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Helpless

The nebbish is the bumbling caricature of a Jewish male, embodied by figures like Woody Allen and George Costanza. Where did he come from?

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(Victoria Roberts/The New Yorker)
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Flexing Some Muscle

The boxers and strongmen who turned the image of the Jewish nebbish on its head

The Tattler is a new weekly column on contemporary culture.

There’s a cartoon in this week’s New Yorker. A couple—shlumpy, but clearly urban—are seated at a coffee table, reading a newspaper that, judging from its sheer girth, can only be the one of record. The woman looks toward her bald, bespectacled companion with what seems to be a triumphant gasp. “They found the nebbish gene,” reads the caption. Cue the mildly amused titters.

My question to this: Are you sure it’s just the one gene? Surely only some intricate combinations of chromosomal abnormality could result in the entire Nebbish spectrum of the past 40 years: the Hipster Nebbish (crumpled tweed jackets and phobic hand-wringing of early Woody Allen); the Slacker Nebbish (one of Judd Apatow’s sheepish heroes, with bong in one hand and an Xbox controller in the other); the Toxic Nebbish (see George Costanza, the most irately Jewish son of Tuscany ever committed to film). There’s the Nebbish Who Never Gets Laid, the Nebbish Who Screws Up Getting Laid, the Nebbish Who Is Inexplicably Laid by Gorgeous and Understanding Shiksa, also known as Wish Fulfillment Nebbish. (Mattel, if you’re listening, I am available to design action figures.)

Still, all varietals of Nebbish have a few noxious traits in common: fear, helplessness, and overwhelming Jewishness. The Nebbish is always Jewish, even if he’s not actually a Jew, to the point where he’s become synonymous with Jewish manhood itself, embedded, if you will, in his DNA. Which is weird, because in the first half of the 20th century, Jewish men were depicted in popular culture as plucky young strivers eager to leave behind the stultifying Old World for the sexy and welcoming embrace of the New (a la Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer) or scrappy immigrant street kids and shtarkers getting ahead by any means necessary, an image helped along by the real-life exploits of Jewish (or Jew-ish) boxers like Max Baer and Jake LaMotta, and less flatteringly, the rise of Jewish gangsters like Dutch Schultz and Louis Buchalter. As the poverty—and subsequent criminality—of the urban ghetto began to fade, a new archetype of Jewish masculinity began its ascendance. Call the representatives of this last the Kirk Douglas Jews: tough, smart, deeply moral (in Kirk’s iconoclastic way), fiercely (if not unquestioningly) patriotic, equally at home in the cockpit of a fighter plane as in the arms of a pert-nosed blonde or four. This was the Jew as hard-nosed, Hemingway-esque Man of Action of the sort recorded reverently by Norman Mailer and incisively by Saul Bellow, lampooned by Joseph Heller, libidinized—and later, eulogized—by Phillip Roth; men whose response to anti-Semites was moral outrage and/or dignified pummeling, as opposed to imagining themselves cowering across the dinner table.

Then the baby boomers grew up, and suddenly, men whose fathers had been D-Day bombardiers couldn’t figure out how to change the bulbs in the newly installed track lighting. Anti-Semitism was replaced by fretting about anti-Semitism. Anxiety about sex became the new sex (particularly when the ugly specter of AIDS provided the irresistible chance for white heterosexual males to conflate sex and hypochondria, the gift that keeps on giving); the Men of Action became Men of Feelings. (And so many feelings! And are they the right feelings? What does my therapist have to say about my feelings? Just a minute, I need to call him about how my mother is responsible for my feelings. Go ahead, start eating without me.) In the space of two generations, the emblematic symbol of Jewish manhood went from Kirk Douglas to Albert Brooks to that guy from the Apatow movies whose name I can’t remember who was in that one movie where he started dating the lesbian nanny from Sex and the City 2 and all his equally nebbishy and unattractive friends were like, “Dude, she’s so out of your league!” Wait, that’s what it was called: She’s Out of Your League.

