Topics You Should Know When Talking to a Jew

I love my goyium friends! I especially love when I confuse the hell out of them by bringing up certain topics that they don’t have a clue as to what I am talking about. Well, I am here to enlighten you on these topics that everyone should know about, Jewish or not, when having a conversation with a Jew. This is especially helpful for first date chit-chat.

Sleep Away CampSleep Away Camp
During the time between the ages of 6 and 18, Jewish parents like to send their children away for 1 – 2 months to camp. While there are Jewish and non Jewish camps, most of the camps we attend have a majority of Jewish campers. For example, I attended Camp Pinewood in Hendersonville, NC for 5 summers. While this is not a “Jewish camp,” I would say about 98% of the campers were Jews. A number of my friends attended Jewish camps, like Ramah and Coleman, where they observed Shabbat* and said the prayers before and after they ate each meal. A common topic of conversation amongst Jews deals with camp – which camp we went to, why ours is the best, who we are still friends with from camp, etc. We also like to tell stories about camp, even though most of us haven’t gone since grade school.

USY on Wheels Bus C 1999

USY on Wheels Bus C 1999

Teen Tour
This is yet another way for Jewish parents to ‘get rid’ of their children for a summer. A teen tour involves a bus full of teenagers, usually between ages 14 and 17, traveling on a bus for 4-8 weeks. There are a number of teen tours out west that cover the American and Canadian Rockies. I went on a teen tour through my youth group (USY*) that consisted of 15 and 16 year old coeds on a bus across the entire continental United States, parts of Canada and even a day trip to Mexico. We started and ended in NYC – we made a loop around the outside boarders of the country, with stops in Ottawa, Toronto and Tijuana. Some of my other friends went through companies that started in California and made their way up to western Canada. I even had a friend who took a tour from Alaska to Hawaii by cruise ship. Other teen tours go out of the country, usually to Europe and Israel. Let’s just say if you are on a date with a Jewish person and you don’t know what a “teen tour” is, it’s a deal breaker.

Hanegev: the Southeast region of USY

Hanegev: the Southeast region of USY

Youth Group
Growing up, most Jewish parents encouraged their children to join a youth group. This is similar to the Christian youth groups, only we are Jews. Now I can only speak for USY because that is the youth group I was a part of, but my main concept of being involved in it was to go on weekend conventions* and hookup. I can’t tell you anything we were supposed to learn or the real meaning behind these trips, but rather I can tell you who made-out with whom at each convention and what drama it caused. I do have to say that I met a number of my life-long friends through USY. The common youth groups are USY, BBYO and Nifty – all for high school-aged kids. Both BBYO and Nifty are part of the reform synagogues, while USY is conservative. I believe there is an orthodox youth group, however, I do not know what it is called.

Sidenote: It is believed that our parents sent us to camp, on teen tours and to youth group so we could meet a nice Jewish boy/girl, date them and eventually get married. Most of the time, this worked.

This is a free 10-day trip for college-aged Jews to go to Israel. If you are a Jew between ages 18 and 26, Jewish and Israeli foundations will sponsor you to go to Israel. While I personally did not have the opportunity to go on this trip as I was unqualified to apply because I spent a summer in Israel for 5 weeks with USY when I was 17, I did have a number of friends who took advantage of the program. You can only apply to go if you have not been to Israel on an “organized trip.” Despite the fighting between the Arabs and Israelis, parents see this as yet another excuse to send their kids away so they can not only learn about the history of the Jewish religion, but also so they can hookup with other Jews and hopefully find their future spouse.

url-2Jewish Geography
This is a Jewish person’s absolute FAVORITE game to play! Basically, we start off a conversation with a new person by asking where they are from, what high school, synagogue and camp they went to and eventually start naming people who have similar connections. If you both know the same person, you win! Believe it or not, it actually takes more skill to not have a single friend in common than to win. Bonus points if you win Jewish Geography and you aren’t a tribal member.

I hope I have helped enlighten you into common Jewish topics that we talk about with each other and especially with new people we meet. Hopefully, this will help you non Jews out on a first date. If anything, it will impress your date and leave a nice impression on them if you bring up these topics of discussion.

*Shabbat: The day of rest. Occurs every from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown.

*USY: Stands for United Synagogue Youth. This is the youth group through the Conversative* temples.

*Conservative: There are 3 main levels of Judaism – Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. Reform being the least religious, Orthodox being the most religious and Conservative being somewhere int he middle.

*Conventions: the fancy way for saying “let’s get all of the synagogue youth group chapters together for a weekend at a hotel and try and teach them something.”


March 16, 2009. Uncategorized.


  1. Ryan replied:

    Ilene, I love the blog! I feel an intense desire to comment on this last post… Reason being, I must be the antithesis of the “Jewish” kid. I did not go to camp, I was not involved in youth group, I did not know what a youth tour was, yet, you love me anyway! 🙂 Keep ’em coming!

  2. Seth Wolkofsky replied:

    Your Blog makes me laugh. Now back to my Law School reading.

    Those people in that bus picture look oddly familiar…

  3. Kunal Moskowitz replied:

    Why must Seth Wolkofsly insist upon letting the world know he’s in law school? With a name like that it’s assumed!!

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