By Jeremy Derfner
In my youth, I developed a habit of dating shiksas—and then I married one last year. I can understand why some people question my commitment to Judaism. However, my intimacy with non-Jews has led me to start wondering whether my pristine brethren (with Jewish spouses) are quite as Jewish as they think.
The more time my wife and I spend in Jewish company, the more she convinces me that many of the characteristics we like to think of as uniquely Jewish—arguing, eating, and managing surplus guilt, to take three examples—are common to many ethnic groups, if not all human beings.
Take the food thing. It’s true that my grandmother enjoyed feeding me: matzah brei on Pesach, the Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘n Fruity from IHOP on special occasions, and Famous Amos cookies more or less all the time. My father occasionally objected to the cookies, to which Grandma responded, “He’s a growing boy!” (which indeed I was).
But when we visit my wife’s Dutch grandmother (we’re occasionally late, because what I call Jewish time her family calls Dutch time), it’s not as if she sends us home empty-stomached. She’s always trying to feed me something called stroopwafels. Moreover, she’s Dutch! They’re better known for their ovens than for the food that comes out of them! If she were Greek or Italian or Japanese, I’m sure I’d be walking around with tzatziki or bruschetta or spicy tuna rolls spilling out of my pockets.