Family & Education

Husbands, you don't know how lucky you are

Jewish women are great, according to Paul Burke. But do their husbands appreciate them?


I’m not Jewish. But I’ve lived in North London all my life and have always had a deep and genuine love for Jewish people.

Well, for half of them anyway.

Because I honestly believe that Jewish women are wasted on Jewish men.

I can hear the husbands now: “This is rubbish, absolute rubbish! What does this bloke know? ”

And I can hear their wives’ soothing replies “Yes, you’re right. What time will you be home for dinner?” But then the women will be straight on the phone to their friends, “Have you seen that piece in the JC?”

These marital mis-matches are something I’ve noticed ever since I can remember. I’ve met hundreds of Jewish couples over the years and looked at them both in turn. First at the woman and thought, “You’re great. Funny, sassy, quite sexy.”

My incredulous gaze has then fallen upon the man and I’ve thought, “Are you familiar with the phrase ‘Punching above your weight’? Have you any idea how lucky you are? Trust me, if neither of you were Jewish, you’d never have snared anyone half as desirable”.

Yet weirdly, it’s the men who are placed on pedestals. And from those pedestals, they behave as though their wives are the lucky ones. Which is why the wives’ lives tend to revolve around the husbands’.

According to my wife, making an arrangement with her Jewish friends can be tricky. “Well, it depends if Michael’s playing golf that day.”

One on occasion, we were going out for dinner with a Jewish couple and my wife got me to phone her friend to make the arrangement,

“So”, I said, “Where would you like to go?”

“Well”, she replied, “David likes Indian”.

“I didn’t ask you what David liked — I asked you what you liked.”

It turned out she didn’t really like Indian food but she instinctively put David’s desires before her own. This is how it is and always has been but I cannot understand it.

I’m not going to fall back on lazy clichés about the lure of financial security. I’m not going to say, “He may be short, but he’s a lot taller when he stands on his wallet” because I don’t think the issue is that simple, or the wives that shallow. And anyway, Jewish husbands aren’t necessarily wealthy but still their wives seem grateful and deferential.

I can only think that, even in the 21st century, there is still immense cultural pressure to find a “nice Jewish man”. So the men see themselves as prized assets. Which is why so many Davids and Michaels have been able to marry women who wouldn’t otherwise have looked at them. This may also explain why some Jewish husbands seem so unappreciative. Perhaps they think their role as “provider” entitles them to patronise women far more attractive and intelligent than they’ll ever be. I’ve seen it so many times and seethe whenever I do.

I’m far from the only gentile man to have noticed this. One of my friends was coaching football at a school where a lot of the kids are Jewish. He couldn’t help noticing how attractive the mums who dropped the boys off were. This was in stark contrast to the dads who picked them up. Another friend believes that Jewish boys know that when they’re older, they’ll be in matrimonial demand. And of all the gifts they receive on their barmitzvahs, there’s one that’s far more precious than all the others combined. It’s like an imaginary John Lewis voucher which can be exchanged for a beautiful girl fifteen or twenty years down the line. And this, he reckons, is why Jewish men don’t have to bother to try.

Admittedly this may all be rooted in envy. Growing up in North London, we were all aware of the folly of falling in love with a gorgeous Jewish girl. Yes, they’d go out with you but sooner or later the relationship would have to end. The time would inevitably come for their engagement to be announced, amid the mazeltovs, to Michael from Stanmore or David from Radlett. Rare was the girl who’d, to use a phrase I’ve always found distasteful, find the courage to “marry out”.

Though how much longer can this situation last? We live in a far more integrated world. Will today’s barmitzvah boys be as fortunate as their fathers? Jewish women are increasingly seeing the attraction of non-Jewish men. So Michael and David, a gentle (and gentile) word of warning: Don’t play too much golf.

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