What is Jewish hair?

Photo: "Great Jewish Hair" by Sashinka-uk

For more about Jewish Hair, check out Episode 5: "Jewish Hair" of Can We Talk, JWA's podcast.

The buzz about Good Hair, Chris Rock's new documentary about Black hair, has got me thinking about "Jewish hair": what it is, what it means, and where I -- a straight-haired woman -- fit into this curious piece of Jewish identity. 

"Jewish hair" is a tricky thing to define, since Judaism can include people from any racial or ethnic background. And while Jews are known to have a variety of haircolors, as well as levels of curliness, "Jewish hair" seems to refer to dark, curly, and often frizzy, hair.

The first time I became aware of “Jewish hair” was when I went to an overnight for prospective students at Brandeis University. Up until that moment, sitting in a crowded upperclassmen dorm, I had never really thought about my hair as a part of my Jewish identity.  But as I looked around the room, a sea of dark curls, I couldn’t help but notice that I was one of the few people with straight hair. With my light eyes and straight, brown hair, I found myself wondering if I "looked Jewish."  And even more troubling, did I want to "look Jewish?" 

The introduction of Rebecca Rubin, the Jewish American Girl Doll, sparked conversation about this question a few months ago. Some were upset that the doll looked "stereotypically Jewish," while others thought she didn't "look Jewish" enough. Like many minorities, we are stuck between the desire to celebrate our ethnicism and embrace our diversity as a community.

While the politics of Black hair and Jewish hair are not comparable, it is safe to say that many Jewish women have felt the pressure to look like the mainstream images we see in magazines. This reinforces the idea that one must look "white" to look beautiful. Judith Rosenbaum touched on this in her post about Patrick Swayze, and what it meant for frizzy-haired Jennifer Grey to be the object of his sexual desire in Dirty Dancing. Many curly-haired Jewish girls straighten their hair, and some use chemical treatments for more permanent results. I think the only time I have ever seen my older cousin's naturally curly hair was in her Bat Mitzvah photos from 1988.

The "Jewish hair" issue is also gendered. Curiously, or perhaps not, it seems only Jewish women straighten their hair.  Jewish men with "Jewish hair" can choose to keep it cropped short, or let it grow into a "Jew-fro," which has been recently popularized by Jewish comedy stars like Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. Thanks to those high profile Jews, the Jew-fro has become the mark of the "funny guy" who gets laughs making fun of himself and his Jewish heritage. The Jew-fro's resurgance has done little to challenge stereotypes of Jewish masculinity. We may see a Jew-fro on an action hero someday, but I'm not holding my breath.

This is particularly interesting when you consider that the Jew-fro was first considered a "style" in the 60s and 70s, when the Afro was worn as a mark of ethnic pride, and was sported by Jewish folk icons like Bob Dylon and Art Garfunkel. Was the Jew-fro meant to be a mark of solidarity with the Black community during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, or was it merely a fashion statement? And why do Black women participate in the Afro, while Jewish women with big, curly hair do not usually appropriate the term "Jew-fro" to describe their 'do?  The fact that we find ourselves thinking about "Jewish hair" within the context of "Black hair" suggests that Jews strongly identify with the Black community when it comes to the issues surrounding "looking ethnic" in America. 

I cannot speak for curly-haired Jewish women, since I have had a different experience with my "Jewish hair," if you can even call it that.  (We not only must define our own identity, we must define our hair's identity!)  For this reason, I would love to hear some stories from women with different hair and different experiences.  What's your Jewish hair identity?

Visit our Flickr group "My Jewish Hair," and share a photo of your great, Jewish hair! 

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I am 100% Ashkenazi Jewish. My hair was stick straight growing up. As it turned grey, it became a little more wavy and more straw like. I think it's a slippery slope when you stereotype people especially Jews since God knows we already have enough anti-Semitism thrown our way. What you are saying is that Jewish people have curly hair. Many may, but many do not. I grew up in a very Jewish neighborhood, and many Jewish kids had straight hair, blonde hair, thick hair, curly hair, red hair, kinky hair, smooth hair, all natural. One of my children has very curly brown hair and the other has light brown straight hair. It's offensive if someone says they have "Jewish Hair" Don't other races have curly hair too? Yes, of course. I am very offended if someone, Non-Jewish says they have Jewish Hair. There is no such thing as Jewish Hair folks.

