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“The most manly Jew is more feminine than the least manly Aryan,” wrote the Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger.
This became the basis for considering Jews degenerate, says Boyarin.
The story begins in the Bible, where the best men are portrayed as more brain than brawn (see: the bookish Jacob, who outsmarts his burly brother Esau).For parents, it became imperative to find their children partners who would a) produce more Jews, and b) afford them a “pleasant, secure, respectable, class-appropriate domesticity,” says Daniel Boyarin’s brother Jonathan, a professor of modern Jewish culture at Cornell University.“To me this phrase’s natural home is in a parent’s mouth, saying to a daughter, ‘Why don’t you find a nice Jewish boy?In the Book of Proverbs, a man is instructed to treat his wife with respect: “Have joy with your wife…Be always occupied in your love towards her.” But it wasn’t until the Babylonian Talmud that Jews came up with a blueprint for the ideal man, says Daniel Boyarin, historian of religion at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Unheroic Conduct.The Yiddish word—which derives from edel, or noble—referred to “a quality of gentleness, almost softness,” says Boyarin.Yet this “ideal Jewish male femme” was also the pinnacle of manliness, a sexual force to be reckoned with. Other cultures twisted the feminized edelkayt into something negative.is the boy your mother would approve of, the very picture of the nobleedelkayt.But in his intimate dealings with the women he dates, sleeps with and strings along?In her bestselling novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., author Adelle Waldman paints a darker, more complex portrait of the modern Jewish male.Her protagonist, Nathaniel Piven, is “in some sense an NJB,” she says—but it depends how you define “nice.” “The niceness can coexist with smugness, self-satisfaction and a host of other traits.” Outwardly, Nathaniel P.