Tzniut/ But you don’t look Jewish!

So I was reading an article comparing Thanksgiving to Sukkot.  I’m going to spare us my take on that and move on to a different concept.  Instead, I’m going to skip straight to a concept that’s been weighing on my mind for years.  What the heck is a Jewish person supposed to look like anyway?


I’m a freckly, pale skinned redhead.  I’m short and thin.  I tend to look taller than I am because I’m long- limbed but just to be clear, I’m 5’3″.  I get a lot of Irish jokes, which is weird because I have not one drop of Irish in me.  (also a motivation not to wear green).  I do have a tendency to get offended when people tell me I don’t look Jewish. It bothers me on two counts.  First of all, I’m a very proud Jewish person so I don’t really love it on a personal level.  Second, when people tell me I don’t look Jewish they hardly ever mean it as a reflection on the beauty and diversity of the Jewish people.  They usually mean you don’t have a big nose or dark hair or insert other stereotype here.  (In rare cases, recently it’s been a “you don’t look like Natalie Portman or Gal Gadot” but obviously I don’t love being told I don’t live up to mainstream culture’s idea of a beautiful Jewish woman either!)


The other thing you should know is I’m a life-ling tomboy and athlete and on the religious spectrum, I fall just this side of secular.  Sure I pray from time to time and go to services and don’t get me wrong my faith is important to me but I’m not really anyone’s idea of an observant Jew.  I mean growing up my orthodox friends didn’t consider me Jewish.  Possibly leading to the weird complex I have these days about not being Jewish enough… but that’s another blog post.

Recently I’ve found myself leaving the house in floor length skirts and hoodies.  Maybe the whole combination is a little overboard in light of the “I-fall-just-this-side-of-secular” rant. The temple I attend falls just this side of conservative but the reasons I chose it have nothing to do with that and more to do with my overwhelming shyness (I’ll post more on why I chose the place I did later)

For some reason, its really been working for me. Even though I spend most of my time bumming around in yoga pants, t-shirts, and hoodies, when I go out I swap my yoga pants for a maxi skirt, and well, my hoodies are pretty modest as they are.  It’s not like I’m becoming orthodox any time soon, its just that somehow I feel more like myself.  This is a really weird concept for me and definitely not the last I’ll post on this but these are just my jumbled thoughts on dressing for now …

2 thoughts on “Tzniut/ But you don’t look Jewish!

  1. Hello there…another redhead with freckles here.

    I remember the first time I walked into an Orthodox shul. I was very nervous and worried that people would turn and stare at me, immediately suspecting I wasn’t Jewish. (I was not at that time.) Instead, a teenaged boy came right up to me and spoke to me.

    “Hey, are you so and so’s sister?” He casually asked.
    “No,” I responded, a little awkwardly because I was so surprised.
    “Well, you look JUST like her!” and then, he walked away.

    I don’t remember seeing that boy again at shul. He might only have been visiting. I’m fairly certain he didn’t realize what a kindness he had done. Later, when I went to Israel, I was often mistaken for a Hungarian Jew since they often have red hair and freckles, too. While the US may have one set idea of what a Jew “looks like,” those outside of here realize that a Jew can look like anyone, even with red hair and freckles.


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