Adam Levine Is Sexy and Jewish. So What?

Star's Emergence Represents End of Nebbishy Stereotype

Davens Like Jagger: Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and ‘The Voice’ was named People Magazine’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive.’
Getty Images
Davens Like Jagger: Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and ‘The Voice’ was named People Magazine’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive.’

By Jay Michaelson

Published December 23, 2013, issue of December 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Adam Levine, front man of Maroon 5, host of “The Voice,” he of the moves like Mick Jagger, was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive this year. Is this good for the Jews?

Who’s asking?

For single Jewish men looking to get a date, this is very good news. Jewish men have been in a bit of a slump. The last time pale, hairy, Ashkenazi men were seen as attractive by mainstream America was probably during the mid-1970s, when Elliott Gould was in his prime. Since then, we’ve endured the Barbie/Ken/Ivana/Donald 1980s, the grunge 1990s, and of course, the last two decades of post-racial sexiness of all multicultural types. It hasn’t been easy being pale and brunette.

Plus, he didn’t change his name. Adam Levine, for heaven’s sake. I know another Adam Levine; he’s a respected physician who spends time treating infant diarrhea in Africa. What a mensch! But Adam Levine, the sexiest man alive?

I want to suggest, though, that the mainstreaming of the notion of Jewishness as an ethnicity that is not materially different from Italian, Irish or other Caucasian-but-not-WASP identities, is part of the same set of social currents that led institutional Jews to tear their combed over hair out over the Pew Research Center’s “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” this year.

Levine’s overt Jewishness can coexist with his sex appeal because Jewishness is not taboo. In part, the reasons are the same as why Jennifer Lopez didn’t change her name 20 years ago (as Martin Sheen, née Ramón Estevez, did 30 years prior); the days of whitewashing one’s ethnic difference are over.

The stereotype of Jewish men as nebbishy, Woody Allen types is not even a memory for most Americans under 40. Sure, there are still Jewish nerds, especially in comedy, but even they — Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen — are no longer the specifically Jewish Outsider of a previous generation. The neuroses, the Yiddishisms, the sexual hang-ups — they don’t really register anymore. Adam Levine is sexy and Jewish. So what?

One of the Forward’s more endearing, and silly, features is pointing out the often tenuous Jewishness of this or that public figure. As my partner puts it, “OMG, did you know that third-place javelin thrower is part Jewish?!” Partly, this feature stems from ethnic pride. But partly it derives from the defiance of stereotypes — that Jewish men aren’t athletic, or sexy, or whatever.

But those stereotypes are dead. And with them are many stereotypes of separateness, otherness and even inferiority that kept Jews endogamously glomming onto one another decade after anti-Semitic decade. Sure, anti-Semitism persists in many places, as the Anti-Defamation League reminds us in between advertisements for Israel’s right wing. But in America, the otherness of Jews is receding.

So, yes, there should be some furrowed brows at Levine’s latest achievement. It’s harder to defend the Jewish state at all costs, to terrify high school students about the Holocaust, and to insist on the evils of intermarriage when Jewishness is accepted and celebrated in the cultural mainstream. And when the notion of a Jewish Sexiest Man Alive isn’t Wow, or Gevalt — but Meh.

Jay Michaelson is a contributing editor of the Forward. He is the author most recently of ‘Evolving Dharma.’


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.