Sephardim & Ashkenazim

With apologies to Lenny Bruce.

Non-Jews might not know this, but there are quite a lot of different types of Jews — of all races, countries, political beliefs. Even religiously, there is a huge divide between two large camps in particular: The “Ashkenazi” Jews of general European descent, and the “Sephardi” Jews, who originated from the golden age of Jewry in pre-inquisition Spain.

What’s the difference between these groups?

Let me explain it in terms a non-Jew might understand.

The first thing to know is that Spain, insanely, is Ashkenazi because it’s part of Europe, even though “Sephardi” literally means Spanish. The middle east, on the other hand, which has had its own continuous Jewish communities for millennia, is very Sephardi. The rest of Europe is Ashkenazi, except for the Netherlands, which by some accident is honorarily Sephardi, and the small parts of Germany owned by Mercedes-Benz. You see, BMW is Ashkenazi. Audi is very Ashkenazi. But Mercedes is Sephardi.

How about socks? Socks are Ashkenazi. Sandals are Sephardi. Sandals with socks are more Ashkenazi than socks alone. Cargo shorts are also Ashkenazi. Basketball shorts are Sephardi. Bike shorts are goyish (non-Jewish). Suspenders are Ashkenazi. Belts are Sephardi.

Is this beginning to make sense?

Contact lenses are non-Jewish; glasses are Ashkenazi; sunglasses are Sephardi.

Eyebrows are unbearably Ashkenazi but foreheads have a Sephardi feeling to them.

Black is Ashkenazi. Blue is Sephardi.

How about the way they think? OK, try this: Mystical questions about the nature of G-d are Ashkenazi. The answers to those questions are Sephardi. But general philosophical inquiries are Sephardi, while the answers are Ashkenazi. The notion of geniuses is very Jewish, generally, but respect for geniuses, less-so. Everyone thinking they’re a genius is very Jewish. If the person who thinks they’re a genius drives a cab, that’s Sephardi. If they drive a wagon, that’s Ashkenazi.

If they write short stories or slam poetry, that’s Ashkenazi. If they pen novels, that’s Sephardi. Flash fiction is suspiciously goyish.

Confused yet? Disagree? Very Jewish.

Arguments are just plain Jewish, see, but physical violence is goyish. If it comes down to it, Ashkenazim will shove, whereas Sephardim go for outright blows. Everyone throws things, but throwing a chair is Sephardi, and someone over the age of sixty throwing a chair is very Sephardi. This is somehow true even though chairs are quite Ashkenazi, whereas benches are neutrally Jewish unless they have pillows on them, in which case they are indelibly Sephardi. Pews are, it goes without saying, goyish.

Sephardi kids are prone to afternoons on the town, whereas Ashkenazim are more prone to nights on the town. Obedience is goyish.

If a Jew wakes up to eggs over-easy for breakfast, he’s doing it the goyish way. Ashkenazim would have eggs boiled in water. Sephardim would have eggs boiled in stew. Salt is Ashkenazi. Tomatoes are Sephardi. Rice is very Sephardi. Peanut butter is very Ashkenazi but Sephardim get it on a technicality. Gelatinous marrow-based “delicacies” are, regrettably, Ashkenazi. Neither group eats off of their fine china if no guests are invited: Ashkenazim will use plastic dinnerware; Sephardim will use paper.

If she wears a wig, that’s very Ashkenazi. If she wears an urban turban she’s doin’ it Sephardi.

If you see a Jew spit, that’s Sephardi. If you see him sweat, that’s Ashkenazi. If they shake hands, that’s Ashkenazi. If they bump fists, it is hilariously Ashkenazi. Avuncular shoulder slaps are Sephardi (Uncles, as a concept, are Sephardi, but Aunts are Ashkenazi). Hugging is Sephardi and encouraged, but watch out: If two men greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, they instantly become Ashkenazim for life.

Fingers are clearly Ashkenazi, though knuckles are Sephardi. Beards have a faintly Sephardi aura about them, but then, hair is generally Sephardi. Fingernails are quite Ashkenazi.

Stores are Ashkenazi things; stalls are Sephardi. Haggling is Sephardi. Sales tactics are Ashkenazi. A meeting starting on time is Sephardi. A meeting ending on time is Ashkenazi.

Piers are Ashkenazi; wharves, Sephardi. Boats are Sephardi. Ships are Ashkenazi.

Cleavers are Ashkenazi; fruit knives are Sephardi; combat knives are goyish, unless they’re from the IDF, and even then…

Home repair is Sephardi, as are plumbers, electricians, roofers, handymen. Appliance repair is ever-so-slightly Ashkenazi. Tech support is Ashkenazi but Sephardim are better at it; computer programming is decisively Sephardi but Ashkenazim have a knack for it.

As far as domesticated animals go, goats are Sephardi. Sheep are Ashkenazi. We all pass on hogs. If we have to go for insects, bees are more Sephardi whereas flies are profoundly Ashkenazi. Cats are Ashkenazi and dogs are Sephardi. Birds are Sephardi, fish are Ashkenazi. Guinea pigs are cute but not Jewish. Bad memories.

All comic books are Jewish, but DC leans Ashkenazi and Marvel leans Sephardi.

Led Zeppelin — classic Ashkenazi mascots. AC/DC represent the Sephardim. Deep Purple is just plain goyish. Frank Zappa is weird Ashkenazi. Bob Dylan is profoundly Ashkenazi. Bob Marley should be Sephardi but the Ashkenazim stole him. Johnny Cash is proper Sephardi. Black Metal is goyish as landed nobility, and opera once attended a pogrom, but show tunes are Ashkenazi and Top 40 music generally is Sephardi.

Google is Sephardi. Apple is Ashkenazi. Microsoft is goyish.

On the Internet: Facebook is Sephardi. Twitter is Ashkenazi. If you meme about Harambe you’re doing the Ashkenazi; if you play Pokemon Go you are doing the Sephardi. This dude was circumcised in an Ashkenazi synagogue: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, whereas this guy has a profound Sephardi heritage: ಠ_ಠ.  This guy attends a restricted country club: :).

An Ashkenazi might argue that there are no differences between Jews at all, whereas a Sephardi might quibble on the details and say my distinctions are not stark enough. Either way, it’s one big family, and we all love to laugh. I hope.