I am a multi-racial person, African, English/Welsh, Scots-Irish, and Scandinavian. My hair is curly like a Jewish person's when I wear it natural and straight like a White person when I straighten it. There are so many products now available for ethic hair, which helps me to love my hair because it is so versatile. I do remember a time when I was bullied and called a zebra or told I had Nappy hair, which is laughable now, because I have beautiful hair and get so many compliments from my white co-workers and friends because my hair can be styled in a variety of ways and theirs cannot. It took me a while to embrace my hair and love the differences therein. There is a small percentage of people with naturally curly hair in the world, as opposed to straight hair, so love your curls, they're free! 😊

I was looking up pictures of Jessica Hecht's natural hair because I'm into curls and sort of have them. I ran across a Glamour article before this that describes "Jewish hair" and it sounds like mine. It goes: "So, what does Jewish hair look like? I think Joshua Harmon put it best in his play Bad Jews, when he described Jewish hair as: 'Thick, intense, curly, frizzy, long brown hair. Hair that clogs a drain after one shower. Hair you find on pillows and in corners of the room and in your refrigerator six months after the head from which it grew last visited. Hair that could not be straightened even if you had four hours and three hairdressers double-fisting blow driers. Hair that screams: Jew.' ”
OK, that sounds like mine. But I'm not genetically Jewish, that I know of. I have a prominent nose but so does Bono who's Irish and given my profile and his, I could be his long-lost sister. I'm told my grandfathers on both sides--one Irish and the other British/Native American--had curly hair, the Irish one having ringlets. Genetics is interesting.

I am ethnically half-Ashkenazim Jewish. I have what is referred to as the "jew-fro", and it has definitely been a defining and often divisive part of my life. I grew up in Hawaii as a minority, and was bullied mercilessly in large part because of my white skin and my frizzy-curly hair. I was called the n-word by the kids in my school because of my hair. I often considered straightening my hair to fit in better. Now as an adult, however, I embrace my hair and actually love it, for better or for worse. Other women my age have told me how lucky I am to have such thick, curly hair. I used to take such compliments bitterly, since I thought people were just being nice. But I now see it as a reality. I am thankful for my hair. I do wish, though, that it wasn't going so quickly grey.

Im 98 percent Ashkenazim. My family is extremely tan, middle eastern (Israeli) and every woman in our family (including me) has dark, curly with no curl patterns hair. Its extremely frizzy and an absolute fuss, and I only just discovered the delights of the "ethnic hair care" section for Jewish girls. I always feel like I am stepping a boundary when I talk about the ethnic difficulties of Jews, but I have found a lot of alliance among other minorities when it comes to wanting that "WASP" look and not having it.

I’m a black American woman that has natural hair with dreadlocks. Maybe I’m confused why is everyone is quick to say their white w/white hair I don’t know white people with nappy hair unless their mixed with black. Here’s alittle truth white people don’t like Jewish people as much as Black people. If you indenify yourself as white that’s your choice, history proves how wonderful white people are & yes I know some white people

I am Jewish and Cherokee, Chowctow and Shawnee. I am related to the Gibson's. They are Melungeon. Funny but I believe I am related to Alexander Gibson . I was born I KY. my two lines come together to me from my Asher's who married into my Hendrickson line. My bKr was black. And I was born with curly hair. A disease straightened it. The Jewish and Indian lines,are as they are. Jewish line goes to Aaron ,Indian goes to and beyond Moytoy ,great Chief.

Hi, I read your Hair blog, it's useful for 4C Curly Hair and I
gained more information. The blog is so informative and helped
me break so many of the myths I had about my hair. The language is so easy to read and understand. Thanks for the update.

