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“Throughout recent history, the sexual heroes have been the Clark Gables, Humphrey Bogarts, Gregory Pecks, Robert Redfords,” reads the foreword of the book, which I have on loan from a friend’s personal irony library. It’s divided into subsections (“The Jewish Man and Things,” “When He Takes You Home for Dinner”), each of which contains a list of observations on the topic, usually starting with “he” (“He folds, never crumples, the paper”).“Now, today, the Elliot Goulds, George Segals, Dustin Hoffmans herald the beginning of a new super sex star: the Jewish man.” It’s basically a humor book (we’ll get to that), but the core premise—we heart Jewish men, warts and all—is not winking or sarcastic; it’s entirely serious. Some are straightforward (“He uses hand lotion”); some have embellishments that make them less unfunny than they could be (“He has never washed his own clothes [even in the Army]”); some achieve the spare, abstruse genius of a Zen koan (“He is aged 30 to 55 whether he is or he isn’t”).Sandor Gardos, who are willing to put their full names next to statements like, “Jewish men are always more attentive,” give the book the veneer of actual self-help, and several Amazon reviewers indicate that they bought it for advice when dating someone Jewish. Sadder still, makes a decidedly more rigorous attempt at wit, but the stereotypes are still the same: Jewish men as metrosexual mama’s boys who are neurotic yet giving in the sack.The books also share an exhausted yet apparently unshakable meta-premise: “the Jews, they’re all the more grating is the publishing environment that spawned it.“To find a Shiksa with a hilariously high-maintenance mixture of strength and prowess is an utter utopia for the libidinous Jew,” observes author Kristina Grish.I realize it’s a challenge to write a book about Jewish men without repeating the phrase “Jewish man.” Tip: give up.Lynn Harris, a Tablet Magazine contributing editor, writes regularly for Salon, The New York Times, Glamour, and other publications. Click here for access to comments COMMENTING CHARGES Daily rate: Monthly rate: Yearly rate: 0 WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge.
In 1978, for example, The Jewish Man was proclaimed “the new sexual hero.” This pronouncement was made in a now out-of-print book called , but stay with me.The Union for Reform Judaism, concerned about sending the message that the movement “does not care” whether or not non-Jews convert, recently called upon synagogues to increase their efforts to encourage conversion of non-Jewish spouses. To others, it’s telling the truth: we are a Jewish organization; we love you no matter what, but we’d love, lurve, luff you if you were Jewish.In short, the matter is more complicated than it is “kooky”—and fortunately for those mixed couples who are serious about the longer run, there are plenty of “serious” guides to negotiating interreligious relationships, with or without conversion.The larger irony is this: Jews, for better or for worse, don’t find the whole inter-dating/intermarriage thing all that hilarious.Admittedly, I can’t walk a foot in the Friars Club without hearing the one about the Jew and the Native American who named their kid Whitefish—but arguably, that joke’s less about making light of intermarriage than it is about stereotyping another worse-off group.
Worrisome as the specter of “losing” Jews may be, the Reform movement—and, to some degree, the Conservative—has come to realize that welcoming mixed-faith couples is precisely what can help the Jewish community to grow.