and often don't understand the factors behind it?

The idea of beauty is socially constructed so it makes sense that you would have a hard time understanding it. What is considered beautiful varies from culture to culture and has varied over time within cultures. For instance, in many cultures, fat was once considered the epitome of beauty back when food was scarce and it was a sign of wealth. Then, as food became more widely available, it became desirable to be thin instead. 

Much of the cultural idea of beauty ties into media presentation these days. We are constantly bombarded by images of people we are supposed to aspire to look like. Magazines and websites run articles about how to fix your “problem areas” or how to dress to “minimize your flaws.” We are so inundated by these messages that it is hard for most people Not to believe them and use them as a standard by which to judge self-worth. This is particularly poignant for women and those perceived as women. 

The media shows us skinny, pretty (usually white) people and then bombards us with products that supposedly will help us achieve the goal of looking like these people. 

Aside from the media, interpersonal interactions matter a lot. I know that many of my body issues stem from my family. Growing up, from the time I was seven or eight, I was constantly on some fad diet or another with my mom. I tried Atkins, South Beach Diet, juice cleanses, and all sorts of other fad diets, despite being a healthy weight for my body. On top of this, I was regularly told by my grandmother that I would look so much prettier if I “just lost five pounds.” While I’m sure she meant no harm by those words, they echo throughout time to remind me that I’ll never be skinny enough. I’m now working to undo all the damage that these diets and words caused me, but it’s quite the struggle. 

Another factor for women and people perceived as woman is that our self-worth is often tied up in how sexually attractive we are for men which generally correlates with impossible standards of beauty. From a young age, girls are taught, both implicitly and explicitly, that their worth as a person depends on being considered attractive to men. This leads to people who have no sense of self-worth who will strive to do anything possible to be more attractive. We even have studies showing that attractive women are more likely to be financially successful and be treated well by others. 

Basically, ideas of attractiveness stem from capitalism (let us sell you stuff so you can meet our ridiculously unattainable goals) and the patriarchy (be attractive to men if you want to be treated like a person (kind of)). These over-arching systems of oppression then work their way into our interpersonal relationships. 

For a long time, I was angry with my mother for putting me through so many diets and messing up my self-esteem. Then, one day, I looked at the situation again and saw a woman who was deeply hurting and trying desperately to make sure her daughter didn’t endure the same pain. I’m no longer angry. I now just wish there was a way I could show my mom how beautiful she is and that she doesn’t need to always be dieting. 

As for how to help your friends, you don’t need to fully understand their struggles in order to help them. Hopefully, you now understand this matter a little more than you did before which will hopefully aid you in helping your friends, but even if you it’s all still confusing for you, you can still help your friends. 

Compliment them sincerely and often. You can compliment their physical appearance, but focus more on complimenting their accomplishments and personality traits. The more compliments they hear that aren’t about their bodies, the more they will start to internalize the idea that they have worth that derives from sources other than their bodies. Tell a friend how kind she is. Get psyched about how well your friend did on their math test. Emphasize your friend’s sense of humor. Tell a friend how compassionate he is. Shower your friends in compliments to help them feel good about themselves. 

Talk about your own body in positive ways, but not how you think. Focus on how strong your thighs are and how they allow you to do so much. Talk about how the fat on your belly helps you stay warm on cold days. Talk about your body and what it can do for you. 

When your friends bash their bodies, try to help them find things they like about themselves. It may be something small like the color of their eyes. Whatever it is, help them start to find things they like about themselves. Do this every time they bash themselves and soon they’ll start to see more positives about themselves. 

Finally, remember that while you can try to help your friends, the journey towards body positivity is often one that needs to be chosen. Your friends must be willing to work towards a better self-image in order for any of this to be effective. 

I hope this helps!


Hers: the town I work in has recently acquired a raw cafe, so a couple of friends and I met up for lunch there a few days ago. Two of us chose the delicious salad bowl you see here, which includes an amazing leafy mix, spiralised veggies, black quinoa, raw hummus, raw falafel, sundried tomatoes, olives, avocado and seeds!