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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

14 - “Non-Jewish, Non Kosher, Yet Also Recommended”


Froehlich's pastry shop is in the heart of Budapest's former main Jewish quarter, a few steps away from the city's central Orthodox synagogue. A sign in Hebrew at its door declares its wares to be kosher, and the shop is the haunt of Budapest Jews sipping tea and nibbling on sweets, as well as visiting tourists seeking to sample local Jewish specialties. Here, amid the cherry strudel and cabbage pasties, you can often find other items for sale: miniature Jews made out of marzipan. The tiny figures, just three inches high, sport the black suits, black hats, earlocks, and dangling ritual fringes worn by Hasidic or other ultra-orthodox Jews of East European origin. Beardless, they apparently represent boys, Yeshiva bochers; as far as I can tell, they are sold as Bar Mitzvah cake decorations or party favors. Each is in a clear plastic container. Produced by Jews and directed at a Jewish market, they are a humorous, even self-ironic take on a Jewish reality: kitschy, to be sure, but by no means malevolent. At the same time, however, these Jewish self-representations clearly embody the same stereotypical markers so often used to depict Jews in far less flattering contexts. I bought a couple to place beside a hook-nosed Jewish puppet I had bought in Prague and bearded figurines of Jewish peddlers I got in Poland.

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Gruber, Ruth Ellen, Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002
Valley's, Eli book, The Great Jewish Cities of Central and Eastern Europe (Northdale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1999