A response to More Than a Succubus: Confessions of a Shiksa, published in our Web Magazine on Feb. 13, by Ellen Jaffe-Gill:
I had taken a stand on the Yiddish word shiksa long before the afternoon I visited my husband’s Hebrew class. Having learned, while researching a book on intermarriage, that it (and its male form, shaygetz, and the plural shkotzim) derived from a Hebrew word meaning “abomination,” I was already gently correcting people who used it, asking them questions like “An abomination — is that really how you think of your daughter-in-law?”
Then one day I celebrated the meeting of a major deadline with a day off, a nice lunch, and a little text study at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, where my husband had been enriching his life studying classical Hebrew on Wednesday afternoons. The class was looking at I Kings, chapter 11, in which Solomon wrong-headedly builds altars to pagan gods for his foreign wives.
Most Hebrew vocabulary is organized into families of three-letter roots, and I recognized the Hebrew root shin-kof-tzadi spelling the word shikutz before I looked at the translation.
“Hey, there’s the root for shiksa,” I said. “Is ‘abomination’ an accurate translation of shikutz?” I asked the teacher, a native Israeli.
This week’s Sunday New York Times had a beautifully written piece in its Style section by a secular Jewish woman who is in love with an atheist non-Jewish Irishman. Called “When a Relationship Carries the Weight of History,” it’s about a very particular, very common kind of modern Jew who is unsure about the existence of God–and therefore uncomfortable with religious ritual–but is certain about the importance of the Holocaust. Lauren Fox, the author, says:
I was raised Jewish, but in some fundamental way, it didn’t take. I wanted it to. I tried. When I lived in Minneapolis during my 20’s, I attended High Holy Day services at practically every synagogue in the area, hoping to find one that would speak to my heart, but I always left feeling empty, more confused than before I had gone.
All the talk of God bothered me. I was not sure if I believed, but even in the most liberal of synagogues, even on the weirdest left-wing fringe of Judaism, where you met in a basement and sang songs about ending world hunger, it seemed as if you couldn’t get around God if you wanted to be Jewish. God is everywhere! So I tried to uncover a latent faith in a higher power, but all I have ever found, deep down, at my spiritual core, is a well-developed sense of guilt and a craving for Ho Hos.
I suppose this is, in some part, how I ended up with an irreverent Irish atheist for a boyfriend.
How’s this for a coincidence: a writer named Susan Jacobs has written an article on “The allure of interfaith dating” for the Jewish Journal Boston North barely a week after a different writer, also named Susan Jacobs, wrote an article on interfaith dating for the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. Like the first article, this piece on interfaith dating is good overall but flawed in spots.
The intro to the article very sensibly discusses why Jews date non-Jews:
In today’s society, where Jews are no longer confined to ghettos and the ratio of non-Jews is far greater than Jews, inter-dating is inevitable.
But the Jacobs isn’t happy to leave it at that. Instead, she posits the existence of something called “shiksappeal”:
While more than 50 percent of teenage Conservative Jews say they want to marry a Jewish partner, only 18 percent date Jews exclusively.
This very interesting fact was relayed to IFF by Ariela Keysar, a noted demographer at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. This was one of the findings of a study she co-authored for the Conservative movement called The Next Generation: Jewish Children and Adolescents.