I have the opposite issue, I'm 1/2 Ashkenazi, ~1/4th cherokee, and some small percentages of scottish, british, and other races.
my hair is pretty straight for a Jew, wavy but leaning straight, probably owing mostly to the cherokee blood, a bit frizzy though, definately not flowing, it's just the right blend to be an untenable fluffy mess if i grow it out,but won't come anything close to a fro either.
I wish i had proper curls so styling the peyos would be be unnecessary, but it is what it is, still it makes my jewishness less overt, and to those that want to blend in, they'd like that, but I dont, i want to be identifyiable, i'm not afraid of antisemitism, i'm afrid of losing who i am in a sea of secularism, having straighter hair makes it more difficult for people to look at me and say "there goes a fellow jew".
I want to inspire my people to be proud of who they are and wear their yiddishkeit on their sleeve, and honestly i think having straighter hair makes that more difficult.
if you got those beautiful curls don't be even a little ashamed, I personally love them, and think they are beautiful.
I only wish i had natural curls.
sure I could get a perm, but it feels like cheating, it's not the same.
Idk identity isn't all about whats on the outside, and i still have a somewhat identifyable jewish facial structure, but if im being honest i lament not having those curls.
I don't usually kvetch about it, it's silly to put too much thought into hair like that, but since we're on the topic, maybe theres some Jews out there that feel like i do, and could use someone to relate to, and maybe seeing the other side of the fence could give those of us with beautiful floofy locks some confidence to go out there and let that jewishness shine.
Anyway I love you, love yourself for how HaShem made you, and don't ever be afraid to be yourself.

I always thought Phoebe Snow was black. And I've seen actors that I thought were black but were Jewish. And it's not just the Jewfro. It's also the skin tone and physical facial features.


My dad is Jewish and had a jewfro growing up. I didn’t grow up immersed into Jewish cultures and didnt have a lot of Jewish friends. I struggled with my hair for a very long time, my mom often struggled with what to do with it, and I often felt in this wierd in between. I could t figure out what kind of hair I had. My hair couldn’t be compared to black hair but was very different from the hair of my white friends. It wasn’t until recently that I came across Jewish hair, and as I’m reading all these stories abt Jewish kids growing up with thick curly hair I am thinking to myself “that’s like me, I had that experience, THAT is what I look like” and it’s really liberating to know where I fit in terms of hair.

I'm 25% Ashkenazim, my mom's 50% and we both have a bit of frizz, tho not crazy (probably because we're a blend?). My curl type is 2a-3a (I have a mix of different curls). I love my hair - if I let it air dry, it has a nice shape and while the curls aren't uniform at all, I have some nice ringlets as well as loose curls. Not super curly but I like it all the same, as it's pretty low maintenance. I use Miss Jessie's multicultural curls, as well as Miss Jessie's pillow soft curls and they both do great things for my hair, while making the curls more uniform. I used to use Cantu's moisturizing cream but it seemed a bit heavy for my hair and pulled the curls out. I'm trying to get used to using the DevaCurl diffuser but have only used it once and wasn't a huge fan, made my curls a bit looser, though more defined. I actually follow Zendaya's routine for her hair, though our hair is nothing alike (she has more of it, way more volume, and a different curl pattern. But we both have the same kind of frizz) - I apply product to sopping wet hair, plop it, and then she uses the diffuser while I just plop with a towel or shirt and then let it air dry. I've found that the more I touch my hair, the looser and less defined my curls are so that if I'm constantly moving and touching and pulling at my hair the curls will fall out and I'll have poofy, frizzy, ugly straight-ish/wavy-ish hair so I generally stop touching it after the shower and let it just rest behind me as I go about my day.

I have an Egyptian friend who said you can actually style your hair section by section, to help define your curls. She loops a section around two fingers and rolls it up to her scalp as if they're curlers, lets it sit there for a few seconds and then pulls her fingers out and lowers it in the palm of her hand. Do section by section, then revisit the first one and follow its curl pattern when pushing it up against your head with the palm of your hand. She also said if you use too much product and it's crunchy after drying, just move the hair around a lot, scrunch it and plop it while dry and it'll "break" the product, leaving you with soft hair!

Just leaving all of this here, in case anyone with a similar hair type is looking for ways to style their hair. I'm always looking for other varieties and things to try when styling mine, so if anyone stumbles across my comment and has a different routine, I'd love to know!

My Ashkenazi hair is luxuriously thick and so heavy it waves rather than curl. It also tangles, is a nightmare to find a proper product to style it and in the humidity all the underneath tendrils bind up into tiny curls that will knot into a dread in less than a day. I struggle to find a style besides a tight bun or braid. I need help managing my hair. Im stuck trying out products for black women which are too heavy or with those intended for white women which do nothing but create frizz due to being a to " light" product. My children have it even worse. Their father is of Mexican heritage and has thick curly hair as well but it is courser than my own. All of us struggle with styling!!!

