Your Jewish Nose Job Stories

In “How the All-American Nose Job Got a Makeover” , published in the Forward last month, Naomi Zeveloff described the evolution of the procedure once considered a rite of passage for Jewish American teenage girls.

**In the 1950s and ’60s, nose jobs were seen as a way to fit in. For the price of minor surgery, you could erase the main visible trace of your Jewish identity — a physical ticket to the American dream.

Fast forward 50 years: Jews have become more secure in their American identity and beauty standards have become more inclusive.

As Zeveloff wrote in her piece, “Today’s surgeries are a more subtle refinement to balance the face, aided by advancements in technology in the late 1990s that allowed doctors to shape the tip of the nose for a more natural look by using cartilage grafts. In other words, nose jobs have gotten a nose job.”

So, what exactly does that mean for the Jewish community? We asked readers to share some of their experiences.

“Wipe Your Shnoz”

I was sitting in the back of the car with my cousin. We must have been eight.

She had huge, curly hair. And a perfect nose. I remember my aunt told her that she had a perfect profile. It was in proportion to the rest of her face. She was a perfect-looking, chubby child — potbelly and all.

I was horribly underweight. I had huge eyes and an enormous nose.

No perfect profile for me, I thought. God forbid. My aunt told me I had beautiful eyes. But she never told me that I had a perfect profile. And I wanted one because my cousin had one.

Because she didn’t have a big nose.

“Wipe your shnoz,” my father would tell me, handing me a tissue. I was dreadfully sick. The Yiddish word for snot had come into the vernacular as a cute Jewish word for nose.

And all I could think about how my nose was very definitely not cute. It was big. It was too big. Bigger than the other kids’ noses. Their were so petite and perfectly formed. Mine was large with a kind of hump in the middle. It was true to all the stereotypes.

But my cousin’s nose wasn’t. After all, she had a perfect profile. And a perfect nose. “Give me the tissue,” my eight-year-old self said. And I wiped my shnaz.

But it was still there.

I was sitting in the front seat of the car. I sneezed and pulled a tissue from my purse.

No one told me I had to wipe my nose. No one was telling that my cousin had a perfect profile.

It was just me and my nose. And I sort of liked it. No one was telling me how it was or what it was or what it looked like. It was my shnaz. And I could do whatever I wanted with it. And I liked it just the way it was. Imperfect profile and all.

— Leora Eisenberg

“Embrace Our Otherness”

It was a running joke when I graduated from Beverly Hills High School (with its very high Jewish student body) in 1971 that I was the only one who graduated with my own nose and own teeth. I was simply lucky to have a proportionate and ordinary nose and nearly perfectly straight teeth. I had many friends who had terrible nose jobs and ended up with noses that looked like they ran adhesive tape between their nose tips and foreheads. Too many girls of my generation were influenced by “Goodbye, Columbus” and “Marjorie Morningstar” to change their “Jewish” noses in order to seem less “other.” We should have embraced our “otherness” more thoroughly and we might not be declining in population as a faith.

— Elise Dee Beraru

“Undercover Nose”

In July of 1945, my mother asked if I would like a combination sweet sixteen and high school graduation present of a nose job. The thought had never occurred to me but I went along with the idea. Frankly I think she would have liked one herself but that wasn’t done then. Just young girls.

The doctor told me not to bring any pictures of movie star noses. I was going to get a nose that would like right all my life. When I told a friend that I had had it done long ago she said: “My husband is an expert at recognizing “done” noses and he never thought yours was.” So Dr. Schwartz got it right.

— Virginia Gross Levin

“I Didn’t Want My Nose Job”

I’m 77 years old and I had a nose job at age 14 and a half. Did I want it? Not really! My mother wanted it. I had the typical Jewish nose, which I enhanced by breaking it at a skating rink when I was 11. It was pretty bad. The connotation I received from this experience was that I wasn’t okay, I had to be fixed. The new nose led to bleaching my hair — again my mothers idea. So my hair wasn’t good, my nose wasn’t good, I was too short, { thank God she couldn’t fix that}. Instead of uplifting my self esteem it made me feel more self-conscious and it took a great deal of my life to get over it.

Do I think nose jobs are a good thing? Yes I do… If the person is concerned that his or her appearance will in some way improve their life.. I know a young man who has a terrible nose, it is bigger than his face, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. If I were his parent I would bring up the subject and leave the decision up to him.

— Judith Jagoda

“Did You See the Nose on That Jew?”

My grandmother who, although Jewish, has an ambiguous last name (Bair) and only vaguely so-called Jewish features, has told me many times about when she worked at American Airlines in the 1940s and heard comments about Jewish noses. In particular, she remembered a time when an applicant came in for a job interview and her colleagues, who didn’t know my grandmother was Jewish, joked to each other saying “Did you see the nose on that Jew?”

Given this, I’m not surprised that our parents’ and grandparents’ generations were so sensitive to this issue, though hopefully this should be less of a concern today.

— Trevor Lewis

“Men Don’t Get Nose Jobs”

I am a Jewish male, and yes, I had a nose job! In my teen years, I developed a hook in my nose. From the front, I looked fine — dark eyed, strong chin — but my profile wasn’t what would have liked it to be.

But, I figured, that is life and I was called “handsome” and modeled.

When I graduated college, I developed a throat/sinus infection and went to see an Ear/Nose and Throat doctor. He informed me I had a deviated septum and wasn’t breathing right, and surgery could fix it. He also added that he could straighten my nose along with it, because the insurance would cover it for medical reasons. I said yes, even though my father was against it because as he put it: “Men don’t get nose jobs”.

I had the surgery. When I asked the doctor what kind of nose I would get, he told me he didn’t give men “little” noses. (think Michael Jackson and how bad he looked).

My nose was still large, but thinner and I had a straight profile, and yes I could breathe so much better.

— Michael ll Singerman

“You’d Be Beautiful If It Weren’t For Your Nose”

I have been feeling self conscious about my nose since I was a teenager. My mother and younger sister had button, upturned noses whereas I’d inherited my dad’s far more Semitic nose (and features). I remember my mother telling me “You know, you’d be truly beautiful if it weren’t for your nose.” It has stuck with me ever since. I’m 31 years old now, and I still want a nose job. I’m saving for a house, but part of me feels like I should spend some of my savings to get the surgery.

— Elizabeth Collette

These stories have been edited for length and style.


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