I know this is just a New Yorker cartoon, but on behalf of Jewish womanhood, I feel it is incumbent on me to ask: How the hell did this happen? And why?

It’s almost too obvious to mention, but to make sense of the shift in Jewish masculine identity from its prewar to postwar incarnations, we’ve got to look at what happened in the interim. I’ll give you a hint: It’s depressing, it’s German, and it rhymes with “the Schmolocaust.” For the prewar generation of American Jewish men (my grandfather among them), World War II was a transformational event, a chance to unimpeachably cement their American identities by fighting for their country. Their children and grandchildren, however—the future Nebbish Generations—would view the war overwhelmingly through the lens of the Holocaust and its primacy in Jewish education, which in its single-minded focus on Auschwitz as the definitive image of the Jewish wartime experience has virtually drowned any narrative of Jewish heroism in the vast sea of Jewish helplessness. Who wants to hear Grandpa’s stories about Hawaii when you can terrify yourself with eyewitness accounts of Josef Mengele?

It’s precisely this helplessness that I’ve always thought to be the most lasting terror of the Holocaust—and the cause for much of the at times hysterical derangement that surrounds its discussion—on the Jewish psyche. We’re taught to take pride in having stubbornly hung on so long when so many would have destroyed us. How does one make sense of a situation that was virtually impossible to survive?

This existential question is difficult enough for a woman to reckon with. For a man, traditionally entrusted with the physical protection of his family, it is unthinkable. Hence the Nebbish: a person who reclaims, even celebrates, this helplessness and trivializes it beyond the possibility of terror. “How in the hell,” the Nebbish seems to ask, “am I supposed to be part of an international Bolshevist-banking conspiracy to take over the world when I can’t even get my mother off my back about who I’m dating?”

Which brings us to the mother. And the dating.

It’s hardly a secret that Jewish culture has a nasty chauvinistic streak. The Jewish mother and the JAP, two of the greatest figures of fun in secular American-Jewish humor, are also indefensibly misogynistic, often with an ugly double-edge: A Jewish mother joke, for example, ridicules her self-serving martyrdom while not-so-subtly implying that a woman should properly be expected to sacrifice everything for her children, seeking no personal fulfillment outside of them; jokes about the JAP being repelled by sex quietly reinforce the idea that it would be unseemly for her to feel otherwise. When the advent of feminism and the sexual revolution—led, it should be noted, most vociferously by Jewish women—turned this conventional wisdom on its head, the nascent Nebbish Generation fought back with a technique they learned at their long-suffering mothers’ knee: deadly emotional blackmail: “So, you’re coming for my balls? I’ll just cut them off myself and save you the trouble!”

It was a brilliant move. Nothing deflates a righteous warrior like the sudden lack of a worthy adversary. Rather than engage women as equals, the Nebbish takes himself out the equation entirely. He exaggerates his bewilderment at the world to such an extent as to force the woman back into the role of de facto caretaker, while neatly absolving himself of the less savory elements of traditional masculinity, such as “making a living” or “going to war.” Women, then, are left holding the bag, buying the toilet paper, and finding themselves oddly nostalgic for the days of violent assholes like Norman Mailer, who kept his sexism right out where you could see it, on the end of his knife. The war of the sexes will be won with weapons of passive-aggression. Only the Jews could have been so smart. Besides, we’re the only ones who read New Yorker cartoons.

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Few Things says:

1. Better being stereotyped as nebbish than as terrorists (like Muslims) or violent alcoholics etc (Russians, Irish).

2. Stereotypes on Israelis are the exact opposite than ‘nebbish’.

why is it so impossible for Tablet readers to focus on the task at hand? She’s not talking about Russians or Irish or Muslims, or even Israelis–she clearly states this is a questions of AMERICAN Jewish men. Sorry, but those are the comments that really burn me up. I thought this was a great piece.

