What are the two different types of Jews (ethnicity)

I’ve noticed that Jewish people tend to be physically split into two different camps when it comes to appearance. On one hand, you have the sort of classic jew stereotype of Woody Allen, the Coen Brothers, a Rick Moranis, or the fictional character Barton Fink.

On the other, there’s the more “wild-looking” camp with squintier eyes - a Bill Maher, Barbara Streisand, a Spielberg, or a Sarah Jessica Parker.

What are these two different groups? What are their origins? Do they have specific names for the two different camps?

I used to have two bosses, both jewish, who were one of each, and they used to joke about it. “Bill [of the second group] here’s spent some time in the desert, if you know what I mean,” to which Bill would reply, “Well, we can’t all be accountants and dentists” to the more Woody Allen-looking guy.

Historically, there have been two separate Jewish populations: the Ashkenazi who lived in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Sephardic who lived primarily around the Mediterranean. Basically, at some point each group went and settled in a different part of the world, with plenty of intermixing with local populations. These are admittedly very broad categories, and not as distinct in the modern age with all of the traveling that people do.

Honestly, however, I have no idea if this corresponds to the differences you perceive. To me, *both *of the groups of celebrities you point out look like they probably have Eastern European ancestry.

Well, the first thing I thought of was Ashkenazik (sp?), which is the more Eastern European type, and Sephardic, which has been seen as more Mediterranean.

However, I think all you named lean towards the Ashkenazik. (Btw, Bill Maher is just half-Jewish.)

Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews

Please tell me this is some kind of joke. You’ve basically taken the dorkiest, most cliched stereotypes of Jews and you’re using these as the best examples of the type of classifications you’re talking about? “Wild looking?” How is the second group any more “wild looking” than the first group? Everyone you’ve mentioned is basically a standard Ashkenazic Jew of European descent (and none of them are very good-looking people.) And Bill Maher is only half-Jewish, as is Sarah Jessica Parker.

All Jews are not dorks with big noses who look like Woody Allen. Your sample group is kind of unfair.

Ditto what Argent Towers said.

If you go back 2,500 years Jews are the same ethnic group as Palestinians. Beyond that, no idea other than it’s a much studied group in DNA terms.

I couldn’t get this link to work. I just got this:


ETA: I agree with others that your examples make no sense.

Well, there’s Wild Jews and Domesticated Jews …

Ok, well I just accidentally closed my long reply. I won’t rewrite it all.

Short form: that’s kinda not really at all true. Palestinians are ethnically and culturally Arabs and identify as such - and there was no Palestine then. While there were no hard borders, Arab settlements were mostly in Jordan and Sinai. Arabs are a Semitic people, but thay would have been distinct tribes and smewhat different ethnicities. Arabs were not Jews, even leaving religion aside. However, there was no clear-cut concept of ethnicity then (or today for what matter).

I don’t really understand this. I present two categories of people that look completely different almost to the point of looking like different races.

Look at Leonard Cohen, Jason Schwartzmannand Matthew Broderick.

Now look at Jennifer Aniston and Stephen Spielberg.

It’s night and day!

Have you considered the possibility that your experience is misleading you? Because your examples don’t make any sense. Argent Towers is correct that you’re trafficking in stereotypes. There are different groups among people with Jewish ancestry, but there’s no connection between those groups and the people you are typing in your OP.

By the way, John Turturro (Barton Fink) isn’t Jewish at all. Both his parents are Italian. He played a Jewish character, as many other Italians have done, because many people see both groups as “ethnic,” which is close enough for Hollywood’s purposes. Turturro achieved a brilliant simulacrum of Jewishness by wearing glasses and wearing a frizzy hairpiece.

By the way, which of the two groups does Lenny Kravitz fit into?

Are you sure it’s not just the glasses?

I think you’re just seeing a normal variance among Ashkenazi Jews. For example, if someone hasn’t been exposed to Asians, he’s likely to think that “they all look alike”. However, once he studies their features a bit more, he will see that there are slight distinguishing variations among all of the individuals in that ethnic group.

The impression I get is that now that you have the opportunity to sit and study Jewish faces, you are able to see the differences between them.

Perhaps adding to your confusion is that you’ve heard of the fact that Jews can be split up into two different ethnicities, namely Ashkenazi and Sephardi, and you are trying to place these individuals into two different groups, even though they are all (to my knowledge) of Ashkenazi ancestry.

Edited to Add: The people you place in the first group all have dark hair, while the people in the second group have light/gray hair. Perhaps that plays a part as well.

You do realize that there’s nothing remotely Jewish about Jennifer Aniston, and Broderick is only half Jewish?

I present you instead with Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Gorbachev

Night and day, eh? Individual variations within a single ethnic group can be as large as variations between different ones.

And how doesOptimus Prime fit into this schema?

Dude, Jennifer Aniston is Greek-Irish-Scottish.

And I agree, I think your examples are strange. They don’t look that different (other than being different people, obviously).

You last sentence is factually incorrect. I think you may be using “ethnicity” incorrectly. An ethnos is a cultural group, with a common language, customs, usually religion, and, because of that, genetics. Naturally that eventually has an effect on appearance. In the ancient world, when cities were smaller and more of the population was rural, ethnicity was very clearly delineated, usually as a shorthand by language spoken or geography. Arabs and Jews share a related language, of course, so ultimately they would share a cultural ancestry, but that’s a few thousand years earlier than most people care about.

All Jews started out as your basic Semitic type, like the Arabs. Generally dark-skinned, dark-haired, hairy people with curly hair and Semitic facial features. When the Jews began the “diaspora” and migrated around the world, they went to different places. The Sephardic Jews lived in Arab countries and eventually Spain and Italy, therefore they look closer to what the “original” Jews probably looked like, i.e. dark. Jewish women were of course raped in these countries but they were raped by people who also came from Semitic origins, as well as some Moors and other dark people in Spain and Italy, and so they remained darker generally. The Ashkenazi Jews (and I always found it odd how that word contains the word “nazi”) traveled through Europe, and so their women were raped by Europeans. That is how DNA for light hair, light skin, blue eyes, and what have you, got into the bloodlines. I mean, look at my picture in my user profile - you are not going to see hair like that on a Semite from ancient Judea, even though I am 100 percent “ethnically” Jewish, there is obviously a majority of European genes in my background.

So as a general rule Sephardic Jews look more like Arabs and Ashkenazi Jews look more like Europeans. But there are always going to be exceptions because so many different kinds of DNA mixed together over the past 2000 years.