About Me · Community

Just How Jewish Are You? The Common Questions

These are the questions that I get asked a lot, unless people are just too polite or PC (=politically correct) to ask. 


“Did you grow up Jewish?”—Such a vague question that I don’t even know how to answer.  Did you grow up Jewish?


“Did you grow up celebrating all the Jewish holidays?”—What do you mean by “all”? 

(Note: “All” often seems to refer only to Hanukah and Passover.)  


“Did you grow up keeping Kosher?”—“Kosher” by whose standards?


The reason they ask these questions?  Because I don’t look Jewish.  Hey, that was simple enough.  Why did you even have to ask?


Of course, to consider me non-Jewish-looking is a little ridiculous if you ask me. Nevertheless, it’s what a lot of people still seem to think.  Just to offer another perspective, in fact, you can say that they are more sophisticated than the lineage question (“Is your mamma Jewish?”).  But really, I kind of feel like it’s no one’s business to hear how I grew up (unless you are just curious) so that you can decide for me of who I am and who I am supposed to be. 


If they find out from the series of questionings that I am in fact, ‘not really Jewish’ (by their standards), then what comes next?  Are they going to try to convince me of that fact step by step?  Or to write me off as “the poor confused child who thinks she is Jewpanese, when in fact she is neither really Japanese nor Jewish… What tragedy….”?  


These questions of how Jewish I am can also in fact be simply questions motivated by curiosity:  “Wow!  A Jew from Japan?  What do they do differently?  Do they have their own customs?  Their own recipes?”  These questions are fine by me though I can’t say that I can satisfy their curiosity much.   


But, I often find that the questions are in fact evaluative.  I seem to have to field them way more frequently than my fellow ‘white’(-looking) one-Jewish-parent friends and ‘white’ Jewish friends who in fact converted and have no biological ties to the Jewish people. 


Oh, yeah, and by the way, I’ve been denied to my face that I could even be Jewish by a Haredi guy (in France) and a Reform kid whose mom was a cantor (in college).  Shame on their ignorance.  Why have they never thought of what the ‘original’ Jews (like from the Torah) might have looked like.  There are a lot of theories, but one thing is for sure:  They couldn’t have been ‘white.’  



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