‘And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman” (Numbers 12.1).
Reading passages in the Bible, it seems apparent that throughout Jewish history, some of our most famous patriarchs have ran off with non-Jewish women. They weren’t necessarily blonde, although I don’t think peroxide was available 4,000 years ago, and the first plastic-surgeon who did nose jobs only sprung up around 1500 AD.
My question is this — is there really a problem with Jewish men? I asked my brother Ezra. After all, he’s a Jewish man in his 30s.
“What is the problem with Jewish men?”
“Jewish women,” he replied. (Silence)
If Jewish men and Jewish women were created equally, we were created equally as annoying as each other. It feels like Jewish men and women don’t have a problem per se, we just (often) find each other unattractive. One of my potted theories on this (particularly where Ashkenazis are concerned), is that the genetic pool is very tight. If I walk into a room of Ashkenazi men nowadays, I get this weird feeling that I’m at a family gathering — that everyone is “related”. Subconsciously, there’s probably lots of other scientific things at play, like genetic immunity defence, pheromones, and the increased likelihood of having annoying children.
I asked a female friend what she thought of dating Jewish men — she’s had a number of unsuccessful experiences. She said: “There are two types of Jewish men. There are the non-religious ones, who don’t want any commitment. And then there are the religious ones, who don’t want any commitment.”
A lot of my exposure to Jewish men happened as a teenager. At JFS I was too small, shy and weird to talk to boys. I liked sitting in the music room, listening to Blur. I didn’t actually fancy any boys at school either — I was a bit of a cultural snob, and considered most of my peers too suburban or small-minded. They all got shuttled up to Camden from Edgware, Golders Green or Stanmore, and brought the suburbs with them. I grew up in an “art colony” as my parents — both sculptors — described it (though it was actually just a bit weird). I was a Jewish fish out of water.
My question is this — is there really a problem with Jewish men?
When I was 16 I went on tour to Israel. Although the aims of the trip were to encourage a deeper Zionist sensitivity in all of us spotty teens, I spent most of the month on a mission to snog the nearest boy that looked like Graham Coxon from Blur. They had to wear 1960s NHS glasses and have floppy black hair. My mission failed, and I was subsequently kicked off the youth group for being lazy and unco-operative.
After that, I went to art college and spent 10 years making obscure sculptures of suicidal clowns sitting on bonsai trees. The thought of marrying a Jewish accountant and having children (like everyone else at JFS) didn’t really cross my mind.
I actually went on some dates with Jewish men, which were funny. One guy tried to get me into bed after 10 minutes (clearly Orthodox himself); another was so boring I dozed off while he talked about holistic medicine. One thing I learned while dating was that Jewish men who lead interesting, “alternative” lives (ie they hang out with artists and are not accountants), tend to dislike being Jewish. They’re not embarrassed by it culturally but they dislike the religion. So they get all sentimental about Fiddler on the Roof and smoked salmon bagels, but the minute you bring up the spiritual dimension, they switch off. They are generally well dressed, and I fancy them, but secretly hate them for being self-hating.
Then there are the other kind, who are very engaged in their religion, pray (a lot), frown a lot, study Torah, and probably know more about God than I do. I can’t help but be impressed by there religiosity (gosh! So deep), but they appear to have little interest in anything else. (“How do you feel about Jamaican dub step or Lego sculptures?”) . There are patently other types of Jewish men out there, but I’m yet to fancy any of them.
I turned 30 recently, and although my Judaism is important to me, I won’t worry about raising a Jewish family right now. Marriage and children seem like a joke in this financial climate — my generation can hardly afford to rent a room in a shared toilet in Hackney, much less marry a Jewish man and bring up kids. I could just about manage the responsibility that comes with owning a pet hamster. Maybe I could circumcise it?