Stereotypes Shouldn’t Affect Your Religion

May 28, 2024
Ella Marks

Northbrook, Illinois, United States

Class of 2026

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“So my family like killed yours because I'm German,” my friend says in a calm voice before an eruption of laughter fills the room I’m sitting in. I simply smile and share a pity laugh at the casual anti-semitic comment that I'm oh-so-used to.

When I mention, "Yes, I am a Jew,” I typically get two reactions. Either the grin of meeting a fellow Jew, the one that understands my religion, and the one that speaks so much without saying anything. Or the one filled with the words I would prefer not to hear.      


“Heil Hitler!”

“Why aren't you dead”

“Oh, you’re a Jew, you don't look like one”

Although my button nose contrasts with a “normal big Jewish nose” and my clothes are far too short to be considered orthodox, yes I am a Jew. Bat mitzvah, 99% Ashkenazi, Hebrew school graduate, BBYO member, Jew. I live in the North Shore, a place with a large Jewish population. I know the Israel National Anthem by heart. And I even go to a Jewish sleep-away camp for 8 weeks each summer. But still, for some, I'm either too Jewish or not enough. 

When I go to Temple and face all the glares from the Jewish bubbies, a nickname for a Jewish grandma, as I walk to my seat, I know they are judging me for showing too much cleavage, too much legs, too much shoulders, too much me. I simply give them a cheery smile and focus on the prayer for forgiveness.

To others, I'm too Jewish, much shown by the shocked face when I told my friend I had only eaten pork three times in my life, all of which were accidental. Or when I strut into school wearing all Lululemon, my Tiffany Star of David necklace, and iced chai in my hand, leading to the common JAP (Jewish American Princess - a term used to describe a certain type of Jewish girl) comment. A Vox article explains how the term originally became popular in the 1950s to describe a trendy, snobby, rich Jewish girl. But is that me?

For starters, I don't have a spare grand to spend on a Gucci bag or a new Kendra Scott necklace. I try to put others before myself and focus on Tikkun Olam, the practice of giving to others.           

Yes, my dad may be a lawyer, but I still work an after-school job at my local ice rink for money. I don't demand perfection, simply embody mistakes. When I straighten my wavy hair it doesn't make me less Jewish, it's simply just a style. Why immediately assume that my outgoing personality makes me the same as the rest? 

I'm not going to simply sit and look pretty for my Jewish husband but rather speak my mind. I like to be aggressive when playing defense in lacrosse, instead of dancing. I'm a competitive person and won't back down, even against a guy.

All these expectations make me question why I can’t practice Judaism the way I want to. What's so wrong about enjoying Temple and beautiful melodies, while wearing a dress that's a little too short? It's the emotion that counts. Why should you judge someone's outside appearance and immediately use hurtful words when they could be one of the kindest people you will ever meet?

I want to challenge these stereotypes for the sake of getting rid of them. Even in my full Lululemon “fit,”  I want to show that you can say and assume whatever you want about me, but we female Jews are strong and it is our strength that the stereotype misses.  

I want to show all of that. But for now, maybe I'll start by not smiling when a comment is made.

Ella Marks is a BBG from Northbrook, Illinois, and is a figure skater.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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