Find me a shiksa

Laurie Graff depicts Jewish life in NY with astute observations.

shiksa book 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
shiksa book 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Shiksa Syndrome By Laurie Graff Broadway 336 pages; $22.95 The Jewish singles scene in New York is a dynamic, diverse, subculture all of its own. Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, as well as every conceivable denomination in between, all contribute to the melting pot of singles. The "singles crisis," as some call it, has sparked into existence many Web sites - JDate, JCupid and frumster to name a few - a documentary or two and limitless speculation. Why aren't people finding their soul mates anymore? Where have we gone wrong with that generation? How can we ensure continued Jewish observance and prevent intermarriage in this new segment of the population? Each weekend, hundreds of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes mingle at synagogue services, Friday night meals and singles events. Many women complain of the blatant discrepancy in the standards set for single men and women, and the added stress of running a race against their own biological clock. And the more modern Jews of both sexes grapple with the priority their parents and community have imposed upon them of confining themselves to dating within the Jewish community exclusively. As fully grown adults leading independent lives, many men and women simply slip into the secular world surrounding them, succumbing to assimilation and intermarriage as the Jewish motifs and symbols that surrounded them in their childhood lose most or all significance. Those who stubbornly cling to their Jewish identities find themselves not fulfilling the dreams they have long nurtured of raising Jewish families and continuing their cherished traditions and values. In her new novel The Shiksa Syndrome, Laurie Graff addresses these issues as she depicts Jewish life on New York's Upper West Side with discerning insight and astute observations that are often quite amusing as well. The novel follows fictional 39-year-old Aimee, a single Reform Jewish woman working in PR, in the travails and pitfalls of finding Mr. Right. Having just ended a relationship with a great, non-Jewish guy due to his failure-to-commit (to Judaism) syndrome, Aimee finds that she's having trouble snagging a nice Jewish boy, not because they are all taken, but because nice Jewish boys have grown bored with their female counterparts, preferring the forbidden, and therefore exhilarating shiksas, who have taken to opening accounts on the popular Jewish singles Web site JDate, classifying themselves as willing to convert. Aimee thus devises a plan to market herself as a non-Jewish woman who has decided to try other avenues to find her bashert. Her plan proves quite effective when she immediately snags a new boyfriend at a kosher wine-tasting event, but she finds that posing as a shiksa forces her to confront just how much being Jewish means to her, and what being Jewish really means today. The Shiksa Syndrome paints a comical yet disarmingly accurate picture of the Reform singles scene in New York, describing to a T the Jewish singles events, dates to "kosher style" restaurants and Jewish men's perceptions of non-Jewish women. Sprinklings of Yiddish vocabulary throughout the book and cute chapter titles such as "Boy Vey" and "The Accidental Tsuris," along with equally cute dialogue engage the reader till the last page, and the plot, though somewhat far-fetched at certain points, is certainly entertaining. While the book is a light, fun read, the author also attempts (successfully) to grapple with some issues facing modern American Jewry, such as cultural assimilation and intermarriage and, amid the dead-on descriptions of Jewish life in New York, slips in many profound observations.