Curl Stigma and Being Jewish

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I agree, I hate all the "jew curls/fro" comments. I'm part jewish, but I have naturally dirty/strawberry blonde hair, freckles, and green eyes. Most people think I'm irish (I am partially but thats beside the point) or something at first, but if they find out I'm part jewish their first comments are usually "oh, I'd never guess that you're part jewish if it weren't for your jew curls, you should straighten it. Do you dye your hair?" But if I don't tell them I usually get comments like this, "I love your curls!! Are you irish?"
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I am Jewish too (and proud of it) and I think that it is what it is. Let people say what they want, as long as they don't steal or do harm to you then there is no reason to pay them any attention. They are nothing more then a waste of time!!
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I don't think it's necessarily rude to ask someone about their cultural background. I do it all the time - not complete strangers, mind you, and I'd never just blurt out 'what are you', but people I know, I ask sometimes because I'm genuinely curious and genetics/heritage pretty much fascinate me.
I get asked a lot because it's difficult to tell - I have a slightly crooked Roman nose that everyone mistakes for a Jew nose - even though I am half Ukranian Jewish, my nose comes from the fact that I'm Italian. I'm also part Romani, 'gypsy' by way of Hungary. And I'm Scottish, so I have freckles and fair skin. So it's pretty hard to determine what I am just by looking.
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Just wanted to say I love my curly headed jewish folk. One of my bestie's is Jewish and Peruvian from NY and I love her and her mom and their curls!
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Howard Stern is Jewish and many people consider his hair to be the best in show business......
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This is totally fascinating to me. I am Serbian, German, Irish, and possibly English. I am short, small with big chest and curvy butt, very dark curly/wavy hair and dark eyes and very pale olive skin. Never once has anyone ever asked me if I'm Jewish or made any kind of Jewish comment. Not even before I killed all my spirals with chemicals and had fuzzy, bouncy ringlets as a kid. Color me ignorant, but I didn't even know these were all traits that were associated with Jewish heritage! Interesting.
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I never knew curls had anything to do with religion. Interesting. Lmao. Hilariously Jewish people tend to be the least curly people of all the Levant IMO. Besides, most people that I know who are Jewish are mostly European, though probably with some Jewish traces. Usually if I meet someone who is racially Jewish they don't identify themselves as "Jewish" they usually identify as "Israeli/Palestinian".

I'm from the middle-east (Lebanon/Syria/Israel) and believe it or not, curlies aren't actually the 100% norm there. It's actually not THAT common. (Don't get me wrong it's still very common, but not as much as people think it is, funnily enough it's even less common in Israel where there's a lot of northern-caucasians)

Strangely though, my mother calls me her "Little Jewish Girl" even though I'm not jewish, and her reasoning was because my hair looked jewish
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Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe both are Jewish and have curly hair, so Gro Yo Fro today and be smart and beautiful like them tomorrow.
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I never knew curls had anything to do with religion. Interesting. Lmao. Hilariously Jewish people tend to be the least curly people of all the Levant IMO.
Originally Posted by KF<3
Interestingly, the field of genetics recognizes "Jewish" ethnic genes. For example, the Askenazi Jews are the group whose ethnic origins can be traced to Eastern Europe. What's true is this genetic assignment is based on a high correlation between Ashkenazim and our associated long-standing social practice of Judaism as a religion. Certain diseases - like Tay-Sachs Disease, Crohn's Disease, Factor XI Deficiency, Familial Dysautonomia, to name a few - are far more likely to occur in Ashkenazi people because of how rare it was for them to inter-mix with other ethnic groups prior to about 1944 (they missed out on the would-be benefits of hybrid vigor). And it might not be all Jews, but it does seem like a disproportionate number of Jews do have curly - if not very curly - hair. Not sure why.

I'm all kinds of mixed, so honestly, the hair looks like a particular Jewish stereotype, but it could also come from elsewhere in my family tree ... just think it's more likely the Jew in me.

