You Don’t Look Jewish

The editors of Heeb Magazine have gained a reputation for pushing the envelope of Jewish satire, often to a degree which many find offensive. Others see them as a hip, anti-establishment publication that serves as a critical voice of mainstream Jewish America. Whatever your opinion may be, they have never been afraid to take on serious issues in an edgy and provocative manner.

Recently, they introduced a new feature on their website that takes on the issues of Jewish diversity and identity in a uniquely straightforward way.

Under a headline of “You Don’t Look Jewish” they have a picture of someone who doesn’t fit into the traditional Jewish mold (white of Eastern European descent). Next to the photo is the person’s basic information: name, occupation, age, city, hair, and religion. For example, in the third entry of this series, we meet Sue Batson-Feuer, a 40-year-old artist from Canada who is African-American. At first glance she might not “look Jewish,” but there, under religion, it says “Jewish.” The same goes for the other entries in this series.

The point Heeb is making is the same one we often make on this blog and through our Big Tent Judaism Coalition. We need to celebrate the diversity of today’s Jewish individuals and households and leave behind assumptions about what Jews “look like.” In this instance, Heeb has taken this literally. With a photo and a declaration of Judaism, they are showing in no uncertain terms that being Jewish isn’t confined to certain stereotypical markers. And by naming the series “You Don’t Look Jewish,” they are turning a negative into a positive. They are using a phrase that often offends or annoys and turning it into a statement of pride.

We appreciate Heeb’s determination to break down the image barriers that still exist within our community, especially because we’ll only see more diversity in the coming generations. Showcasing the rich variety of the Jewish people will help us as we work to create a community that truly welcomes all those in our midst.

1 Comment

  1. I think, if for no other reason, American Jews should visit Israel to learn that the American Jewish notion of what a Jew looks like is very narrow. Here in Israel, one can walk down the street and see Jews who are black, white, Hispanic, Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Yemenite, Asian, Jewish from birth, Jewish by choice, religious from birth, baal teshuvah, etc. On my small street alone, with only 20 houses, there are 12 countries and 5 continents represented. Here, the idea that a person can be both black and Jewish would simply be unremarkable. Just part of the landscape. Too bad it’s such a “revelation” to many American Jews that a Jew (born Jewish or not) can look like they were descended from somewhere other than Russia or Eastern Europe.

    Comment by Harold — January 16, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

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