For me, I didn't know I was Ashkenazi from Slovakia, my family lied and claimed to be Irish. So growing up everyone accused my mom of lying about my dad being black because of how big and unmanageable my fro was without a flat iron.

I have the Jewish hair, but more brown than black, and nowadays, more grey. Fought the curls and frizz when I was younger. I did discover a diy hair product that works for me - it's a mix of cheap hell and a cheap cholesterol cream product, all from Dollar General. I mix them half and half and put on wet hair after shampooing and it both holds the curl , takes away the frizz and gives it some moisture, but doesn't weigh it down. I don't know if this would work on thicker hair than mine, but worth a try!

I’m a guy, but I spent 10 years shaving my head rather than dealing with my curls, big lips and big nose. I’d recently migrated and had lost my entire cultural identity anyway, so what did my hair that got me picked on matter?
Finally let it grow out for 2 years and I love them again.
But I turned the dark brown blonde

I honestly never likened the curly hair as "Jewish hair" until recently. It wasn't like, pointed out to me. I came across this realization on my own, due to celebrities who were Jewish. I noticed they always have curly hair. I wondered why. Never got an answer though. It's crazy that wound up being a way to "identify the race". It'sweird. But I do still wonder why we all have curly hair. Why is that a trait?

I have stereotypical dark brown ringlets associated with the “Jew-fro”. Many times growing up I had a variety of comments: “HAHA jewfro!!” “So you curl it everyday?” Combined with the fun occurrence every curly haired woman faces: the dreaded hand bursting through to feel my scalp. I got told it was ugly, and felt like the ugly duckling, always straightening my hair because that’s when it was considered most beautiful. It definitely is still a struggle of mine, especially accompanied by a very structured nose

Look up the curly girl method!!! My hair used to be a frizzy mess but after researching how to care for it my hair gets lots of compliments:)

My family is Jewish in both sides for as far back as recorded and I definitely have the frizzy, dark & curly hair. I hate the frizz and that’s the biggest gain out of straightening it is less frizz. I don’t have the Jewish nose and I’m fair in complexion. I struggle between whether or not I look jewish enough or if it’s such a good thing I don’t - hair excluded. My mom and brother are olive and I burn quick. I want to say the Jew fro was a bit of both. We did get the civil rights & voting rights acts of ‘64 passed, marched in Selma, dealt with similar neighborhood segregation’s but also unless you grow out jewish hair to length and let it weigh itself down the fro naturally occurs. My biggest qualm is when hairstylists don’t know how to cut it. My curly are not tight and I put it up immediately to achieve a wave. I get compliments on the thickness & volume but to me it’s a frizzy mess that retains moisture way too well.

loved your article on Jewish Hair. however I cant print the comments from the various people. how do it get it. My daughters cant understand my hair. I would like them to read the comments from various people. I am a senior person and my hair still bothers me. My family all have straight.

I too struggled. My mother is Irish and my father is Jewish. My dad has the most gorgeous curly black hair and my mother and siblings have very straight fine strawberry blonde hair and blue-green eyes. I have auburn curly hair and my dad dark brown eyes. My mother never knew what to do with my hair so she would put it in a bun or straighten it. I never thought about it until I was 9 years old and my mom's family said I could "pass"... I didnt know what that meant only that my mom was very upset by the comment and didnt talk to them for years.

Flash forward to when I got married and my husband (a Scottish hunk) saw my real hair after being on vacation and not able to get it chemically straightened for months. He loved it! I started to see my hair as more than something I had to "fix". We now have a handsome son with a gorgeous red "jew-fro" he fully embraces and my daughter who inherited the straight fine hair from my mom and husband and I have no idea what to do with it!

I love my jewish hair now! I get a lot of compliments from the straight haired friends and family. Some friends from school see me and ask of I curl it because they had never seen it natural. Crazy to think I was so insecure about it before.