Besides, most people that I know who are Jewish are mostly European, though probably with some Jewish traces. Usually if I meet someone who is racially Jewish they don't identify themselves as "Jewish" they usually identify as "Israeli/Palestinian".
Well, sure. That's because the Ashenazim makes up roughly 80% of today's ethnic Jewish groups. As for ID-ing as Jewish, I can tell you as a New York Jew who's lived with and around European Jews most of my life, they don't hesitate to identify as "Jewish", quite proudly I might add Those who live in Israel? I'd expect to define themselves as Jewish. They have a tremendous sense of Jewish nationalism, as a general rule, based on the socio-political and religious stake they have in that region of the world.
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Last edited by Korkscrew; 09-17-2012 at 04:00 AM.
I never knew curls had anything to do with religion. Interesting. Lmao. Hilariously Jewish people tend to be the least curly people of all the Levant IMO.
Originally Posted by KF<3
Interestingly, the field of genetics recognizes "Jewish" ethnic genes. For example, the Askenazi Jews are the group whose ethnic origins can be traced to Eastern Europe. What's true is this genetic assignment is based on a high correlation between Ashkenazim and our associated long-standing social practice of Judaism as a religion. Certain diseases - like Tay-Sachs Disease, Crohn's Disease, Factor XI Deficiency, Familial Dysautonomia, to name a few - are far more likely to occur in Ashkenazi people because of how rare it was for them to inter-mix with other ethnic groups prior to about 1944 (they missed out on the would-be benefits of hybrid vigor). And it might not be all Jews, but it does seem like a disproportionate number of Jews do have curly - if not very curly - hair. Not sure why.
Originally Posted by Korkscrew
Just to add a couple of points:

In all of Europe, by order of the Pope in 1204, Jews were legally restricted to ghettos and intermarriage with Christians was strictly prohibited (think the segregation and anti-miscegenation laws in the US), and those laws remained in place in many countries until the late 1800s . So hybrid vigor was not really available to European Jews until the spread of democracy in the 20th century, which was of course rudely interrupted by the Nazis.

As Korkscrew noted, 80% of Jews are Ashkenazi, which are western and central European Jews. The other 20% are Sephardic Jews, who originated in Spain (until their expulsion in 1492), Northern Africa (Morocco, Algiers, Tunisia etc) and the Middle East (Syria, Yemen, Persia/Iran etc).

My mother's side is predominantly Ashkenazi, most of whom had/have straight reddish-blonde hair. My boys and I take after my father's Sephardic side, with waves/curls, frizz etc. (Their father is half-Jewish and totally bald, so go figure!)

Jewish identity can be very confusing, I know - part of it is based on beliefs, but there is also an ancestral genetic component. For many Jews, it's more a matter of heritage than anything else.

L'shana tova to all of you, Jewish and non-Jewish alike
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Last edited by yossarian; 09-17-2012 at 10:37 AM. Reason: removed sig
I never knew curls had anything to do with religion. Interesting. Lmao. Hilariously Jewish people tend to be the least curly people of all the Levant IMO.
Originally Posted by KF<3
Interestingly, the field of genetics recognizes "Jewish" ethnic genes. For example, the Askenazi Jews are the group whose ethnic origins can be traced to Eastern Europe. What's true is this genetic assignment is based on a high correlation between Ashkenazim and our associated long-standing social practice of Judaism as a religion. Certain diseases - like Tay-Sachs Disease, Crohn's Disease, Factor XI Deficiency, Familial Dysautonomia, to name a few - are far more likely to occur in Ashkenazi people because of how rare it was for them to inter-mix with other ethnic groups prior to about 1944 (they missed out on the would-be benefits of hybrid vigor). And it might not be all Jews, but it does seem like a disproportionate number of Jews do have curly - if not very curly - hair. Not sure why.
Originally Posted by Korkscrew
Just to add a couple of points:

In all of Europe, by order of the Pope in 1204, Jews were legally restricted to ghettos and intermarriage with Christians was strictly prohibited (think the segregation and anti-miscegenation laws in the US), and those laws remained in place in many countries until the late 1800s . So hybrid vigor was not really available to European Jews until the spread of democracy in the 20th century, which was of course rudely interrupted by the Nazis.

As Korkscrew noted, 80% of Jews are Ashkenazi, which are western and central European Jews. The other 20% are Sephardic Jews, who originated in Spain (until their expulsion in 1492), Northern Africa (Morocco, Algiers, Tunisia etc) and the Middle East (Syria, Yemen, Persia/Iran etc).

My mother's side is predominantly Ashkenazi, most of whom had/have straight reddish-blonde hair. My boys and I take after my father's Sephardic side, with waves/curls, frizz etc. (Their father is half-Jewish and totally bald, so go figure!)

Jewish identity can be very confusing, I know - part of it is based on beliefs, but there is also an ancestral genetic component. For many Jews, it's more a matter of heritage than anything else.

L'shana tova to all of you, Jewish and non-Jewish alike
Originally Posted by yossarian
Right. I mentioned Eastern Europeans as the predominant Ashkenazi group because currently they tend to outnumber other groups of Ashkenazi Jewish Europeans, but yes, the gene is also found among Western and Central Europeans as well.