Pesele says:

It goes back much, much further. See Daniel Boyarin’s work, especially Unheroic Conduct.

Bennett Muraskin says:

George Costanza was not a Jewish character. Seinfeld was the only Jew among the leading players. Now if you are talking Newman…..then you may have something

What nonsense. Since when did Woody Allen set all images for American Jews? Are the mayors of our two biggest cities (LA and NY) nebbishes? The five or six senators? True, we don’t have many left in the boxing ring, but most ethnic groups eventually lift themselves out of that gladiator-like craziness. Sometimes, a New Yorker cartoon is just a New Yorker cartoon.

George’s mother is supposed to be jewish, and you’re not really going to tell me he’s not a jewish character, even if we wasn’t technically jewish. come on.

I think you need to tie this more directly to the Ashkenazi ethos in Europe, where the most esteemed male was not a man of action, but a perpetual religious student, supported by his father-in-law or wife, who only “learned.” Of course the shtetyl had its share of toughs: butchers, enforcers, gamblers and even farmers. The culture was dominated by Rabbis (not royals or soldiers) and cherished the pale, frail, defenseless yeshivah bucher. This is the image that the Zionists, Bundists and Communisits derided as “bench warmers” and reacted against. Ironcially, it has been American prosperity that has allowed these “boys” to flourish more than ever before (just go to Borough Park). Your nebbish is merely a secular manifestation of this figure who has always been a part of Jewish culture.

Phil N says:

It is the big lie. My son the nose tackle (all confrence) and heavy weight wrestler (state qualifier) would take strong issue with the portrayal of Jewish men as nebishes. I think it was created by nebishes (such as Woody Allen) as an excuse for lack of physical achievement.

I appreciate the humerous literary and cinematographic appeal of the Jew-ish male nebbish, whether his Jewishness is actual, as in the case of Woody Allen, or more of a psychological personality trait, as in the George Costanza example.

But a deeper examination shows that the historical perception has some not-so- funny ramifications. While Jews were known as entirely able warriors as far back as biblical times, and fought with valour for virtually every combattant country or empire over the years, they presented no military or political threat for the countries they represented.

Despite their relatively comfortable situation in the Ottoman Empire, especially during the earlier period and even some financial and local political influence, their dhimmi status ensured a submissive and unimposing posture to the powers that be (or were, in the Ottoman case). Whenever political, military, or even strong religious threats would surface, this was when unrest against Jews would flair.

The emergence of what Menachem Begin called “The fighting Jew”, long relegated to examples such as muted celebrations like Hanukkah, where the actual “fighting” aspect was understandably minimized, for centuries, upset this previously unthreatening apple cart. The advent of a political, and subsequent military strident (and eminently capable) Zionism caught the world off guard. This started in the development of Israel, was underlined quite dramatically by the Warsaw Uprising, and reached its zenith in 1948 and ultimately 1967. I am firmly convinced that the shocking shattering of the image of Jews as dhimmi, figuratively outside the Moslem world, but quite literally within it, is at the core of not only the actual Arab/Israeli conflict, but the larger dismay shown Israel (and unfortunately Jews in general) by the formerly Christian (read left-leaning) world.

And then they marry Gentile women. Sigh.

Therry Neilsen-Steinhardt says:

Poor and therefore criminal? Huh?

Here we have hapless helpless little mommy’s helper on the one hand and big baddy brown terrorists on the other…what’s not to love?

David Sucher says:

Well said, Dave. So well said I would like to emphasize that others read it and consider:

“… the shocking shattering of the image of Jews as dhimmi, figuratively outside the Moslem world, but quite literally within it, is at the core of not only the actual Arab/Israeli conflict, but the larger dismay shown Israel (and unfortunately Jews in general) by the formerly Christian (read left-leaning) world.”

