I’ve had a lot of followers asking me how to authentically depict Jewish people. However, I myself am not Jewish, and not qualified to speak as an insider. As such, here’s a masterpost of information directly from the source!
More to come, and happy writing! <3
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Judaism 101: Jewish Holidays
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Tips From My Jewish Followers:
A while back, I asked my Jewish followers for tips on authentic reprisentation, and was fortunate enough to get a huge turnout. Hopefully more Jewish followers will chime in once this is posted!
As a very much reform Jew, I can’t speak much about more conservative Jews. However, I can name a few common traits. We tend to have very close family and community ties, and hold mass gatherings for dinner at the slightest excuse. Jewish mothers, especially grandmothers, tend to gather in packs. The arguing thing IS true; many religious classes are styled as debates among the older men in the community. Older Jews will drop Yiddish phrases often. We tend to joke about ourselves a lot too.
As a religious Jew, I’d like to add a few things. The stereotype about Jews arguing is true, but the interesting thing about the arguments is that they are (almost always) done in the spirit of learning something new, or bringing a ‘chiddush’, addition, to what you are learning. For example, take The House of Shamai and The House of Hillel in halachic decisions; the two houses disagreed on so so much, and yet, the men of Beit Shamai married the women of Beit Hillel, and vice versa.(1/?)
I don’t completely agree with what the reform anon said about the mass gatherings, but that may be because I live far from most of my family (I live with my family in Israel, while the most of my cousins live in the States), and for me, the “mass gatherings” happen on Chagim, the Jewish holidays. I’ll tell you something, anon, there is something incredible with the Chagim, a feeling that is hard to describe, but is probably best described as a feeling of “home”, at least that’s what I feel (2/?)
And now, to finish up, I’ll say that Judaism comes in many different shapes and forms, and good luck with your story! (3/3) - Religious Jew anon
hi! conservative Jew here, I saw your post. Community is a big deal, in my experience even more than faith. In my temple, maybe you meet through the temple or the hebrew school or some such, but the real magic is what happens outside the synagogue walls. There are a lot of different traditions, both for individuals and for congregations, and people respect different levels of faith. I’m more religious than some of my temple for example because I make an effort to keep kosher, (1)
but compared to my orthodox cousins I’m very secular. I’d love to read more things where there were varying levels of observance. A Jewish man wearing a kippah in public, or a married orthodox woman wearing a wig, next to a reform person who’s calling their friends on shabbat on a cell phone. Someone who won’t eat pork because kashrut and that’s okay. There’s a lot of ways to be Jewish and have it not be a big deal. I usually cue people in myself by mentioning a holiday, Chanukkah at this (2)
time of year. Also one major perspective is that you’re meant to question whatever religion tells you. We follow kashrut laws for food, but why do they exist? Food safety, probably, but still. You’re meant to learn and then question and come out stronger for it. “Israel” was what Jacob was renamed and it means “struggle with God”. Israel is a tricky subject because people conflate Judaism and Israel, which isn’t right, but a lot of arguments against israel are anti-semitic in nature so tread (3
carefully. there are some really obvious no’s: judaism and money need to be handled carefully. Jews got pushed into professions involving money (moneylenders and bankers etc) because Christians felt that it was dirty work, and that created the stereotypes of the miserly jew, greedy jew, and “all jews are rich” (avoid avoid avoid). jews thinking israel is always perfect is also wrong. please don’t define your jew as having a strange nose. JAP (jewish-american pricess) is a nasty subtype of (4)
“rich jew”. please don’t model your jewish mothers on Molly Weasley. Both between the overbearing nature and the always millions of kids. She’s every stereotype of a jewish mom except with red hair instead of dark. Jewish ppl will feed you, especially jewish grandparents (bubbe for grandma zadye for grandpa). Sorry for the essay ^^;;; (5/5)
more jewish things: we definitely look for ways around things! The concept of a shabbos goy for example, who comes and turns on temple lights during shabbat, or keeping an oven on low during all of shabbat so you can reheat food without messing with the settings. Also want to emphasize that there are jews all over the world, who look like all kinds of things, and who have all kinds of traditions. From China to Argentina. Also not just Ashkenazi, but also Sepharadic, Mizrahi, and more. Cheers!
I’m part of the Jew Crew too! I’m reform but I’ve spent some time with reconstructionism and i’d like to add a few points: I think this differs in other cultures (probs other sects too) but we’re kind of ambivalent towards jesus. I know we’re stereotyped as hating him but we don’t really, we just don’t think he was the son of g-d & all that. also I went to a reconstructionist camp and there were so many Jew memes & we poked fun at ourselves (but also goyim) a lot. Soo yeah feel free to PM me
I’m Jewish and this isn’t so much about how to write a Jewish character, but something I’ve always wanted to see in the media is a Jewish character who mentions a holiday OTHER than Chanuka. Chankua is great but it isn’t our only holiday.
About the Author
Brooksie C. Fontaine is an author and illustrator, currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing.