Jews & Chinese Food

That Jews like Chinese food is an awful, anti-Semitic stereotype. From an article in Tablet titled “Why Eating Chinese Food on Christmas is a Sacred Tradition for American Jews”:

Beyond the trappings and the cuisine, Chinese restaurants offered poor Eastern European Jewish immigrants the opportunity to feel cosmopolitan and sophisticated (food of the Orient!). It also let them feel superior, a truism that has achieved the most definitive canonization available: its own Philip Roth quotation. “Yes, the only people in the world whom it seems to me the Jews are not afraid of are the Chinese,” Alexander Portnoy tells us. “Because one, the way they speak English makes my father sound like Lord Chesterfield; two, the insides of their heads are just so much fried rice anyway; and three, to them we are not Jews but white and maybe even Anglo Saxon. No wonder they can’t intimidate us. To them we’re just some big-nosed variety of WASP.”

Roth speaks for many. Is it possible to cram more paranoia, self-aggrandizement, envy, and dismissive vitriol against the Chinese into one paragraph?

Whether they have fully thought it through or not, Jews who eat Chinese food on Christmas are proclaiming that, for them, Jewishness is what philosophers call a second-order value. In contrast to valuing Judaism on the first order—enjoying the rituals themselves, sincerely adhering to the tenets themselves—they value the fact of their Jewishness. They go out of their way to do it. They may or may not enjoy General Tso’s Chicken, but if they are eating it on Christmas, their prime motivation is not the general’s sweet, spicy deliciousness, but rather the knowledge that they are doing something that in some adapted way reinforces their Jewishness. They are moved by their hearts, not their tastebuds.

It’s all about the proud assertion of ethnic identity.

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