I think part of the reason "Jewish identity" confuses, is that technically a person can be genetically of the Ashkenazim of Sephardim, but not necessarily practice Judaism. Then the question becomes: is that person Jewish because they have a gene connected to the historical practice of judaism, or are they not Jewish because they don't believe in/practice Judaism. ... And then you have silly rules that confuse everything further, like, "Well, you aren't Jewish unless your mother is Jewish". Or the equally silly, "You're only Jewish if your father is Jewish". That of course, makes no sense in the context of people who carry a so-called Jewish gene.

So in some ways genetic facts do get conflated with religious beliefs/practices or the lack thereof.
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More thoughts about who is considered "Jewish" ...

(Hope you gals/guys won't see this as going too far off-topic. I think it may have some bearing on the discussion, since it's hard to talk about curl stigma and being Jewish when there are conflicting thoughts about what it means to be "Jewish".)

I think there's a legit argument "Judaism" not being an ethnicity. Yes, some of us have one or more genes that connects us to an ethnic group that were known for practicing Judaism. But I'd bet at least some Ashkenazi and Sephardic people throughout time have not had Jewish beliefs or practice Judaism, despite the fact that most of their relatives did.

In the 1930s, Ireland had upward of 90% self-described Catholics, according to some national polls. (Now it appears to have slid into the eighties). Would it be logical to say that people who are genetically Irish should all be considered "Catholic" because Irish people generally practice Catholicism? A similar argument is made that people (like me) with the Ashkenazi gene should be called "Jewish", simply because that ethnic group practiced a religion called "Judaism", even in the absence of Jewish belief or practice.
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Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe both are Jewish and have curly hair, so Gro Yo Fro today and be smart and beautiful like them tomorrow.
Originally Posted by GroYoFro
Not to nitpick, but Marilyn was not actually Jewish...she was of Irish and Scottish ancestry. She converted to Judaism when she married playwright Arthur Miller, but she wasn't ethnically Jewish and she was raised by Christian Scientists.
I am not Jewish, but Oh my, I used to get the "what are you?" Question all the time. I do not look "applepie" meaning i have ethnic features...olive skin, darkcurly hair and brown eyes. I'd answer something along the lines of "human, female, woman, etc". They'd then proceed to make guesses...Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Albanian, Mexican...etc. it's interesting that no one would guess right. LOL. It is so rude!

Luthien wrote: "Do people really not consider it rude to just bust out with 'Are you Jewish?'"

I can top that... People often don't even hazard a guess when it comes to my heritage. I've been randomly asked, "So, what are you?!" sooo many times! Just totally out of the blue. I usually don't even realize at first that I'm being asked about my heritage. A few times it was definitely meant derisively, but I guess people can just be clueless and nosy. I don't even look very "mixed" or anything (in my opinion). I mean, I don't have East Asian features with naturally red hair, like one girl I knew. As I've noted before on this thread, I come from several Jewish ethnicities. The fact that there *are* quite a few Jewish ethnicities makes the whole "You look Jewish" thing even more ridiculous. Anyway, at least we more-enlightened people are given ample opportunity to feel righteous indignation...right?
Originally Posted by Eilonwy
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I am not Jewish although I am of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic descent through my dad. I am also of European and Southeast African descent. I think most people probably attribute my curly hair to my African genes.
This is a really old post, but I wanted to throw in my two cents.

I'm Jewish on both sides going back generations, and was born and raised in Israel (aka "Jew Mecca"). Lots of Israelis are curly - Ashkenazi, Sephardic and everything around and in-between.

When I was a kid, so many people around me (both children and adults) were curly-haired, that it was never an issue which made me feel insecure or like an oddball. The drugstores and supermarkets are chock-full of products for curlies (all silicone-based, unfortunately) and most stylists know how to handle a head full of curls (even though they cut it damp).

It was only after I moved to Germany in 2006 that I actually realized that curls were not as common and/or not as "socially acceptable" in Europe. I very rarely saw curlies in the street, the hair-straightening industry is huge in Germany and if I'm lucky, there is one curl-related product on the drugstore shelves. I am stared at in the street by both children and adults, and people often comment. During the first few years of living in Germany, I refused to get my hair trimmed locally - I always waited until visiting the 'rents in Israel to go to my usual hairdresser.

That said, I'm not certain why curly hair is so prevalent in Israel. This seems to me to be a combination of specific ethnic groups having a specific genetic disposition (such as north African or Middle Eastern) and no/low social bias against curlies, driving less people of all genetic background to opt to blow-dry/hot-iron. Or in other words: Israel is so ethnically diverse, curlies and wavies feel less pressure to adhere to a specific standard.

That said, Ashkenazi Jews in Europe have absolutely suffered from the "Founder Effect", due to Jewish communities staying extremely small, isolationist and close-knit. (The Founder Effect is "the loss of genetic variation that occurs when a new population is established by a very small number of individuals from a larger population" - thanks Wikipedia).

