Culture, Identity, Religion

Re: The "Stuff Jews Don't Do" Tumblr

Bugles are DELICIOUS. 

The inspiration for the Stuff Jews Don’t Do Tumblr, according to the person who created it : “Growing up in a Jewish TV-centered home, I often encountered many things or situations in the primetime line-up that were unfamiliar. When I asked my mother why we didn’t eat Thanksgiving in the afternoon or why my brother never had a rat’s tail, her retort was always “Jews don’t do that!””
Some things “Jews don’t do”: Shop at JC Penney, Drive Pick Up Trucks, Buy Lottery Tickets,  Eat Hamburger Helper. This is stuff that runs contrary to what some Jews recognize as being Jewish, or what might be referred to as “”goyishe.” There’s a thread that connects them-mainly that they’re commonly associated with  people of a certain class. When I was a kid, we shopped at Kmart (not even a JC Penney!). This might not be true anymore, but then, shopping at Kmart was unforgivable. People would tease you about it until you died, because it meant you were poor, and worse, you were too stupid (obviously as the result of being poor) to front like you didn’t shop at Kmart. The thing was, my family was poor. And we were Jews.
Like I said, a lot of the things listed in this Tumblr have nothing to do with Judaism, they have to do with class, but in addition,  there’s also the greatly overlooked fact that, believe it or not, Jews don’t all live on the East and West coasts of the United States. Jews in the South might drive pick up trucks, because in the South, people might do that. Cultural norms exist, and people take them on.
Jews might also make and eat Jello molds, (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence) because maybe they don’t know about kashrut or they don’t care about it, and they think they’re delicious. And just so I keep making it all about me, kashrut was something I didn’t know about until college, because Jewish education  is expensive, and I wasn’t around a lot of observant Jews. That’s what  happens when you live outside of a Jewish bubble.
Look, I’m pretty sure (I hope) that the point of this Tumblr is to poke fun at the idea that Jews don’t do certain things, but actually it should be called “Stuff Jews Who Aren’t Me or Other Jews I Know Probably Do.”  (Also, I’m pretty sure a kugel qualifies as a casserole.)

10 thoughts on “Re: The "Stuff Jews Don't Do" Tumblr

  1. Ugh. I worked for Hillel at one point in my life, and our JCSC fellow said to me, early in our acquaintance, with a tone of scorn – “Jews don’t camp.” And as you point out, no, Jews she knew, from her particular background, didn’t camp. Others of us do.
    I grew up rural and Jewish. I shopped at JCPenney, or when I was younger and we were poorer, a horrible no-name cheap clothing store that didn’t even have changing rooms. My grandfather grew up on a farm and could build his own cars. My father can fix things, as can I. And I’ve been told my whole life that that’s not Jewish.
    And my grandma’s Jello molds were the BEST.

  2. And this REALLY says to Jews-by-choice (like me) that we don’t belong, that we are not authentic Jews and that there is no way we will ever be. I read through the whole Tumblr and it just made me feel bad, even though I know that, of course, I am as Jewish as whoever made it up. Just another voice telling me I’ll never _really_ belong.

  3. @ BZ: The less Frum would rely on the “K” on Jello (the Israeli Rabbinate also accepted non-synthetic gelatin) until about ten years back.
    But Jews used to eat a disgusting thing called aspic. Caterers often served it.
    Here is the definition:
    “Aspic is a dish in which ingredients are set into a gelatin made from a meat stock or consommé. Non-savory dishes, often made with commercial gelatin mixes without stock or consommé, are usually called gelatin salads.” The kosher caterers put vegetates in the gelatin.
    In addition, I recall Jello with fruit (like Mandarin oranges) at Bar/Bat Mitzvah receptions.

  4. I grew up lower middle class – and southern (ish). We shopped at KMart, and the other kids (not Jewish) teased me about it. We also shopped at JC penney (that was upscale, for us). But I can tell you what “Jews didn’t do” in our family: buy from any company that were union busters. That was the law. I didn’t know from kashrut (other than pork), but I knew that Jews supported unions come hell or high water. I still believe that one (And there is actually halachic support for it, but I didn’t know that then).

  5. Also, my mother’s response to anything stupid that anyone did, especially violence, drinking to drunkenness, or drinking beer at all, but especially stupid things (Including Jews, who obviously weren’t really Jewish if they did anything that stupid) that appeared in the media: “goyishe kop!!”
    And, for some inexplicable reason, ditch-digging.

  6. That is ridiculous, and I agree more classist that anything else.
    Spend a day in my town, which is very Jewish and it would be obvious how irrelevant that sorry excuse for jewish humor on tumblr is.

  7. History repeats! Just recall Lenny Bruce’s bit on “Jewish and Goyish.”
    I believe you could just read this tumblr as “what isn’t upper-middle class, white, American,” having nothing to do with Jewish life and culture. And it definitely lacks the character, spirit, and insight of crazy Lenny Bruce.
    But whether you completely identify with or feel alienated by these apparent “categories,” I think they become less relevant with each passing generation as Jews become white America. Cultural accoutrements that were bizarre to our grandparents proved to be simply options to our parents and for us, likely threads in our daily fabric. (You don’t think they were putting canned pineapple in noodle kugel in the Pale of Settlement, do you?)
    And for many converts like RCH (and no, “convert” is not a dirty word), I feel sorry that they were mislead to believe that being Jewish is defined by practicing the religion. Unfortunately, one cannot convert to become another race, ethnicity, nationality, or cultural minority, but Judaism is all of those things too. In fact, more so than the religion.

  8. Hi! I am the author of the tumblr “Stuff Jew’s Don;’t Do” and I just stumbled across this post:
    (I also posted both to the tumblr itself)
    The critiques brought up in this article are beyond valid. I really appreciate them being brought to the table and find them all to ring very true. This blog has very little to do with the religion of Judaism, these blog posts are jokes rooted in the experiences of being an upper middle class Jew in America. The last thing I would ever want to do is make someone feel “less Jewish” for not taking part or taking part in these silly cultural norms so specific to my upbringing. It is true that there has been a mass movement of Jewish culture into whiteness and that this specific group of Jews is steeped in wealth. This blog was in fact inspired by “Stuff White People Like” which has a similar tone directed at “white people” of a certain class and creed. I am so glad the the author of this post had the foresight to recognize at the end that I am not writing this out of spite or disdain for others who are not a part of this culture but rather as a way of recognizing the similarities in which my peers and I were raised in upper middle class suburban settings.
    To drive this point home, my Jewish roommate and I made a beautiful (non kugal, non kosher ) casserole just last night.

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