Yes, an awful lot of the issues around Israel (and Jews) comes down to Gentile shock about ”Jews with guns.” I mean, do you really think that the Saudis would have ever cared about Palestinians had the Egyptians and Jordanians been tussling over about the area west of the Jordan? No one cared about Palestine until the Jews came back. Sadly, it has nothing to do with Paledtinians and all about Jews, with guns.

David, it’s so livening to see that paranoia has such a long self life in a paranoid personality such as you.

The nebbish award for a radio personality goes to Ira Glass from “This American Life”.

David Zohar says:

I take it that the Nebbish is now the ideal American Jewish role model?

Oy Vey.

David Zohar,Jerusalem

Martin Sage says:

Herb Gardner the playwright who wrote “A Thousand Clowns and The Goodbye People created the cartoon Nebbish characters. From Wikipedia—While a student at Antioch, he began drawing The Nebbishes. The comic strip was picked up by the Chicago Tribune and syndicated to 60-75 major newspapers from 1959 to 1961. Even before syndication, the Gardner characters were a national craze, marketed on statuettes, studio cards, barware (including cocktail napkins), wall decorations and posters. In 1960, after “the balloons were getting larger and larger, and there was hardly any drawing left”, he dropped it and began writing plays.

David Sucher says:

@Jules.Calling the kettle black, eh? You hide behind the anonymity of “Jules” — so what paranoia prompts you? But let’s put aside inappropriate ad hominem remarks.

I can’t see how paranoia fits in to my comment of yesterday.

It’s an observation. It may be incorrect objectively, or in your view. But what’s the least bit paranoid about stating that part of the problem with the Arab perspective on Israel is their psychological shock at seeing a nation of “Jews with guns?” Isn’t it well-known that the Arabs (in 1948) we’re sure of Arab prowess and certain that they could drive Israel into the sea? And also well-known that an element of Sadat’s 1973 attack (and not without some success) was to avenge Arab manhood on upstart dhimmis?

The nebbish Arthur Miller marries Marilyn Monroe, as does the Woody Allen has relationships with Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton not to mention the young Soon Yi. The nebbish is the “modest dress” the “sheitel” created for Jewish me to keep the “Evil Eye” off. Nebbish is a talisman to ward of gentile insecurities. Poor Italians, they can be ugly, but always Lotharios and Romeos.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/demographic_duo/

Interesting analysis…but let’s not forget, Arthur Miller’s “Focus” about a non-Jewish “nebbish” with thick glasses who is attacked by anti-semites was not a post-holocaust novel, Philip Roth (whom the writer puts in the category of writers extolling the “pre Shoah masculine idea) wrote after the Holocaust..and let’s not forget the masculinity of David Mamet characters…definitely after the Holocaust. Also, Zionism’s response to this “nebbishness” which was definitely more Kirk Douglas style than Woody Allen

Joachim says:

The Real Origin of the Nebbich

(How modern America maps to 16th and 17th century Poland)

The Polish government from the medieval to early modern period treated different ethnic groups functionally in a sort of caste system and gave them full autonomy as long as they fulfilled their designated role. Polish Armenians had a governing council called the Voit while in principle the Council of the Four Lands, to which the most important Jewish communities (kehillot) sent delegates, ruled Polish Jewry from the 16th until the 18th century when the Jewish Council failed to meet its tax obligations.

The Polish government effectively gave Polish Jews control of internal distribution of goods within Poland in addition to the role that they played in international trade from the beginning of the development of a distinct Polish Jewish community.

From the 16th century onward a segment of Polish Jews partnered with the magnate class of Polish Szlachta (Gentry) in the highly exploitive arenda (estate management) system, which squeezed the serfs and peasants for practically everything they had and which has tremendous similarity to Friedmanite Neoliberal economic doctrine.

Because increasing Jewish economic might was potentially threatening to the Polish ruling class, Polish Jews began to affect a sort of effeminate public style and culture in order to demonstrate that Jews were really harmless and that non-Jews should not be worried at the wealth and influence that Jews were gaining.

David, stick it as far up your ass as it will go.

Joachim says:

Dear David Sucher, Why should Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and decent human beings in general accept the theft and ethnic cleansing of Palestine by a bunch of racist murderous genocidal Eastern European invaders, interlopers and thieves?

Dear Joachim, Why should knowledgeable Jews and decent human beings in general accept the rant of an obvious Jew-hater like yourself. It has been conclusively proven by genetic and DNA testing in recent decades that ALL Jews, whether ashkenazi, sephardic or mizrahi are virtually identical genetically. It has also been conclusively researched and proven that 90% of the arabs living in Israel, Judea and Samaria and Gaza are descended from arabs and other moslems who migrated into the area between World war 1 and 2 in search of jobs.

The arabs invaded and conquered the Middle east and Islam ruled for 1200 years. In 1948 the Jews returned to reclaim their homeland.

Hershl says:

You offer zero historical facts to back up your assertions of the origin of the nebbish.

Do you know enough Yiddish to trace the word’s use and development?

There is no evidence of that in your article.

Why even write an article about something which you demonstrate abundant ignorance?

You are making a fool of yourself and destroying whatever credibility you may have had as a writer by attaching your name to such articles.

Bill Pearlman says:

Jules and Martillo are like dog shit on the street. You can hose it off but it just comes back.

JCarpenter says:

such hatred from nebbishim obsessed with argument and politics; I’m glad to be just a shlemiel who enjoys life and people—fun article, Rachel

Thank you for covering this topic, and writing in such a humorous manner! I’m glad to see some background on this strange view on the book-wormy maybe-rabbinical more-or-less-secularized Jewish male.

The fact is that everybody likes Jews as long as they are submissive, weak victims. When Jews suddenly want to stand up for themselves (ie…Israel) like every other group, they are criticized. The nebbish is a self-defense response to hundreds of years of prosecution of both Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. What the Europeans and Arabs have in common today is that they can’t accept that their former victims can now defend themselves.

Joachim says:

As far as I know, the equivalent of the Yiddish nebbich (a word of Slavic origin) does not exist among Jewish Arab or Jewish Ibero-Berber populations.

Often Czech or Polish origins are suggested although a somewhat implausible Westjiddisch source occasionally appears in the literature.

The common pronunciation is consistent with hypothesizing that the word spread to Eastern European ethnic Ashkenazi communities within approximately two generations of the mass conversion of Czech Hussites to Judaism.

Joachim says:

Here is a relevant discussion of Zionist Racial Science: http://eaazi.blogspot.com/2005/07/zionazi-racial-science_03.html

Joachim says:

Dear Justin,

The image of the book-wormy maybe Rabbinical more or less secularized Jewish male is obviously something that starts in the late 19th and early 20th century after secularization made massive inroads among Eastern European Jews.

It is worth mentioning that the Yeshiva Academy in Czarist Poland is a modern innovation in Jewish learning and was a 19th century response to the fonye (Czarist draft) and worked on the principle of deferment for religious studies.

Because the modern Yeshiva academy developed in a period of secularization and because many of the students often became secular revolutionary intellectuals, the image of the ethnic Ashkenazi intellectual became intertwined with the image of the Rabbinical student.

Great little essay. Years ago, I did some stand up comedy and played with something called “Guess what, Hitler won.” It didn’t go over so good, but it was about how Hitler helped Jews define ourselves as, yes, outside of Israel, total wimps. In truth, the reason it didn’t work as comedy was I was too pedantic. Besides, more than getting people to laugh, I was most interested in challenging typical (and what I saw as typically lame) Jewish humor. Which uses self-deprecation to actually celebrate Jewish entitlement. The basic comic structure is the Jew isn’t mechanical or strong or capable, so we hire others to do our grunt work. The comedy, again, demeans Jews in a superficial sense, but then crows about our power over others – the underlying theme, we have money and smarts for others to bow to us.

