lush and Jewish and noisy

kahroba

Senior Member
Persian
Hi, everybody
As far as I know "Jewish" means "of or relating to the Jews or their culture or religion"; I wonder if that definition applies in the following context, taken from "Mary French" in "The Big Money" by John Dos Passos:
The intructors liked her because she was neat and serious and downright about everything and the girls said she was as homely as a mud fence but a darling.
It was all spoiled the second year when Ada [Cohen] came to Vassar. Ada was her oldest friend and Mary loved her dearly, so she was horrified to catch herself wishing Ada hadn't come. Ada had gotten so lush and Jewish and noisy, and her clothes were too expensive and never just right.
Any suggestion?
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    To Mary, Ada is an embarrassment because she flagrantly displays or evinces stereotypical Jewish behavior. Perhaps Ada is "embarrassingly Jewish" in her speech, for example. Prior to Ada's arrival, Mary had been able to behave more like the other girls at the school, to fit in. Ada did not fit in nearly as well.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Jews had been present in New York since the earliest days of the city. There has been a synagogue (of Sephardic Jews, who traced their origin to Spain and Portugal) in New York since 1653 (founded when New York was still a Dutch colony), and up until the 1880's, descendants of these Jewish families were accepted as members of the highest and most refined society in New York. This changed beginning with the massive influx in the last quarter of the 19th Century of Jews from the German, Austrian, and Russian empires (including from what are now such countries as Poland and Ukraine.) The Jews who arrived then were very little like their predecessors. They were Askenazim, speaking Yiddish instead of Ladino, and they certainly did not know English. In addition to being poor, and having a language and customs that were entirley foreign to New York society of the day, they also arrive in huge numbers, with more than a million living in New York City by the First World War. Immigrants had always been despised by high society in the United States, whose members prided themselves on the length of time their families had been in America. This new group of Jews was so foreign, so different in language and religion and customs, and so overwhelming in numbers that they were held in especial disdain by high society. Furthermore, their numbers were so great that the term "Jew" came to be associated exclusively with the despised new immigrants, and even the old families of Sephardic Jews found themselves, for the first time in two centuries, excluded from the organizations and clubs that the ancestors of a number of them had helped to found.

    At the time in question, then, it would have been considered gauche and socially unacceptable for someone to act in the way that was associated with newly rich, but socially unacceptable, Jewish immigrants and their descendants. Some of these supposed traits would include not behaving in the tight-lipped, highly restrained way of the social elite, but instead being vivacious, expressive, and emotional. Others would include talking loudly, or gesturing with the hands while conversing. In addition, any public display of wealth (and certainly any conversation in which money was mentioned) would have been held in contempt; as a result, wearing expensive jewelry, or clothes that are obviously new, costly, and the latest fashion, would have been considered vulgar, unacceptable, and stereotypically "Jewish" things to do.

    Vassar was a socially prestigious women's college in Poughkeepsie, New York, directly up the Hudson River from New York City. Many of the students would have been the daughters of New York "society", and certainly the values of New York society would have been the values of the students.
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    That's certainly quite an impressive and comprehensive answer. Thank you dear GWB for this and all other informative beautiful comments of yours.:)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top