Avoid Being Seen as a Shiksa: Jewish Traditions and Customs

Learn More About this Term for Non-Jewish Women

Shiksa is Yiddish slang for a woman who is not Jewish. It is always pejorative, and is most often used in reference to a non-Jewish woman who is partnered with a Jewish man. The pejorative aspect of the word is probably due with the fact that according to traditional Jewish law, someone is considered Jewish only if he was born of a Jewish mother. So in essence, the non-Jewish women, or shiksas, are depleting the stock of available Jewish men. 
That being said, Reform Judaism has softened this stance and considers the child of one Jewish parent Jewish if he was raised accordingly. Because dating and marrying outside of the faith is common these days, the existence of shiksas is a fact of life. Here are some tips on how you can avoid being seen as a shiksa in the worst sense of the word:

  1. Learn Jewish traditions and customs. Judaism is a culture rich in tradition, and the fact that many traditions carried on today have been practiced for approximately 4,000 years lends them a certain gravitas. Learn about Shabbat (the weekly day of rest), the Jewish holidays and High Holy Days. Explore the Torah and the cycle of the Torah (over the course of a year, the full Torah is read). Explore Jewish dietary laws and the Jewish calendar. Learn of the ceremonies that mark rites of passage, such as the Bar Mitvah that acknowledges the transition from childhood to adulthood. Learn of Jewish ethnic divisions, largely Ashkenazim and Sephardim, each of which has unique traditions of its own.
  2. shiksaLearn to say kiddush. Kiddush is the act of sanctifying the Jewish Sabbath or a Jewish holiday by saying blessings over (kosher) wine. To this day, everyone asks me how I learned kiddush (which is essentially a prayer written in Hebrew) and truth be told, it was not without a lot of effort. I wrote my own phonetic version and practiced it phrase by phrase. These days, you can find phonetic versions online. Here's one, courtesy of HanefeshCommunity: Bah-rooch ah-tah ah-do-nye eh-lo-hay-noo Meh-lech hah-oh-lahm, ash-sher kihd-shah-noo bih-mitz-voh-tahv vih-tzee-vah-noo, lih-hahd-lihk nair shell Sha-bat. Kiddush will make a lot more sense to you once you hear a group of people recite it together. Sometimes kiddush is sung, and I can't help you there!
  3. Celebrate the aspects of the Jewish culture that you admire. As in all matters, it is important that you be sincere. Find some aspect of Jewish culture that intrigues you. Fortunately, I found much to admire within the rituals, traditions and belief systems of Judaism -- for example the emphasis on family values, tradition, self-reflection, justice and charity. Do not try to take on belief systems that do not match your own, but find whatever it is within the faith that resonates with you, and celebrate it.
  4. Learn to make a mean matzoh ball soup. Food has always been a big part of Jewish culture and tradition. So while you're learning, learn to make some Jewish food standbys while you're at it. Find a Jewish grandmother who will show you how to make matzoh ball soup the long way -- it's a lot of work, but worth it! (Whatever you do, use schmaltz for the matzoh balls -- anything else and you will rightfully be branded a shiksa forever.) To this day I like to call my matzoh ball soup "Shiksa Soup," which I can get away with because it's good! Remember, it's hard to dislike someone who can make the perfect latke.

If you learn to honor the Jewish customs and culture that, as a shiksa, you are theoretically co-opting, anyone who calls you this term is really just a schmuck!

 

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