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Sep 17 2014

My Son’s First Kippah is Making Me Rethink My Identity

By at 11:22 am


I’m an Orthodox woman and pretty soon, I’ll be wearing my first kippah (skullcap). Well, sort of. My son turns 3 in November, and along with a new pair of Jordans, he’ll be boasting a navy knitted kippah that says his name–in Hebrew, no less–on his first day of school. For the first time, he, and I, will be publically identifying ourselves as religious Jews. I’ll be frank: I find it terrifically daunting.

Until now, I have enjoyed the anonymity that is concomitant with being a bareheaded woman. There is something both thrilling and peaceful about the ability to get lost among (most) peoples of the world without anyone knowing, or caring, about my religious identity. I have been free to behave as I wish, without bearing any theological, cultural or religious connotation.

But as I prepare to accompany my son while he sports his new symbol, I know we are entering the grounds of involuntary Torah ambassadorship.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 12 2013

Do Our Kids Get Our “Ironic” Jewish Jokes?

By at 12:54 pm

paula deenJust like with the interracial family Cheerios ad controversy, my mailbox promptly filled up with friends wanting to know what I thought about Paula Deen, her allegedly racist remarks, her mea culpa tour, and her subsequent exorcism from TV, cookbooks, etc… (Once again, I understand why I’m most people’s go-to-person for such issues.)

Unlike with the interracial Cheerios ad controversy, however, in Ms. Deen’s case, I know very little about the story beyond what I summarized above. I haven’t followed it except via unavoidable headlines, and so I really have nothing to say.

But, it did get me thinking. So, so many things get me thinking. (There was a saying in Stalin’s Russia: The less you know, the sounder you sleep. Explains why I’ve never been able to do so, I guess.)

When my mother and I returned to the USSR in 1989, 13 years after my family first emigrated to America, I met with some former friends of mine, now in college. One of them explained to me how the African students that were brought over to study in Soviet universities were “no fun at all. They don’t want to party or have a good time. All they care about is hitting the books and getting their university degrees.”  Read the rest of this entry →

May 31 2013

That Future Doctor “Jewish Baby Bib” is Not Only Offensive, It’s Inaccurate

By at 12:46 pm

future doctor bib "jewish baby bib" from amazonRecently, Kveller posted this image on their Facebook page of a baby bib with the words “Future Doctor” and a pocket adorned with coins. That alone is offensive enough but the product is labeled “Jewish Baby Bib.” [Update: as of this morning, this product has been removed from Amazon.]

These societal misconceptions are the main reason that I don’t write about the fact that my husband is a surgical resident.

The stereotype of money hungry Jews flocking to medicine is based on a very complex history that at this point is almost completely antiquated. Anyone, Jewish or not, looking to make it rich isn’t turning to medicine’s long hours and dwindling reimbursement, and the very slim odds of getting into medical school are in no way increased by religious affiliation.

My husband and I met in graduate school. Shortly after, we moved to a little rental house in southwest Ohio where he worked as a high school biology teacher for two of the most wonderful years of our life. He cooked meals, we rode bikes, and took impromptu trips to Europe. He had vacation days for when he wanted to go on vacation and sick days for when he got sick. We had what I look back on as a “normal life” before he was accepted to medical school. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 11 2013

What’s a Jewish Costume?

By at 12:08 pm

A couple of years ago, I received a telephone call at work from my then-7-year-old. Who, by the way, I didn’t even know could use a phone. Bad mommy, I know.

Lilly: Mama, can I be in the multi-cultural fashion show?

Me: Is it tomorrow?

Lilly (laughing): Of course it’s not tomorrow.

Me: Then this conversation can wait until tomorrow. Anyway, why would you be in a multi-cultural fashion show?

Lilly (eyes audibly rolling): I am Jewish, you know.

[Sidenote: the audible eye-rolling at 7 ought to have been a clue that she's going to give us a run for our money.] Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 31 2012

Are Aly Raisman’s Parents Stereotypical Jewish Parents?

By at 4:00 pm

aly raisman parents qualifiersAmerican Olympic gymnast–and, by all appearances, nice Jewish girl–Aly Raisman qualified for the womens individual all-around gymnastic final at the Olympics Sunday night (doing her routine to Hava Nagila, yet!). Big news–but apparently not as big as her parents’ reaction.

