The Myth of Jewish Nose

“Hey boychick, ya know what movie I rented On Demand last night?”

I nodded my head in exasperation. “No Mort, what movie did ya watch?”

Licorice Pizza. The movie and it’s director, Paul Thomas Anderson, have been nominated for Academy Awards. There’s this really hot Jewish chick, Alina Haim, who stars in the film. She’s a real looker, a great actor and I bet we’ll see her in a lot more movies. She plays a sexy, Jewish, 25-year-old, who is looking for love and ends up finding a 15-year-old who’s nuts about her.”

“Mort, the movie doesn’t sound too realistic.

And that film’s title, who ever hear of licorice pizza? Even thinking about the taste kills me.”

“Well boychick, it’s a good comedy and it does manage to confront one of the world’s oldest myths.”

“Mort, I’m afraid to ask, which myth?”

“The myth of the Jewish nose.”

“That’s a myth!” I exclaimed.

“Yup and let me tell ya about the movie first; then I’ll discuss the myth. Ya see Alina goes to see a casting director (CD).. The CD eyes Alina’s physical attributes. By that I mean her breasts and her ass and says, ‘You have a number of admirable qualities and that beautiful Jewish nose. Of course, the CD meant that her nose was a bissel too big or a bissel too curved for Hollywood movies. It’s like the CD was hinting that Alina should use her bat mitzvah money to pay for a nose job.”

As I listened, I squeezed my nose between my thumb and index finger and wondered, “Did I have one of those protruding Jewish proboscises?”

“Well boychick, if you remove your hand from your nose, I’ll relieve your anxiety about the size of your schnoz.  Ya see, I read Maurice Fishberg’s 1911 study on this subject. Fishberg measured 4,000 New York City Jewish noses and found no size difference with that of the goyim in the general population. He also found that only 20% to 30% of Jews have hooked noses with the vast majority having straight ones.”

“Don’t ya think, with a name like Fishberg, he could have rigged the results?” I asked.

“Ya, but I doubt it. He was a physical anthropologist who specialized and wrote the book on the ethnology of the Jews. This was his life work.”

So Mort, how did I, a self-respecting member of the tribe, fall prey to the big lie?”

‘Well, in junior-high we all heard the ‘Because-air-is-free joke.’ We saw hostile caricatures of Hebrews from way back in the mid-13th century. Shakespeare gave us Shylock and Dickens gave us Fagan.  Nazis in art and in film featured Jews with large hooked beaks. Even now during the Corona pandemic the “Happy Merchant” meme was widely spread by far-right groups. Those neo-Nazis blamed the Jews for the spread of the virus.

Even the medical community in 1914, played into the myth, here is an example. There was a young woman who was self-conscious about her nose. So she went to her physician, Jerome Webster, who made the following diagnosis: Nose is fairly long, has a very slight hump, is somewhat broad near the tip and the tip bends down, giving somewhat the appearance of a Jewish nose. Dr. Webster then concluded, I think that there is sufficient deformity to warrant changing the nose.”

Mort pulled his iPhone out of his pocket and said, “Now let me read you some facts about the history of the ‘Jewish nose’ from wiki:

The Jewish nose has been used in Western scientific literature to describe a set of physical features thought to constitute a distinct, race-based deformity. As early as 1850, Robert Knox, a prominent anthropologist, described the physical features of the Jew as including “a large, massive, club-shaped, hooked nose, three or four times larger than suits the face. . . . Thus it is that the Jewish face never will be, and never is, perfectly beautiful.
In the 1900s, the “Jew nose” became the subject of purportedly scientific studies of hereditary transmission; a 1928 text described a “Jew nose” that emerged in the offspring of mixed Jewish and non-Jewish marriages.”

“Mort, I even remember in my junior year in college, when one of my so-called Gentile friends, who just happened to have an aquiline Roman nose, told me, ‘You don’t look Jewish.’

I don’t remember how I replied or if I replied. But I wondered, ‘Was that a compliment or was he insulting to my race.'”

Boychick, It was both.”

“But Mort, didn’t surgeons invent rhinoplasty so that Jews could pass as Gentiles?”

“That’s another myth, but as with all myths there’s a kernel of truth in your question. Let me teach you a little history. I bet ya didn’t know that a pioneer in the field of nose jobs was a German Jew. Dr. Jacques Joseph, Nose Joseph, as he was known, was the son of a rabbi.”

Mort paused as if he was in deep thought.

“Isn’t it interesting how rabbis seem to produce some pretty smart kids?”

I failed to react. So Mort continued.

“Joseph in his book described how he refined surgical techniques for performing nose jobs. His innovations in nose reconstructive surgery lead to rhinoplasty becoming popular in Berlin.”

As I stood, I glanced at Mort’s nose and said, “Thanks for the education but before I go, I gotta tell you that you’ve convinced me of three things and that I still got two more questions for you.”

“I’m all ears.”

“I now know that the Jewish nose and licorice pizza are both myths and I, too, am going to rent that movie starring that  hot Jewish chick.

Finally, where can I find a job measuring Jewish noses? And how much does it pay?”

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort is a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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