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I'm not Jewish, however I have a genuine question about a comment someone in my house made tonight regarding Jewish Mothers, cooks and kitchens.

I can't exactly remember how the conversation started but at dinner tonight, a person who lives in the same house I do made a comment that hit me as a generalisation but have no knowledge on whether it's an completely untrue stereotype or a, more-or-less, likely case for most Jewish mothers and cooks (not professional cooks, just Jewish people who like to cook) and was wondering if this forum could educate me (hence the username).

It started with them saying

"if you want a clean kitchen, marry a jew".

That sentence hit me a little harder than I thought it would, especially since I'm in no ways religious. It might be because I have very little knowledge on the religion and culture.

"no no, it's true, they are all very clean and very hygienic when it comes to their kitchens and their food."

When I said "it's impossible for all Jewish people to be clean freaks, that's a sweeping generalisation", they just kept reassuring me that their comments were true. I felt like I should immediately try to correct them on this, having known them for years I know they aren't racist, anti-Semitic, etc, however this comment made me slightly uncomfortable and their commitment to this belief of theirs was exclaimed with their experience of two Jewish girls who worked in the same company they used to work with and how they both always brought two lunch-boxes to work so they could also keep their high standards of food hygiene even in the work-place. I know they meant it as a kind of a compliment, but one that I have no way of knowing whether there's even a way to find out if it's true or not without anecdotal evidence.

My immediate instinct is to just write it off as a 'backhanded-stereotypical-anti-Semitic-compliment' and move on but I care for this person deeply and don't want to write them off as having made anti-Semitic remarks without anything to go on besides basic assumptions of their comments.

The biggest reason why I would like an answer to this is because of how my brain works. I have no doubt this person in my house is not anti-Semitic, but them having made remarks that could be anti-Semitic has me worried because for all they know about my life, I could be dating a Jewish person and am now extremely hesitant to the future prospect of bringing them to the house and meeting this person. Not that I think further anti-Semitic remarks would be said to them or any innappropriate jokes would be made, but more of just the general fear of having to explain any potential remarks to a hypothetical romantic interest whilst trying to explain to them that this person is not actually anti-Semitic.

Sorry if my first post here is a bit rambly. Thanks in advance to any and all helpful answers.

  • EdumacateMe
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    For me being clean is a compliment, while you say that this remark made you uncomfortable. This shows that it's impossible to give an objective answer to this question. But why don't you discuss this case with your friends and tell them that for some reason their comment made you feel bad? Jun 15 at 18:48
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    This question is very interesting (and well-posed) but I don't think it's on-topic on this site, which is about Judaism and not about Jews.
    – msh210
    Jun 16 at 4:04
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The comment is an oversimplification, however there is some basis to it. The traditional dietary laws of Judaism, kashrut, do require some rather intricate thought processes of what goes into food, and they may have experienced some observant Jews following through on such actions.

The two flaws here are:

  • One can be a total slob while not technically violating kashrut; if someone needs to keep meat and milk separate and their kitchen contains both, then their kitchen needs a certain amount of organization and cleanliness. But suppose you have a "greasy spoon" restaurant that doesn't allow milk into the kitchen, and checks that all the meat entering is kosher. You could have a totally sloppy and unsanitary kitchen in which everything is technically kosher.

  • Many Jews don't observe the full laws of kashrut meticulously, and many don't observe them at all.

So it's actually not too far from something like "she's Saudi, so she must be okay fasting for 12 hours." It is true that most Saudis are Muslim, and that calls for fasting daylight hours during Ramadan, and most people who do so over time probably adapt to it, but there's no guarantee that a given person from the population follows the majority's religious laws, and even so, if they are good at it.

So I wouldn't call it "anti-Semitic" per se, but assuming all Jews keep clean kitchens is a form of prejudice -- prejudging an individual based on the above assumptions.

In this particular context, it's actually a logically-flawed prejudice at that -- most Jews who are okay with marrying non-Jews don't keep kosher.

I don't consider it offensive, just a bit ignorant.

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  • Very helpful information! Thank you Jun 15 at 19:59
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My perspective is that it is indeed a simplification, but not intended to be negative. To try to 'argue it out' with someone has varying degrees of being unsuccessful. I may ask them further questions about the why's behind their statements. I heard a speaker on TED Talks say one time that stereotypes are not in-correct but are in-complete!

I guess a best case scenario is that you open the door for further understanding for all.

Thank you

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