1. wolferz
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    wolferz Member

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    A Jewish Character and research

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by wolferz, Dec 27, 2008.

    I want to create a story involving a character who is Jewish both ethnically and religiously. I want to learn more about Jewish culture in America. Perhaps he/she would be raised in a certain home, in a large city, with particular things he/she remembers growing up. I want a lot of Jewish pride in the character.

    I am not Jewish and I do not know what a Jewish person may feel being made fun of as a child, or how his/her family celebrated certain holidays.


    If anyone here is Jewish and has some insight into American Jewish culture/being raised, I would greatly appreciate it for my story. Or if you know of any resources I could research about this.
     
  2. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    In my experience, Jews are not likely to be made fun of for being Jewish unless they are extremely Orthodox and go to a public school because there are no private Jewish schools close enough for them to go to. I'm on my way to shul in a few minutes (there is an Isreali Jew on the site who can also help you), so I don't have time to say much right now. I'll see what I can help you with later.
     
  3. apathykills
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    apathykills Contributing Member

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    hi, i'm the Israeli guy rei mentioned, i can't really say much about American traditions and such stuff, didn't even know America had private Jewish schools up until i read reis post, but i can help you with other stuff.

    Like every other person that is being made fun of at school.

    Well that's not really true, different people react differently to being picked on and his response will be more character based then creed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_holidays

    There you go, I'll be more then happy to answer specific questions but there is no way i'm gonna write every last one of them. I will however give you some cliff notes.

    In the immortal words of fran drescher (a.k.a the nanny): "they tried to kill us, they failed, lets eat."

    Seriously, short of the fasts, all Jewish holidays involve food and family; it's ridiculous we haven't all died of over eating by now.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I couldn't say for sure what schools there are in America. There are lots of private Jewish schools in Toronto, and I'm sure there must be a few in New York State, if nowhere else. What sort of story are you thinking of writing? Personally, I can tell you that I am sick of stories with Jewish main characters that focus on antisemitism or refer to the Holocaust a lot.

    There are two novels and one movie I can think of that successfully manage that. The move is Yentl. The books, Are you Alone on Purpose by Nancy Werlin and Gravity by Leanne Lieberman. That last one gives you a great perspective on teens growing up in Orthodox Jewish family while living in a secular world.

    What sort of story are you thinking of writing?
     
  5. othman
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    othman Member

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    I don't mean to sound insensitive or anything, but around I live, nobody cares what religion you are or what race or anything, religion (never race) just gives the few people who are ignorant something extra to yell if they don't like you for some reason.
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, people do care. People care very much. There is nothing wrong with writing a storu specifically about people who happened to be Jewish, but when you do that, you have to really know what you're talking about, just like if you wanted to write a story with a historical setting.
     
  7. jwilder
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    jwilder Member

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    There is a group here in Chicago called the United Jewish Confederation. They're a local group that serves the greater Chicagoland Jewish community. Here's a link with a ton of info about everything Jewish (in Chicago), including schools, shuls, food and shopping, Jewish businesses, cemeteries, etc. I'm sure none of them would have a problem if you called to make an appointment for a phone interview about some aspect of Jewish life.

    http://www.juf.org/guide/default.aspx

    Also, if you intend to write accurately about Jews and Jewish life, be sure to determine which sect of Judaism your character comes from: Reform, Orthdox, Shepardic, etc. Like Christians, Jews get very touchy if you start mixing branches and sects. ;)
     
  8. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    I think you will also come across the problem that there is such a wide range of Jewish traditions and customs based upon where and how you were raised. It might be best to choose one and dive into what your character’s particular traditions are.

    Or you could always watch 'fiddler on the roof' and call it a night?
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    You know, it sounds like a silly suggestion, but that movie is actually a good way to learn about the culture. My great-grandmother lived in a town in Russia very much like the one in the movie. According to my Bubba (Yiddish for grandma), she absolutely loved it, and said that she lived exactly what was shown in the movie.
     
  10. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was one of the founders of a private Jewish school (Shalom School) in the Sacramento area. It combined Jewish studies with secular academics. For example, the school was strictly kosher, so children were restricted in what foods they could bring for lunch.

    As far as prejudice, Jews in my area rarely complain about anti-Jewish experiences, although we have had two incidents of malicious fires set at one of the local temples over the past twenty years. Each time, the men were caught and found to be members of the Aryan Nation - a white supremacist group of thugs who hate blacks, Jews, communists, liberals and well-educated people.

    On a daily basis, there seems to be more animosity within the religion than from outside. We have orthodox, conservative and reform populations in our area and they each seem to look down their noses at the others...kind of "We are holier than thou!" There is a joke about an old Jew whose ship sank and he was the only survivor. He swam to a desert island where he survived for nearly ten years before being discovered. When the rescue party approached his hut, they asked where the people were who lived in the other two nearby huts. The old man replied, "There is nobody else here. This hut is my home where I seek shelter and prepare my food. The hut next door...that is my shul where I worship God and keep my faith. But that hut over there...that is the Reform Temple (spits on ground) where I would never be caught dead!" Such can be the animosity between factions within Judaism.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    www.jewfaq.org is a good site to learn about Jewish holidays.

    But it would really help to attend them. You can read a lot about Jewish weddings for example, but after you attend one, you get a good feel for the information you learned. It is just not something that can be learned, not if you care to write well about it.
     
  12. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    http://www.kesherisrael.org/

    If you're in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I found this site that would give you a lot of local resources. I literally found it by typing in the city name and shul into google.
     
  13. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just thought of a great book you can read to get the feel of the Jewish language and way of thinking: Born to Kvetch. It's a great overview of Eastern European Jewish culture and Yiddish.
     
  14. Hetroclite
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    The rule of writing is "Write what you know." Look into your own life as to what adversities you suffered for being what you are. Write from your own cultural identity in America.

    But if you really want to write about Jews, you really have to crack open a history book & really get into it. Add to that essays written by Jews who have experienced persecution & meeting face-to-face with Jews in your neighborhood. This will take a lot of time & effort. You're not going to get it all by just asking a Jew or two a few questions.
     
  15. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    The literary world would be very boring if we all did that. This is what research is all about. We don't know it now, but we can know it.
     

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