Two things pissed me off about the humor. In my own life the Jewish men fixed things and though neither my dad or I was a great athlete, he liked hunting and fishing and had trapped and trained horses as a kid. He wanted to introduce that all to me but I was more interested in urban street ball. In truth, I was a lousy athlete but loved sports. And so did my best friend, also Jewish, who was one of the best quarterbacks on our NYC street where there weren’t a lot of Jews. The “Jewish humor” (or nebbish) just seemed like an existential ghetto from which I longed for escape – and not by going after shiksas but something more interesting – as I had two Jewish sisters who were beautiful and whom I loved as much as I fought, so Jewish women had as much appeal as non-Jews. But the other reason I hated the nebbish bits was it seemed to restrict Jews from thinking more imaginatively about their relationship with non-Jews, the same way the whole “chosen people” label is such a drag. As if we had a dependence rather than any real connection. It all seems to demand we live in walled gardens that are painfully hermetic and dull, if not actually bigoted.

Joachim says:

The word really isn’t nebbish. It is nebbikh with an ach-laut.

Anyway, if Jews indoctrinate themselves with a false narrative of Jewish victimhood, should we be surprised that the nebikh pops out?

There are other points of view in genuine Jewish literature and not the whiny stuff that American Jews read.

Find a copy of Steel and Iron by I J Singer, who was the best writer of the singer family. (The Yiddish is much better than the English translation.)

Mentsh only means a decent human being in debased Yinglish. In real Yiddish it refers to a virile tough guy or hero — someone that has omerta.

“Za a mentsh” means “be a man”, “have courage”, “don’t be a crybaby” despite the ignorant scribbling of Ruth Wisse, the vile racist witch of Harvard Zioland.

George says:

This whole thing started , I believe, with the rise to fame of Woody Allen in the 60′s. I grew up in the South bronx of the 1950′s and 1960′s and we had our share of Casper Milquetoasts’s, but no more than any other ethnicity. Most of the jewish guys were ‘street’ guys. We played sports,had our fistfights, gambled, ran after girls and had more than a few clashes with baseball bats with the Puerto Ricans who were starting to move into the neighborhood. So this nebbish character was never a male model for anyone I knew, whether a friend or family member.

I think that the rise of the nebbish has more to do with class than gender. The nebbish traits were always present in Ashkenazi Jewish culture along with the anti-nebbish traits. Jews from working or lower middle class backgrounds were always depicted with anti-nebbish traits. In the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Duddy and his classmates are presented as a difficult bunch of kids rather than hard working students. As the number of Jews that qualify as working or lower middle class decreased than so did depictions of Jews with anti-nebbish traits in media decrease.

It helps that a lot of Jews in media are nebbish themselves.

“Besides, we’re the only ones who read New Yorker cartoons.”

???????????????????

How do you know this? Got any statistics to support this מעשוגענע claim?

There is so much wrong with this essay that it’s hard to know where to begin.

The writer shows no sign of having done any research at all (another commenter notes that she doesn’t discuss the derivation of the word). Certainly there’s nothing here to suggest that she relied upon anything but her own sense of popular culture. Is she so young that she fails to realize that the image of the feminized male Jews goes back centuries? And does she understand so little about U.S. social history that she failed to broaden her analysis and note ways in which other (non-Anglo Saxon) immigrant groups were stigmatized in order to rob them of power? (For example, Irishmen portrayed as drunks and criminals; Chinese men as small and self-effacing; Polish men as ignorant; and all “foreign” women as sexually promiscuous/exotic. Often, immigrant men who were stereotyped in these ways stigmatized women in their own group in turn; thus, we have the JAP, the Jewish mother, and so on. In this way, the oppressed who are unable to fight back against their oppressors turn on those in weaker positions than themselves.)

