Playboy is launching an Israeli edition that will be in Hebrew and feature Israeli women. My own Hebrew skills only emerge when I’m holding a prayer book with transliterations in it, so the language part doesn’t interest me. But as for featuring Israeli women—why did no one think of this before? Israeli women are known—in the U.S., among Eastern European Jews in particular—as very attractive. This is finally the Jewish woman’s chance to shine! If ever a Jewish woman were going to make it in the adult industry, it would have to be an Israeli.
We American Jewish women have long known of our inferiority to Israeli women. It’s an old story. How many Jewish girls lost eighth-grade boyfriends to some effortlessly thin Israeli “sabra” named Adina or Gila with sun-streaked blond hair and a husky voice, who took him to the beach and whose mother never yelled about tracking sand through the house? Many.
Beyond that, Israeli women are the cool Jewish women—almost not even Jewish because they’re so secular. The first time I met my Israeli friend Irit, she said, “You Ashkenazi Jews are so strange. We don’t know what to think of you.” We’re so religious, she said, and so obsessed with Israel. Plus, she thought all the neurotic insecurity was bizarre. Why all the hangups?
Growing up as a Jewish girl in the U.S., I was told in all kinds of ways that I’d never be the physical ideal. I could be smart, and I could be pretty at my summer camp for Jews. But it would be hard to compete outside of that. And it’s true, I didn’t see any Jewish supermodels, or Jewish objects of desire in movies or on TV. I remember being excited, during Star Wars mania, when I found out that Carrie Fisher was half-Jewish. Princess Leia was admired by many of the boys in my school. Maybe it was the Jewish half that made her pretty? Or was it the cinnamon buns on her head?
But the Carrie Fishers were few and far between in an era of Christie Brinkley and Farrah Fawcett. When someone would say to me, “You don’t look Jewish,” I knew that was code for, “You don’t have a horribly large nose and bad hair.” It was a weird backhanded compliment because “looking Jewish” wasn’t good. Put the words “Jewish” and “woman” next to each other and the word that comes to mind is rarely “hot.” And it’s never “centerfold.”
When people have protested this claim of mine—that Jewish people are not regarded as “hot” in American culture—they tend to refer to anecdotal evidence, and generally their own. So I’ve often ended up in conversations that end with, “Well, I find Jewish women sexy. I like that Semitic profile.” Or, “I think Jewish women can be hot. I dig the intellectual thing.”
This sense of Jewish female attractiveness (or lack thereof) bleeds into perceptions about sexuality as well. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been in conversations with intelligent people who ask me why Jewish women are sexually reluctant or unadventurous. “I thought Jewish women didn’t like to give blow jobs” is a comment I’ve often heard, sometimes at the precise moment when I could prove the point or no.
But there was an American Jewish Playmate once: Lindsey Vuolo, November 2001. At the time, I felt she didn’t really count as a Jewish centerfold because her name wasn’t Rachel Rosenbaum or something like that. Philly Mag did a small feature on her and got an amazing quote from Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, VP of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership: “You have Jewish men who will go home, and they’ll masturbate to a Jewish girl for a change.” With all the really hot Israeli women in the new Israeli Playboy, just think of how many men will be masturbating to Jewish girls now. Rabbi Hirschfield must be kvelling.