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Nice Jewish boy stereotype

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Nice Jewish boy stereotype

The nice Jewish boy is a stereotype of Jewish masculinity which circulates within the American Jewish community, as well as in mainstream American culture. In Israel and the parts of the diaspora which have received heavy exposure to the American media that deploy the representation, the stereotype has gained popular recognition to a lesser extent.

The qualities ascribed to the nice Jewish boy are derived from the Ashkenazic ideal of אײדלקײט (eydlkayt, either "nobility" or "delicateness" in Yiddish). According to Daniel Boyarin's Unheroic Conduct (University of California Press, 1997), eydlkayt embraces the studiousness, gentleness and sensitivity said to distinguish the Talmudic scholar and make him an attractive marriage partner (23).

Cultural references

The resistance that a Jewish male may launch against this emasculating image in his quest to become a "regular guy" has found its place in Jewish American literature. Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary, made the following comment about Norman Mailer's literary and "extracurricular" activities:
He spent his entire life trying to extirpate what he himself called the 'nice Jewish boy' from his soul, which is one of the reasons he has done so many outrageous things and gotten into trouble, including with the police. It's part of trying to overcome that life-long terror of being a sissy.[1]
For Philip Roth's semi-autobiographical avatar Alex Portnoy, neither the nice Jewish boy nor his more aggressively masculine counterparts (the churlish Jewboy, the "all-American" ice hockey player) prove to be acceptable identities to attain. The ceaseless floundering between the two fuels Portnoy's Complaint.

See also

References

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