My father in law was full Ashkenazi and he had soft black curls and bright blue eyes but at least one of his brother's had tight frizzy hair. My husband has light brown hair and blue/gold eyes...i.e hazel blue, blue with a yellow circle round the Iris. I am mainly English and Welsh..90% DNA with the rest being Irish/Scots/Swedish and Norwegian. I have dark hair and green hazel eyes. I am the one with curls my husband's is straight. Of our four daughters, three have wavy hair one straight from dark to really blonde. They all have different coloured eyes, blue, green, hazel and grey. Grey eyes are very pale with tiny brown flecks and they are typically found in Eastern Europeans, she is also very tall with very blonde hair. I read that DNA tests put Ashkenazi Jews closest to Italians and that conversation to Judaism was fashionable at one time in Ancient Rome but I have also seen Ashkenazi photos where one or more of the families look lighter haired and Eastern European and of course neither the Italian DNA link or Eastern European features explain wiry hair. My eldest grandsons father is 6ft 8 inches tall with poker straight red hair and my grandson is tiny for his age with a mass of blonde bubbles for hair..he is curlier than anyone since his Ashkenazi great grandfather. Certainly there has to be some Middle Eastern/North African heritage to get that hair texture and when they talk about Rome..it was extremely multi cultural. All of Southern Europe has that hair texture within the population. Diversity is interesting.

In reply to by L. Freedman

Jews and red hair goes back to Esau in the Bible FYI. So if anyone ever decides to claim that’s not a Jewish trait it very much is.

In reply to by L. Freedman

I mean, yeah, historians believe many Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews today are descents of people enslaved by the Roman Empire dating back to when the majority of Jews were expelled from the Levant. I think you are reading too much into exact DNA percentages, but I agree that it is interesting.

DNA = 53% European Jewish and my hair matches what is described in the blog post. I enjoyed the read. It led to the podcast to which I have subscribed. Mazel Tov

"Jewish hair" "Jewfro" and other related terms are rooted in bigotry. It assumes a stereotype. Even positive stereotypes are stereotypes and should not be encouraged. Stereotypes used by the targeted population are still stereotypes. Everyone should do what they can to stop all forms of stereotyping and bigotry. If we don't stop it, who will?

A proud, Jewish, fair haired, light skinned, curly-haired person. (The only one in my family of five.))

In reply to by L

Genetics explains this phenomenon - all 8 Jewish communities, including the Ashkenazi share the same sub Saharan African signals ( ranging between 3 and 5% ) all predating the time of the diaspora.

In reply to by Dafydd Seal

Trying again to reply to Dafydd Seal:
Best explanation yet. Similar to many Egyptians.

I have to laugh in a way. Throughout my life, regardless of where I've lived, every single hairdresser asks do I want my hair straightened - curly & frizzy, easily tangled mop that it is hard to manage, the 'typical' Jewish look to some - and the answer every single time is NO. Because I am proud of my Jewish ancestry. I am not like a number of those with their "Jewish" DNA who've commented; people who rather likely know nothing, and don't care to learn anything, about Jewish history, culture, etc. Just because you've Jewish DNA doesn't make you Jewish just as how having Aboriginal DNA doesn't make your Aboriginal, just as having African DNA doesn't make you African. Culture, history, tradtions are or far more important. 

In reply to by Liz

Genetics don’t lie nor make mistakes in regards to identity. One may lack the future etc but if it’s in their blood, then it’s what they are.

I found this article while looking for Jewish hairdressers in my local area. I have none - go figure. I just want a hairdresser who will understand that my hair texture means I don't need more heat on it, straightening, oils for other hair types that leave it greasy etc. 

I've got curly, thick, frizzy AND dry hair on account of my relatively close Ashkenazi ancestry. My partner also has curly hair, but hers is a lot softer and more manageable which kind of made me come to the conclusion it might be my "Jewish hair".   I use hair masks, condition, try oils to try and minimise the dryness but nothing works - I wake up with hair like hay. 

To bring it back to the article, my dad has curly hair, his brother,  my grandma too, and great gran had as well. We've looked into my family history  and my Ashkenazi roots (accidental pun) are quite close. I do believe there is an ethnic link with it that goes deeper than the religion. 

As it is, I absolutely adore my hair, the mad curls, the bigness of it all! It's been my dream to look like a 70s rocker anyway... 

