Eating and dating for the Jews: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the blurry lifestyle-politics divide

Solving antisemitism by drinking a milkshake-adjacent iced coffee in Canada.

A young woman named Morgan Raum engaged in “peak Jewish” behaviour, per one commentator, by attending the Washington rally for Israel holding a big placard with the message, “I’m single,” along with a link to her Instagram account. Raum is a New York City food and dating influencer, who urges (and I can only support her in this) patronizing Jewish businesses at a moment when some are uh not doing so, but for only the noblest of reasons, of course.

Some people were posting that actually, “peak Jewish” would be letting the rally participants know that your daughter was single. Maybe? But the shtetl it ain’t, and there’s if anything something quaint about the whole thing. A social media marketing strategy, perhaps—marketing of self, of personal brand, or both—but with an undeniable in-real-life element.

This story is alas at the convergence of about 500 of my “beats” so bear with me as I explore its myriad angles:

  • While there are social elements of rallies, no matter the cause, it is indeed hard to imagine this signage at a rally from the other side. (Or as they’re known in Toronto, with occasional exception, a rally.) Much is made of the “Queers for Palestine.” Well, here’s a (seemingly) cisgender heterosexual for Israel. Which—while I would assume cishets make up the bulk of people on both sides—somehow adds up. I’m getting to that somehow in the next item…
  • There’s the way the conflict in North America is falling along, realigning, and crystallizing existing subcultural differences. Why is it that you can often know, from aesthetics alone, who falls where on a complicated geopolitical issue. Neon hair and a mask worn outdoors by someone under 70 does not always mean en route to a ceasefire rally but along similar lines, some people in a keffiyeh are just wearing it because it’s chilly out and they like the houndstooth pattern. Aesthetics, but also, confusingly, level of (visibly discernible; vaccines are another matter) seriousness about COVID. Unless the masks are now serving multiple functions.
  • There’s the coolness-dorkiness divide that similarly seems to subsume all political issues. There is quite possibly nothing more square, more cringe, than being a young woman in open search for a husband. I do not say this in a judgmental way; my sympathies are typically with the dorks, and I myself am (need I spell this out?) not cool. I merely observe the way this issue and others tend to sort themselves out. There’s overlap with left-right, but these are by no means the same categories.
  • A gleaming café at a major intersection with a corporate North American meets Viennese vibe—this would be Café Landwer, which I got a coffee at today for the purposes of this article (and of having a coffee)—is nice but not cool. It’s not the atmosphere of the place with every progressive cause of the past five years plastered to the window. It made for a chance from my usual coffee shop experience of walking in and feeling like what the barista sees when I come in is a (much less glamorous version of a) Fox News anchor.
  • There’s the centrality—understandable, but often to the detriment of Jewish women just minding our business—of pro-natalism to much of postwar Jewish life. Have Jewish babies to stick it to Hitler! Or now, perhaps, to Hamas. What this means in practical terms can be that every Jewish event is a singles event, whether or not all the attendees want it to be one. They will try to marry you off on Birthright because that is, after all, more even than anything to do with Israel specifically, the point.

Holding a sign trying to matchmake yourself at a rally protesting the murder and abduction of Jewish babies is not, in any case, the lighthearted, off-topic gesture critics might think. The personal is, in this context, political.

For more original Jewish culture commentary from Phoebe Maltz Bovy subscribe to the free Bonjour Chai newsletter on Substack.

The CJN’s senior editor Phoebe Maltz Bovy can be reached at [email protected], not to mention @phoebebovy on Bluesky, and @bovymaltz on the website formerly known as Twitter. She also holds forth on The CJN’s weekly podcast Bonjour Chai.