Here at JOI, we think it is very important to deal with the Jewish community in all of its vibrant complexity, instead of relying on common wisdom about the way things “should be,” as such wisdom is often misleading. In recent years, it has become evident stereotypes that the community takes for granted, such as “looking Jewish,” do not hold true. The short student film “Nose Job Jew,” written by Tim Novikoff and Micah Smith, chronicles one young Jewish man’s attempt to navigate what it means to “look Jewish,” with disastrously funny results.
While the film tends to play on certain stereotypes, such as young Jews dating those of other backgrounds to spite their parents, it also brings up some important points about how blind assumptions can drive people away. When the protagonist, who has kept his Jewish identity hidden from his Jewish girlfriend (who fills the rebellious stereotype mentioned above), is introduced to her parents, each parent behaves in a way that makes the main character deeply uncomfortable. Her father is outright hostile, while her mother seems to welcome the young man with open arms. Yet, by the end of the film, it is the mother’s behavior that bothers the protagonist the most.
The mother in the film makes a point of welcoming her daughter’s boyfriend, explaining all of the elements of the Shabbat dinner, and inviting him to the family’s Passover seder. Such behavior is admirable when welcoming those with little or no Jewish background knowledge into the community. However, she assumes, as does her daughter, that this young man must have no Jewish knowledge simply because of the way that he looks. In other words, since he doesn’t look Jewish, he must not be Jewish. She explains every little detail in a manner that the film’s protagonist finds patronizing and deeply upsetting, even more so than the father’s outright rudeness.
This is what I take away from the movie: one should assume nothing about the identity of others when welcoming them to a Jewish event or group. There is a notion in the Jewish community that one can instinctually tell whether or not someone is Jewish based upon the way that they look. Jews come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes (of noses!). There is no way of knowing just by looking whether someone is Jewish or not. Just welcome them all.
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