In reply to by Leah

If you’re still looking for a hairdresser that knows how to work with your curls you should look for black salons since these hairdressers know how to cut and care for BOTH straight and curly or wavy hair. Or, search for a DevaCurl salon where the hairdressers are trained to cut and style curly and wavy hair. Anything like a Supercuts or a salon with mostly/all white clientele really only have stylists who know how to work with straight hair.

But... don’t forget the Bear Jew. He was the ultimate “masculine” dude. I had a huge crush on the bear Jew. 


Oils: even for naturally oily/frizzy hair. 

I moisturize with Argan Oil, use African shampoos that incorporate oils, and condition, condition, condition!! (Though Argan oil makes a decent substitute for conditioner as well— just give it time to soak in before rinsing it out.) 


Turns out I’ve got 22% Ashkenazi in me. I wasn’t connected to that part of my family. Those relatives I knew did not have hair like mine. (Unmanageable, it seemed. Frizzy. Impossible to untangle/keep untangled. Humidity was an enemy of my hair. No one knew how to handle my hair hair.)

Strangely enough, a time in Northern Africa gave me the tools I needed to go from frizz-central to beautiful, lovely, and yes— still crazy curls. 

Crazy curly hair journeys can be frustrating, but it’s refreshing to know you’re beautiful as you are— and that there are ways to enhance that beauty rather than change it. (Though if you prefer to change your natural attributes: Have fun with that as well!) 

Hope this helps someone out as they experiment in finding ways to love their curls.

My hair is very curly! I too hated it as a kid! Now I LOVE it. I'm light skinned but tan easily into a reddish brown. My eyes are very blue. My DNA shows 2% European Jew & 2% Middle Eastern which included Israel. I'm mostly Irish & Scottish & am happy with my Celtic heritage but I was thrilled to see the Jewish DNA. Both my parents have curly hair but not as curly as mine. I always wondered where my curls came from! I've also had a handful of people ask me if I was Jewish!

I have always wondered if my grandmother's mother was Jewish...my father & grandmother both had very curly hair, I had semi curly hair& my four older sister's had curly hair like our father, almost frizzy curly...my paternal great grandmother was a Miege (German),but looked like a tiny Polish lady, her daughter looked like a very healthy German woman, but her son looked Morracan, with lots of dark,very curly hair with beard & mustache...they came to the United States from Bourgeony, France ..if you can let me know if I am possibly of Jewish heritage Thank you

I have VERY curly hair. I always wondered about it. I hated it growing up, was teased about having a 'fro in fifth grade. Now, I embrace my curly hair, try to treat it right with moisturing shampoo and conditioners. People always comment on my hair, sometimes ask if it's natural. I recently did an AncestryDNA test and found out I have 8 percent Eastern European Jew. Ethnicity WAY BACK includes a tiny amount of Lebanese/Syrian to Armenian to Italian, to mostly French and Iberian peninsula; my mother's grandfather was a blue-eyed blond from Spain. I now love my hair; I rarely see people with hair like mine. You do have to be careful with curly ringlets -- treat it with care and it will do well. I was proud to learn I have Jewish roots.

In reply to by Donna

Yes, my hair was very curly too when growing up... one of my sisters hated her curly hair...I grew to love my long curly hair because later on, I didn't have to go to the salon to get a perm, just set it in curlers wet & when it dried, poof , a natural perm!

My ethnicity according to 23 and Me is 95% Ashkenazi, which is a European/Middle Eastern ethnicity particular to Jews. According to 23 and Me, I have one full blooded North African relative in recent history and even a full blooded Swede, but very little Eastern European ancestry per se, even though my grandparents lived in Russia, Poland, and the Ukraine prior to coming to America. So you can see that contrary to what I've read in comments below, being Jewish *IS* an ethnic identity, and my reading tells me that Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews have more in common with each other DNA-wise than they do with the cultures in which they may exist.  That said, I have very "overly curly" hair. Got teased as a child, before anyone knew how to tame curls. Wore my hair short and curly for years. Now 70, I use a round brush and flatiron. My dad had straight hair while my mother's family contributed the curls. and That's probably because Dad had some Yakut DNA, and the Yakut people in Siberia have straight hair, while my mom's side was probably more from the Mediterannean, and they tend to have curlier hair. So maybe Jewish hair isn't so much about Jewish genes as the fact that Jews came from certain parts of the world where curly hair was more prevalent.


