warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

We Can Do Better Than The 'Nice Jewish Boy' This Year

Sara Newman |
January 5, 2015 | 8:52 a.m. PST

Deputy Editor

Why should Jewish boys be anymore datable than any other fish in the sea? (Twitter/Nice Jewish Guys)
Why should Jewish boys be anymore datable than any other fish in the sea? (Twitter/Nice Jewish Guys)
Maybe you know a friend or a neighbor who spent a significant part of 2014 gushing about the “Nice Jewish Boy;” perhaps this was the year that a friend or a neighbor of yours was marked out by others as belonging to this increasingly sought after group. But even if you haven’t encountered them in your own life, you’ve likely been introduced to the so-called NJB by the calendar section of your local Urban Outfitters or by your “Orange is the New Black” obsession (hello Larry Bloom). 

“Basically, white guys (especially young ones) are getting an overall reputation of not being very nice,” explains Ashley Yang, a junior at the University of Southern California. “And girls in this fraught dating world like to have more of a guarantee that what we're dealing with is going to treat us well and want a future with us. The overall reputation of secular Jewish people in America is like an unearned benefit that the ‘Nice Jewish Boy’–regardless of whether he is ‘nice’ or smart or treats women well—gets added to his reputation.”

Clearly, being Jewish offers no indication of how “nice” someone is, just as skin tone offers no indication of athletic ability and gender offers no indication of intelligence; yet, plenty of women (Jews and non-Jews alike) have become regulars at the Shabbat celebrations of various Hillels and Chabads in search of romantic, rather than religious enlightenment. After all, where else can you pick up a nice Jewish boyfriend while chowing down on free bagels and schmear? 

Whether or not people toss around the “Nice Jewish Boy” label, the implication is clear— more and more women are trying to find a smart, motivated boyfriend they can take home to meet Mom and Dad. 

SEE ALSO: 7 Most Insensitive Choices By Urban Outfitters 

Having grown up in Sherman Oaks, a neighborhood known for its large Jewish population, Coral Palmon can vouch for some of the marriage-ready characteristics associated with the family-centric “Nice Jewish Boy.” 

“Close family ties are directly linked to the other qualities such as sensitivity, good manners, and good values,” says Coral Palmon, a junior at USC who hails from a long line of Israelis. “That’s not to say non-Jews can’t have these qualities—I just think there a little more prevalent in Jewish boys, hence the stereotype.”

“You know Jewish boys were raised well,” adds Yang. “They have good morals because even the secular ones were raised in a semi-religious umbrella, but not the pushy kind of morals. They come from good families that have a history of high education, and they're at least middle class. There's also that thing about Jews being hard working and good with money, all attractive traits for a girl on the prowl.”

Even though many people are happy to lightheartedly joke about the stereotype on Twitter and Facebook, the line between fun and fetish is a slippery one. 

SEE ALSO: Claims Of Reverse Sexism Reinforce Gender Stereotypes 

The "Nice Jewish Boy" stereotype shows men aren't the only ones objectifying potential mates (Twitter/Nice Jewish Guys)
The "Nice Jewish Boy" stereotype shows men aren't the only ones objectifying potential mates (Twitter/Nice Jewish Guys)
“Plenty of Jewish guys are ‘Nice Jewish Boys,’” says Jacob Freedman, a senior at the University of Southern California and an active member of Sigma Alpha Mu, one of the school’s historically Jewish fraternities. “But I’m not a huge fan [of the term].”

Freedman points to the term’s stereotypical and emasculating nature as reasons for concern. “It's certainly not a mean stereotype,” he explains. “But it’s still a cultural label."

But not all men are so quick to reject the term, as Andrew Schwab, a junior at UC Berkeley and a member of the school's historically Jewish AEPi fraternity, can testify.

“[At AEPi] we definitely play to it sometimes, since people in general probably expect us to behave in a way that's respectful,” says Schwab. “I think since it's basically a positive stereotype we don't really fight it, even if technically it's not politically correct to generalize.”

This is just the latest of a string of stereotypes about Jews; along with the thrifty Jew, the shopping-obsessed Jewish American Princess and the Jewish mother whose expertise in cooking is matched only by her guilt-tripping abilities, we now have the highly datable “Nice Jewish Boy.” While Elite Daily may have plenty of articles in which 20-somethings play up the Jewish American Princess stereotype, the “Nice Jewish Boy” stereotype is becoming even more of a cultural touchstone, particularly in costal cities with large Jewish populations like New York and Los Angeles. 

“Since it's not an especially negative stereotype it gets a pass,” says Freedman.

Yet, it is not so much the specific attributes associated with the “Nice Jewish Boy” that are the problem, but rather the way that this relatively tame trend plays into a larger trend of stereotype acceptance, promoting the idea that stereotyping is permissible as long as the associations are positive.

SEE ALSO: #Ferguson and #Blacklivesmatter Illustrate How James Baldwin’s Words Resonate More Than 25 Years After His Death 

Stereotypes are always harder to tear down when the stereotyped group begins relying on the stereotype as a kind of branding, but as educated global citizens, shouldn’t we know better than to make such sweeping generalizations that unfairly praise certain groups and censure others?

Perhaps the “Nice Jewish Boy” is just the latest iteration of the “Nice Catholic Boy” or the “Nice Midwestern Boy,” but rather than continuing to allow cutesy branding and apparent innocence to excuse what we all know to be inexcusable. 

In the past we have had too many innocent people killed because of a cultural tendency to stereotype; there is no way of knowing who is trustworthy and who is to be feared based on appearances alone. Curly brown hair does not mean safe, just as smooth brown skin does not mean unsafe. 

As we take the first tentative steps into 2015, much of what is to come remains unclear. But what is clear is that we cannot sit around as another promising young engineer succumbs to the belief that girls can’t be good at math; we cannot look the other way while more innocent men are forced to lie down before the cops who are supposed to protect them. 

With a new year comes the opportunity for change, so let us open our eyes to the complications of the individual and do away with the stereotypes that blind us. Let’s put the ignorance and the labels behind us; let’s do better than the “Nice Jewish Boy.” 

Contact Deputy Editor Sara Newman here and follow her on Twitter here



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.