10 Non-Religious Things that Make Us Jewish

Written by: Carley Becker

Judaism is unique in that it isn’t just a religion. It’s an ethnicity, a culture, and a tribe. This means that there are cultural aspects to Judaism that don’t have much to do with religion. Below are ten of my favorite non-religious things that make us Jewish.

  1. Bagels…

Ask anyone, no matter what their religion, and they’ll tell you that Jewish bagels are the best bagels. Where you find the perfect Jewish bagel is up for debate—New York City, Long Island, that little place in Maryland near your bubbe’s house that no one’s ever heard of—but no one questions that bagels are a staple of Jewish life.

  1. …and Lox.

And what’s a bagel without some smoked salmon? Nothing. That’s what it is. (Here is where I’m going to write something controversial: I don’t actually like lox. Please refer to number 6 on this list for clarification.)

  1. The phrase, “Thanks! I got it on sale!”

If you compliment a Jewish woman on her clothes, jewelry, or shoes, and she got that item on sale, you will know it. There are few things more exciting than finding that perfect fall sweater seventy percent off, and everyone should know that you’re the one who snagged it.

  1. The joke, “It’s free? I’ll take two!”

On the flip side, no one has ever met a Jewish dad who hasn’t used this joke at least once in his life. It usually occurs so often that Dad’s fan club (read: the family who still puts up with him)  has their eye rolls ready to go before he even starts to speak. The rolls reach full maturation as the inflicted salesperson chuckles and pretends they haven’t heard that one a hundred times before.

  1. Jewish Guilt

We’ve all been there. Yes, there, that party we didn’t want to go to but Grandma said would be good for us. That family dinner we were going to skip until Grandpa reminded us that he won’t live forever. That Nordstrom that’s well out of our way but is the only place with the right birthday gift for that family friend we haven’t seen in five years. You know, the one your mother says “was sick as a dog but she schlepped all the way to see you in the hospital when you were born. But I guess it’s okay that you don’t want to schlep to the store.”

  1. The comment, “I’m such a bad Jew.”

While it is the opinion of this author that there is no one right way to do Judaism, even she has called herself a bad Jew at some point. Many of us say it, usually after asking questions such as, “When is Hanukkah this year?” or “Where on the Seder plate does the shankbone go?”

  1. Chinese food and a movie on Christmas

In what is perhaps one of the only Jewish traditions to take place on December 25, Jews everywhere congregate at their nearest Regal (or AMC, if that’s more your style) and Chinese place. While the connection between the Jews and the Chinese actually goes back to tenements in New York around the turn of the nineteenth century, the modern Christmas tradition usually gets attributed to the fact that movies and Chinese are the only places open.

  1. Having enough to eat and then eating more

If you’ve ever walked into a Jewish household, then you know the first thing you’re asked is if you want anything to eat or drink. You also know that your answer is irrelevant. You will be given food whether you’re hungry or not, and—be honest—you know you’re going to eat it.


  1. Thinking your mother’s cooking is the best cooking

Any time you’ve ever jokingly argued with your friend about whose mother’s cooking is better, you both know that, secretly, neither of you is joking. The only way to know for sure who is right is to taste each other’s family recipes, but even if theirs is better than yours, you would never, ever admit it.

  1. Jewish geography

It’s every Jew’s favorite game. As soon as you meet someone new and ask where they’re from, you try to place them within your circle of acquaintances. “Oh, you live in Pennsylvania? Do you know Benjamin Goldblum?” you may ask. The response could be a no, forcing you to try another name, but eventually you’ll come across an answer like, “Oh, yes! His daughter is my neighbor’s cousin’s best friend!” Rinse and repeat with every Jew you come across. Because, in the end, we’re all one big family anyway.


*all pictures are linked to their original source


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