The video of her parents’ reactions as Raisman was doing her qualifier round has gone viral, and was posted here at Kveller as well as everywhere else in the world [ed. note: the IOC has blocked all footage on copyright grounds]. Raisman’s parents are transparently stressed out as they watch their daughter. They constantly fidget in their seats, looking, as one commentator noted, as though they were in dire need of a restroom. They move back and forth as though being shaken in a kaleidoscope, their eyes 100% trained on their daughter. They mumble and mutter encouragements (possibly dropping one f-bomb) in a Tourettes-like stream of words. Vanity Fair called their parental reactions “hilarious” and “SNL-worthy.” When watching them, anyone can see that they are clearly completely focused on and invested in their 18-year-old daughter’s performance, finally letting loose with a relieved yell at the end of the routine (thank you, Mr. Raisman). Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 23 2012

What Happened to the Jewish American Princess?

By at 10:26 am

Acrylic nails: one of the markers of the Jewish American Princess.

I was absolutely astounded the other day when my younger stepson, Eli, who is 11, was musing about his sister Penelope’s new-found princess obsession–it had to happen sometime–and he said, “You know what’s funny? There’s no Jewish princesses.”

Bless his heart! No Jewish princesses?

I had a vague sense of the existence of the JAP stereotype in high school. I remember my friend Fran speaking dismissively of both WASPs and JAPs and wondering why she hated bugs and Asians so much, but soon enough I saw Spaceballs and was able to recognize a type–not someone I came in contact with myself very often, but sure, I knew young women sorta like that.

Then I got to college. Barnard, specifically. Hoo boy. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 19 2012

Friend Your Baby

By at 9:44 am

Your baby can have this onesie too at

Don’t put your baby on Facebook!

Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. But Wall Street Journal writer Janet Paskin isn’t refraining from posting the cute baby pictures out of fear that she’s compromising her kid’s digital security. Rather, Paskin writes, “I worried that, by publically [sic] donning my mom-hat, I might be hurting myself.” In other words, keeping baby off of Facebook isn’t for his or her own good–it’s for yours.

Paskin writes that she’d rather not post pictures or items about her baby on Facebook because “women with children fare worse, professionally and financially, than women without. Moms face more difficulty getting hired and earn less than their childless peers. It’s worse for new, breastfeeding moms, who are judged to be less competent and less likely to be hired than bottle-feeding moms and who suffer more severe and prolonged earnings loss. Even controlling for all the extenuating circumstances that make salary comparisons really hard, the evidence seems pretty conclusive: Moms earn less, and have less success, than women without children.”

Clearly, I disagree with this completely. Frankly, I’m not even sure where to begin. Of course, I take issue with the underlying premises that mothers are somehow crappier workers–if anything, mothers are perhaps the most kickass multitaskers in the universe. The breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding mom hiring stats are almost too stupid to mention.

But I am particularly offended by the idea that in order to succeed in the workplace, I would need to hide who I am. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 25 2011

Everything I Haven’t Taught You

By at 10:46 am

When my oldest child, Hot Shot, was 3, her active vocabulary included the word “stereotype.”

“No one can have two moms,” her little friend told her. They were sitting side by side on 3-year-old sized toilets at preschool, overheard by their teacher in the next room.

“No,” said Hot Shot, certain as a statistician. “That’s just a stereotype.”

Her teacher was surprised, but we weren’t. My partner and I had been schooling her in such things for years. Deconstructing her picture books with feminist, anti-racist critical analysis. If pressed she probably could have given a brief overview of the three major phases of the civil rights movement, a short lecture on the use of Mitzrayim rather than Egypt at the Passover table, and a comparative critique of her five favorite authors.

She was, after all, our first child.

Now is it me, or does the parenting get a little more lax on children two and three? Our second, Moon Boy, now 3-and-a-half, is exactly the age Hot Shot was when she made her toilet-seat stereotype remark, and I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve taught him anything. Seriously: he doesn’t even know his shapes. Read the rest of this entry →


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