It's hard for me to relate to the pressure curlies of specific ethnic background feel from their families and friends, since I grew up in a very curl-positive environment. But the next time your Jewish family or friends pressure you into straightening your hair, just tell them everyone in Israel just wears it natural.
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I think there's a legit argument "Judaism" not being an ethnicity. Yes, some of us have one or more genes that connects us to an ethnic group that were known for practicing Judaism. But I'd bet at least some Ashkenazi and Sephardic people throughout time have not had Jewish beliefs or practice Judaism, despite the fact that most of their relatives did.
Originally Posted by Korkscrew
If you are ethnically Jewish (meaning, not a convert), there is absolutely a traceable genetic link going back a considerable amount of generations. Not some of us. All of us. There is no argument here (at least none which is legit and based on a scientific arguement). Judaism is an ethnicity.

There is no (direct) connection between one's ethnicity and one's religion. Jews bonded together as a social and religious community very long ago - long enough ago that the community become an ethnicity which can be (pretty easily) genetically measured. Confusion stems from not being familiar with Jewish history enough to be able to tell the two apart (which is why Jewish Atheists like me tend to be a completely foreign concept for some).
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I think there's a legit argument "Judaism" not being an ethnicity. Yes, some of us have one or more genes that connects us to an ethnic group that were known for practicing Judaism. But I'd bet at least some Ashkenazi and Sephardic people throughout time have not had Jewish beliefs or practice Judaism, despite the fact that most of their relatives did.
Originally Posted by Korkscrew
If you are ethnically Jewish (meaning, not a convert), there is absolutely a traceable genetic link going back a considerable amount of generations. Not some of us. All of us. There is no argument here (at least none which is legit and based on a scientific arguement). Judaism is an ethnicity.

There is no (direct) connection between one's ethnicity and one's religion. Jews bonded together as a social and religious community very long ago - long enough ago that the community become an ethnicity which can be (pretty easily) genetically measured. Confusion stems from not being familiar with Jewish history enough to be able to tell the two apart (which is why Jewish Atheists like me tend to be a completely foreign concept for some).
Originally Posted by lirontocker
I was reading on Wikipedia about Jews and it says that they are an ethnoreligious group. Although there are Jews in many regions of the world, I suppose the reason for people having "distinct Jewish features" would be because Jews had to live in isolated communities for centuries, allowing their population to remain rather homogeneous. Also, the aforementioned Wikipedia article speaks of genetic studies on Jews and how they were found to have Middle Eastern ancestry of varying degrees.

I grew up in a town with a significant Jewish population, and while I do believe a lot of Jewish girls straightened their hair, so did a lot of other girls. I suppose they just thought it looked better, perhaps neater. As for boys, some curly-haired Jewish boys sported a "Jew fro", but then again, there was also the "Asian fro" (there are also many East Asians in my town). There are not too many African Americans in my town, but there are quite a few in the school I currently work in, and a lot of the black girls there straighten their hair or have a weave.
I think there's a legit argument "Judaism" not being an ethnicity. Yes, some of us have one or more genes that connects us to an ethnic group that were known for practicing Judaism. But I'd bet at least some Ashkenazi and Sephardic people throughout time have not had Jewish beliefs or practice Judaism, despite the fact that most of their relatives did.
Originally Posted by Korkscrew
If you are ethnically Jewish (meaning, not a convert), there is absolutely a traceable genetic link going back a considerable amount of generations. Not some of us. All of us. There is no argument here (at least none which is legit and based on a scientific arguement). Judaism is an ethnicity.

There is no (direct) connection between one's ethnicity and one's religion. Jews bonded together as a social and religious community very long ago - long enough ago that the community become an ethnicity which can be (pretty easily) genetically measured. Confusion stems from not being familiar with Jewish history enough to be able to tell the two apart (which is why Jewish Atheists like me tend to be a completely foreign concept for some).
Originally Posted by lirontocker
Right. Some people have a hard time understanding the fact that there are "Jewish genes" (I had a problem with this too for a while, and I am Jewish). It helps to explain to naysayers that there are a host of genetic disorders that affect Jews in disproportionately high numbers. These diseases/disorders -- for example: Bloom Syndrome, Familial Dysautonomia (Riley-Day syndrome), Tay-Sachs Disease ... -- are a result of what you sited as the "founder effect".
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Last edited by Korkscrew; 04-10-2013 at 09:30 PM.
Hmm this is silly , anyone can have curly hair , and stereotyping is just silly I don't understand this ? U know how many ppl hv curly hair n dark eyes..etc does this mean they r from a specific group or even originated from that group and does this even matter ? No..! And what's the big deal of being a Jew or having the curls as a stigma , this doesn't make sense at all.

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