An excellent place to start reading on this topic would have been “Fighting to Become Americans” by Riv-Ellen Prell.

By the way, “varietals” are types of wine; the author means “varieties. And “noxious” means “poisonous” or otherwise literally harmful; the writer means “obnoxious.” Seriously, are there no editors anymore??

George says:

Liz, I don’t know where you get your ‘information’ from but you’re mistaken. The only widely found stereotypical image of the Jew which goes back hundreds and hundreds of years is that of the greedy money-grubber, the Shylock character. This feminized ‘Jew’ is a creation of the second-half of the 20th century. It coincided with the rise of the Feminist movement, and the appearance of characters like the one Woody Allen built a career on.If you look at popular culture of the last 50 years, there has been a shift from the dingbat wife, so excellently portrayed in the Archie Bunker series to the feminized,insecure male who Allen represented.

Joachim says:

George, it is quite easy to find both Jewish and gentile discussions of German Jewish or Eastern European male effeminacy during the 19th century and before.

I recommend Geschlecht und Charakter by Otto Weininger as a starting point. I saw an English translation when I was a Harvard student back in the 70s. It was atrocious. I have heard that there is a newer and better English rendering of the text.

Smart Jews by Sander Gilman makes a tiny portion of this discussion accessible in English.

Joachim says:

BTW, if you dig deep enough to find people that knew Woody Allen as a teenager, they will probably tell you that he was a high school bully.

Great article. I see so many of these self deprecating stereotypes take on a life of their own in our communities, becoming excuses to act badly and taking an easy way out of the work that needs to be done to reaffirm and coalesce Judaism for the modern world.

Lee makes a good point about it being about class as much as about Jewishness.
Anyone that knows anything about “schtetl life” knows it was freakin hard. Look at the old pictures of the women sewing, or the men cutting down trees or blacksmiths, butchers or carpenters (my great-grandfather’s life).
Life was hard, physically, and the idea that “my little tattelah shouldn’t get his hands dirty” has more to do with getting them studying and into a good college and never returning to that hard life than anything DIRECTLY related to Jewishness. The vast majority of our great-grandparents didn’t want their kids to disappear into Yeshivas either – they were Jewish, not meshugganah Jewish (proven by the fact that 90% of their kids LEFT Orthodoxy).

It’s more American too, you don’t see this stereotype as strongly in Lat Am or S African Jews, certainly not in Israeli Jews, and as the author alluded too, it rose just before the explosion of the JAP, but after the “Jewish mother” stereotype (called the “Polish mother” in Israel) became another “too easy not to use” phrase about most Jews.

Carl makes another great point about the Christian and Muslim worlds tolerating the “Jews” much better as long as they are submissive — I’d add “pets.”
As long as the Jews do their bidding, they’re fine (see Iran today). When they got too powerful and “uppity,” then the sh*t hit the fan.

Rachel, Smayshul. Jewish womanhood, huh? You mean those ugly people? With the orange hair?

“the emblematic symbol of Jewish manhood went from Kirk Douglas to Albert Brooks
to that guy from the Apatow movies whose name”

Jay Baruchel, the actor you’re talking about, is 1/4 Jewish. Why exactly is he being used as an example here, and not one of his fellow quarter Jews, like Zac Efron or Chris Pine?

Oh, I know why, because people like you are the ones who keep linking Jewishness to nebbishness in articles such as these. If the quarter Jew is an annoying nerd like Jay Baruchel, he automatically becomes “Jewish”. And if the full-blooded Jew is good-looking/non-nerdy, they magically become non-Jewish. For example, fully Jewish actor Logan Lerman, of today, looks just like fully Jewish actor Tony Curtis of the 1950s, so the 1950s non-nebbishes are not gone. But what’s happened to those Kirk Douglas types is writers like you weren’t around back then.

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Helpless

The nebbish is the bumbling caricature of a Jewish male, embodied by figures like Woody Allen and George Costanza. Where did he come from?

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