web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



On Rye Please, Hold The Stereotypes

Lyons-061512

Share Button

In an effort to procrastinate, I occasionally like to bounce some ideas around. As I work from home with only my two cats for company, this often means waiting until my children return home from school.

I have wanted to explore Jewish stereotypes for sometime now, so naturally I asked my ten-year old son for some advice. I began by asking him if he knew what stereotypes are. His response, “yes, they are those things you had to listen to before the iPod was invented.”

I think I am alone on this one.

Lets start with the fact that I live in Hong Kong, China. Immediately when a Chinese person learns that I am Jewish the response is almost automatic. I am told that I must be very smart and of course very rich or very good with money. They tell me Einstein was Jewish (I actually don’t mind this comparison), Marx was Jewish (less excited about this one) and often that Rockefeller was Jewish (he wasn’t).

And while I try to excuse this pervasive stereotyping by the Chinese and explain to fellow Westerners that unlike in European and other Western nations these stereotypes are certainly void of the taint of anti-Semitism, I wonder though how far is that void? How thin is that line?

And while it is quite easy to point fingers at other groups for stereotyping, it begs the question why do we do it to ourselves? The common theme that runs through most interviews I conduct with Asian Jews, whether they are Chinese, Indian, Korean or Japanese, is they all express some frustration over constantly hearing the refrain from other Jews, “funny, you don’t look Jewish.” Why are we as Jews so willing to take on the world’s stereotyping of us by assuming amongst ourselves that there really is a Jewish look? And yes, I have often been told that I most certainly have it.

Quite recently a series of vintage 1960s advertising posters from Levy’s (Henry S. Levy & Son’s) were circulated widely on social media sites. These iconic rye bread posters feature racially and ethnically diverse people all enjoying Levy’s Jewish Rye Bread and the caption is “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish to Enjoy Levy’s.” In the world I live in, in Hong Kong, this campaign simply doesn’t make sense (though I will concede that the man in the full Native American headdress is likely not Jewish or at least not a practicing Jew). The ad, featuring an adorable Chinese boy with his Jewish rye, takes on particular poignancy as one of our closest friends’ son happens to be named Levi, is Jewish and is Chinese as he has been adopted locally.

And to my children, most certainly not raised in 1960s America, this poster is truly entirely incomprehensible. I showed my nine-year old daughter the poster and asked her for her thoughts on what she saw. She was first fixated on the fact that she didn’t know what rye bread was. She is being raised in the East not on the East Side after all. After an explanation that moved to pumpernickel and bialys and other exotic breads from my East Coast past, we were finally able to return to my social experiment. Again, she was a bit distracted by the apple and commented on his healthy snack choice. I found I needed to throw aside ordinary journalistic principles and ask a very pointed question.

“Forget about the food, please! Look at the boy. What about the boy’s appearance?”

She carefully studied the original poster.

“Ah! He is dressed rather fancy. It could be because it is an ad and he needs to look presentable or else it is because he had to go to Synagogue that day.”

She failed to choose to identify the race of either boy. In her world, if you are a child and are wearing nice clothing you must be synagogue-bound.

In contrast however, quite recently, I was speaking to a fellow parent in the local Hong Kong Jewish community at a birthday party. He commented, while watching the kids play, “Levi, Lior & Lee. How is the school (Jewish Day School) ever going to be able to tell all these L-named Chinese kids apart?”

Share Button

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

One Response to “On Rye Please, Hold The Stereotypes”

  1. Kate Ray says:

    It was a superb ad campaign and I enjoyed all the images – but I WAS raised in the 60′s. Naturally times change. History must be viewed in context. This article is nothing more than a demonstration of that.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
Unit 9900 is an intelligence unit that utilizes the unique capabilities of soldiers on the autism spectrum.
Autism in the IDF: Uniquely Talented Soldiers
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

Regardless of age, parents play an important role in their children’s lives.

Marriage-Relationship-logo

We peel away one layer after the next, our eyes tear up and it becomes harder and harder to see as we get closer to our innermost insecurities and fears.

Gorsky-041814-Torah

Some Mountain Jews believe they are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes and were exiled to Azerbaijan and Dagestan by Sancheriv.

Baim-041814-Piggy

Yom Tov is about spending time with your family. And while for some families the big once-in-a-lifetime experience is great, for others something low key is the way to go.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Dear Dr. Yael:

My heart is breaking; my husband’s friend has gotten divorced. While this type of situation is always sad, here I do believe it could have been avoided.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

More Articles from Erica Lyons

If your hero is fictional you could be crazy. And if they happen to be real, they are likely human and, unfortunately, inevitably flawed.

Lyons-101813-During

I left my mother a message saying goodbye and pleading with her to make sure my son grew up knowing how much I loved him.

In the quaint and picturesque Hungarian town of Szentendre (Saint Andrew), just outside of Budapest, our group of five new friends who had gathered from throughout the Jewish world bask in the sunlight, seemingly frozen in time. We weave along the cobblestone streets browsing in and out of charming little shops offering handmade crafts, delicate latticework, whimsical wooden toys and intricately painted porcelain. We sit outside and feast on pastries that look more like art than edibles and ice coffee is reminiscent of ice cream floats.

It started as my daughter’s third grade assignment: choose a person to write about, preferably an American, preferably a Jew. We were going to do just that. I intended to help my daughter choose the topic and then to back away yet, Emma Lazarus ended up drawing me in.

I met Mr. E at a poetry reading. Hong Kong’s literary scene is small and two Americans reading in one evening was an unusual event. We became Facebook friends, generally “liking” the same local literary events and book launches.

A Hong Kong symphony of sounds fills the air as local laborers shout across the shul courtyard in Cantonese while tossing bamboo in a pile for the sukkah: Filipino maids chatter in Tagalog hovering over the children in their charge, the radio of the Nepalese gurkhas, the Synagogue security, crackles and jackhammers provide the background music. The thick air and humidity within the walls of the partially constructed bamboo sukkah sharply contrasts with the crisp fall air of Sukkot in the northeastern corridor of the United States, where the sukkahs of my childhood were laden with dried fruit and autumn color. Dozens of colorful miniature Chinese paper lanterns dangle from the sukkah and here replace the burnt orange and golden gourds of autumn.

In an effort to procrastinate, I occasionally like to bounce some ideas around. As I work from home with only my two cats for company, this often means waiting until my children return home from school.

Hong Kong’s Ohel Leah Synagogue recently celebrated the dedication of a new Sefer Torah. Britain’s Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Lady Elaine Sacks joined Rabbi Asher Oser and Assistant Rabbi Ariel Zamir of Ohel Leah at the festivities. Also present were Rabbi Mordechai Avtzon of Chabad of Hong Kong, Rabbis Meir Azarzar and Avner Cohen from the Shuva Israel community, and the sofer, Rabbi Yehonatan Yitzhak-Halevy. Hundreds of members of the Hong Kong Jewish community participated as well.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/feautures-on-jewish-world/on-rye-please-hold-the-stereotypes/2012/06/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: