May 21, 1998
Readers: When itcomes to Jewish men and women and the great, complicated knot oflove, hate, passion, contempt and yearning, Jewish Journal readers --in this case, men -- are outspoken. These responses and excerpts areto Headin' for the Exit ("Renounces Jewish Women," April 17), a manwho, despite his desire for a Jewish family, is frustrated by Jewishwomen and what he perceives to be their shortcomings. A curiousfactor: Only one woman responded. Could this be because they do notwish to dignify such stereotyping with a response? Or perhaps it isbecause they are so used to it that they have become inured to theseslurs. I hope the replies of the following men will evoke a responsefrom our Jewish sisters. And I've given our lone female correspondentthe last word.
For a week, I've been puzzled. Why did a pictureof Cybill Shepherd and the caption "Cybill Shepard [sic], a primeexample of a non-Jewish woman" appear smack dab in the middle of yourcolumn. Actually, the picture and caption have kept myshiksa wife andme cheery for the week. Was this picture related to the Headin' forthe Exit letter, a piece of sexism that did not deserve an airingunless, of course, it was to expose Jewish sexism? Unlikely, becauseyour response missed the point, failing to mention that in the"collective unconscious of millennia of Jewish generations," there isenormous sexism.
You probably know about the recent addition of anorange to the Seder plate. The story goes that back in the distant1980s, when some representative Jewish man heard a woman speak out infavor of women in the rabbinate, he said, "A woman belongs on thebimah like anorange belongs on the Seder plate." Although Jews take pride in ourefforts to eradicate racism, not until the Renewal Movement have wemade an effort to expose and eradicate sexism.
Back to the caption. It's OK to use the word"shiksa." It's no more disparaging than the word Jew. A book reviewin a recent issue of The New Yorker started out with the line, "Leaveit to a goy towrite the definitive novel about Israel." These words are OK if whatis in our hearts about non-Jews is clean and honest.
Anyway, to set the record straight, the shiksa cumlaude du jour is Meg Ryan.
It seemed so obvious that Headin' for the Exit'sstereotypes were sexist that it didn't warrant mention. Apparently, Iwas mistaken. That said, let's save the discussion of the sexism of"millennia of Jewish generations" for another column -- and inanother lifetime. I like my job.
As for the photograph of Cybill Shepherd, alas,the art director is responsible for column illustrations andcaptions.
As for the use of words such as "shiksa" and"goy," frankly, I am certain that there were many others who, likeme, winced at the word "goy" in the New Yorker book review of RobertStone's "Damascus Gate." Perhaps when certain words become diluted byuse, they lose their bite. On the other hand, what's next? "I knowthis kike. Ha,ha, just kidding. Some of my best friends...."
You know what I mean? Sometimes words hurt, bethey Latin, Yiddish or French -- despite what is in one'sheart.
I was married to a JAP (Jewish American Princess)from New York City the first time around. She parted when I didn'tget her the new car she requested for her birthday. That was only oneyear after the marriage. The second time around, I married aChristian, and we are still happily married 20 years later. Most ofmy Jewish friends have had similar experiences.
Ugh. I can't even believe I am including thisshort excerpt of your diatribe, but I felt compelled to do so becauseit really was representatitive of many letters. Some wereworse.
My experience is more general in that truly warm,considerate, intelligent women are rather rare. Restricting oneselfto Jewish women for marriage is too optimistic in this materialisticworld.
Some Jewish women I have dated were rather quickin pointing out my shortcomings, even on a first encounter. My worldhas enough adversaries and critics, and I prefer not to formattachments with persons whose first thoughts are critical. I try toaccept criticism when I am sure that my companion is "on myside."
Read on for one woman's opinion.
After reading Headin's letter, I felt compelled torespond to his charges. I too want to marry and raise a Jewishfamily; however, I have dated only Jewish men and would neverconsider dating or marrying a non-Jew. Headin' complains that Jewishwomen are calculating and have agendas; non-Jewish women on the otherhand, are "just happy to be with you" and "do things for you becausethey want to do things for you." My experience with Jewish men isthat when I have been with someone I was "just happy being with," hepreferred his calculating former girlfriend. And when I did thingsfor Jewish men "just because I wanted to," my efforts were viewedwith suspicion that I must want something in return orunappreciated.
Deborah, a similar indictment against Jewish menmight read as follows: 1) They are scared -- period. 2) They aresuspicious of Jewish women's motives. 3) They feel they are too youngto settle down unless they are in their late 30s. 4) They prefer toamass material wealth rather than marry and have children while youngand build a life with their family.
So, is there any solution to this problem? I thinkthe answer might be that we need to consider our future sooner,realize that we don't have forever, and try to recognize when youhave found what you are looking for.
Would it not be refreshing if we considered thepeople who pass through (or remain in) our lives on a case-by-casebasis, without ever needing to generalize about Jews, or any race,religion or gender?
Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angelespsychotherapist.
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