In reply to by Judy McMillan

Ashkenazi is an ethnicity in and of itself that is of the Jewish people just like Sephardic, or Mizrahi, or Italkim etc. One can be a Jew and not be of these ethnicities; trust me I’ve seen Indian Jews in Israel. The only reason you’re getting markers for Ashkenazi or any ethnicity is because those people didn’t have a wife gene pool because they were quarantined from the rest of society. This is also where a lot of the diseases come in to play. I hate to break it to you but you’d get the same results if you tested for the Amish, but that doesn’t mean the Amish are a separate race; they also have many of the same genetic disorders that Jews have. You’re a Jew if you were born of a Jewish mother or you convert in accordance with Jewish Law. Both events will make you 100% wholly and full Jewish. Have a great day!

My girlfriend is very proud of her Jewish heritage but despises her "Jewish hair" which is a frizzy, unmanagable, self-knotting mop; Ilana Glazer on a bad hair day. That Sephardic trait, unique in her immediate family, emerged suddenly when she reached her mid 20s. I think it's cute but I understand her frustration.


The entire notion of "Jewish hair" is completely made up, a social construction. There is no one particular hair type that is more "Jewish" than others. 

In reply to by Laurel Kornfeld

are you sure ?

In reply to by Anonymous

Yes. Jewish people have every type and texture of hair under the sun.

I too have always been looked at an an "other". I was raised my my non-practicing Jewish family. I never identified as Jewish because none of my family is religious. My hair is kinky and I relax it very lightly so that I like wearing it down and curly. Relaxing it makes the curls manageable. Growing up I always wanted blond straight hair but I have learned to love my hair. I learned to work with the curls rather than against them. I think the American Doll is lame and not representative of the distinction of beautiful Jewish women. Why make a Jewish Doll is she's going to look white? Why make a Black doll that has straight hair? There's plenty of that in the media, why emulate that? I did braid my hair and have it ironed straight, it made me feel sexy but never wanted to find my sexuality with hair that did not represent me. 

I too have been perceived and Bi-Racial and have enjoyed the ability to walk a thin line. Being labeled as "exotic" has it percs. I have also strong ties to the Black community as such but always as "light skinned" or even "high yellow". When walking with a white man I get dirty looks (and some comments) from black men. When walking with a black man I get looks from dark skinned women. I married a black man and have 2 kids. There are Black Jews! My daughter attends a JCC after school program and (my Grandparents think that's so funny) but we celebrate Christmas. My daughter who looks black knows more about the Jewish religion then I do. I think it's hysterical. All mixed up and I love it! 

I loved this article. To be honest it had always intrigued me as to why my hair controlled a large aspect of my life? When I hit puberty my dark shiny wavy hair turned into a frizzy curly mess after my mother cut it in the late 70's. My father was an Argentinian Jew and he sported the Jew fro. My mom was Puertorican though and she had straight hair, she was born a blond. She was the typical fair skinned Puertorican. My hair became the pilar of my confidence. When I finally discovered curlers, wrap do's, and conditioning products, I set out to master my ability to control my crazy hair. I wanted to look pretty after the teasing and the constant longing to have the easy, soft silky hair the other pretty girls had. Ohh my story is long. But let's just say that I finally got the opportunity to have my DNA tested to find out if I had any black ancestors in my DNA because I was positive there had to be a great great great grandmother or father who was black. This would make sense as to why my hair was so similar to the black woman I knew but did not explain my pale white skin. Well my answer was a bit surprising. The high percent of my DNA was 27% European Jew all the other percentages was in locations where the Jewish population magrated too. Though it was a resolve to me, my result also showed that I was 10% Afican. Not sure if that's why my hair seemed so out if place? I was positive I would have a higher percentage, but it sort of answered my long curiosity as to why I was so different and confused as to where to place myself.

My grandfather on my moms side is full blood Jew and I am very proud to have Jew blood in me.

Jews do have some African ancestry - about 3% . Southern Europeans do as well.

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How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "What is Jewish hair?." 26 October 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 25, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/jewish-hair>.