I have a Yom Kippur fantasy. God has just inscribed me in the Book of Life and, as a bonus, adds, “Ophi, pick a fine Jewish man and he’s yours.”
I close my eyes and whisper, “I choose Ben Stiller.” Bring me the high forehead and furry back, the rock-cut facial asymmetry. Deliver, O Lord, the klutzy sex appeal, tempered by a pinch of schlemieldom. Big Ben can ring my bell.
Last summer, he almost did. On a whim, a few friends and I signed up to be extras in “Keeping the Faith,” a new movie in which Ben stars as a hip, young rabbi. Faced with an unresponsive congregation, Reb Stiller turns his sermons into comic improv, and even invites a gospel choir to rock the house with a sassy soul rendition of Ein Keloheinu. As an extra, I helped fill the seats of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun for a mock High Holiday service.
Ben and I were separated only by a balcony and a bima. And although we never spoke, I walked out on him within an hour.
You see, “Keeping the Faith”—and my flirtation with Hollywood—has a subplot of betrayal. In the movie, Rabbi Ben’s childhood chum (Ed Norton) grows up to become a priest. And they’re tighter than Jacob and Esau until a girl from their past (Jenna Elfman) makes a surprise appearance. She’s tall, she’s bony, she’s blond. And guess what? The rabbi and the priest both want her.
So—the rabbi’s ultimate goal is to get the blond waif and convince his congregation to accept their cross-cultural love? Well, yes.
Perhaps it hit too close to home. At 26, I’ve got as many bedpost notches as years on the planet. Yet, I’ve only dated one Jewish man. I’d be happy to add more to the list, but few have ever seemed attracted to me. I’ve often wondered if the reason is physical. Like many Jewish women, I’m short, thick and full-featured. I refuse to diet or get plastic surgery because I like myself the way I am. But are my curves a turnoff to Jewish guys? Other times, I’ve wondered if I have too much attitude for some Jewish guys to handle.
I’d be a hypocrite to say intercultural relationships bother me. But as seldom as Hollywood makes an overtly Jewish movie, the cliché disappointed me. Did they doubt that Jewish women can be sexy, attractive, loveable, beautiful and worthy of a fine Jewish man’s pursuit?
Though it was just a movie, I felt betrayed. As a Jewish woman, this sadly familiar script was telling me that I wasn’t good enough for a top-of-the-line Jewish guy—my dream guy, to boot! Rabbi Ben needed to win the shiksa in order to become a hero.
I couldn’t stick around for the coronation. While the extras assumed their swooning position, I blew that movie set like a shofar on Rosh Hashanah.
That was my last encounter with Ben Stiller. I’ll probably see “Keeping the Faith” at the dollar show, just to give him one more chance. Still, if God ever does offer me a fine Jewish man, I’m asking for movie rights instead. That way, I can write the script.
Ophira Edut edits the web site “Babes in Goyland” (www.ophira.com/jewgirl) and is the director of an upcoming women’s online community.