Yes, Jews and rhinoplasty have been peas in a pod for quite some time now. We were the first people to popularize the procedure in the early part of the 20th Century, and for good reason. Have you seen the honkers most Jews are born with? It is not our most flattering feature, to say the least.
Since the early days of plastic surgery, there have been many Jewish doctors charged with the task of turning a gigantic Jewish schnoz into a cute, petite, upturned nose befitting a shiksa beauty. But this obsession with fixing our noses has not come without its share of controversy, and the relationship between Jews and their noses has been evolving considerably in recent years.
For those of you who are wondering why I am devoting so much time and energy to such a seemingly frivolous topic, let’s just say I was inspired by an Orthodox Jewish plastic surgeon in Miami named Dr. Michael Salzhauer.
Dr. Salzhauer’s recent trailblazing work in the field of Jewish rhinoplasty has been the source of considerable controversy in the Jewish and plastic surgery communities. It has also been the topics of the first two installments of this trilogy:
- Part 1 discusses Dr. Salzhauer’s Jewcan Sam Nose Job Love Story video
- Part 2 discusses Dr. Salzhauer’s nose job scholar ship fund for Orthodox Jews looking for love
In this final installment of the Jewish nose job trilogy, we will examine this complex relationship and try to make sense of it all.
Jews and Rhinoplasty – A Historical Perspective
According to Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University, there was “a legacy or a long history of European denigration of the Jewish body, which was seen as flawed and inferior to the Christian body. The Jewish nose was the strongest symbol of that inferiority.”
As increasing numbers of Jewish immigrants settled in the United States in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, this stigma associated with the Jewish nose surfaced here as well. According to Elizabeth Haiken, by the time surgeons began performing nose jobs in the late 19th Century, the Jewish nose was labeled as a feature considered “desirable for improvement.”
This prompted surgeons to target their rhinoplasty services to this vast market of potential patients. As a result, Jewish Americans become one of the first groups of people in this country to surgically alter their ethnic features in large numbers. As Haiken states, the primary goal of these cosmetic procedures was to facilitate assimilation and prevent discrimination.
The stigma associated with the Jewish nose persisted well into the 20th Century. During World War II, anti-Semitism was rampant on both sides of the Atlantic. When the Wagner-Rogers bill was proposed which would have allowed an additional 20,000 German Jews to enter the United States to seek asylum from persecution, the bill was met with strong opposition by Laura Delano, President Roosevelt’s cousin and wife to the U.S. Commissioner of Immigration.
Ms. Delano’s rationale for opposing the bill reflected a common sentiment across the country: “20,000 charming children would all too soon grow into 20,000 ugly adults.” It is no surprise that the bill was rejected in 1939.
As plastic surgery grew in popularity during the last few decades of the 20th Century, the numbers of Jews opting for nose jobs stayed relatively high. Growing up in a very Jewish section of Long Island, I was able to witness this first hand. It was so common for girls to get a nose job for their Sweet 16 that no one ever questioned whether a teenage girl should be undergoing a procedure that would radically alter her appearance at such a fragile age. It was simply accepted as par for the course.
A Decline in Jewish Nose Jobs
My experience on Long Island occurred during the early 90s. That was so last century. It seems that in the 21st Century, big Jewish noses are all the rage. Shocking, I know, but apparently also true. According to statistics released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there has been a 37% decline in rhinoplasty procedures for Jews between 2000 and 2011. That is a pretty big drop.
During that same time, there has been a tremendous rise in “ethnic rhinoplasty” procedures performed on Hispanic and Asian Americans who desire a better looking nose that still retains their ethnic features. Ironically, the idea of ethnic rhinoplasty for Jews is simply unheard of. You would never hear a Jew say to a plastic surgeon, “Doc, make sure you keep that big bump on my bridge. I don’t want anyone to confuse me for a goy.”
So why are Jews choosing to retain the one feature that has dogged them for centuries, the same feature that has resulted in many Jews being viewed as unattractive by the Christian world? Some experts seem to believe it is due to a changing notion of beauty.
According to Dr. Babak Azizzadeh, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, “The ideal beauty can be anybody. I think people actually don’t want to assimilate as much.”
There is logic to this argument. Past generations placed a higher priority on assimilation and looking more American. But the current generation of Jewish teens and young adults are primarily second, third, or even fourth generation Americans now. They are completely assimilated. As a result, many Jews find it more desirable to retain their ethnic features as a way of holding onto their roots.
Dr. Melvin Konnor agrees. He believes the decline in Jewish nose jobs is due to “an increased ethnic pride and a decreased desire to stop looking Jewish and blend in.”
As our country becomes more ethnically diverse, the typical beauty standards valuing petite Anglo-Saxon features have eroded. In a time of burgeoning ethnic diversity, the large Jewish schnoz has finally become in vogue. After centuries of stigma, persecution, and self loathing, the Jewish nose is now a source of pride. Go figure.
What Does Jewish Law Say about Nose Jobs?
As plastic surgery has grown in popularity over the past few decades, Rabbinic scholars have begun to debate whether Jewish law permits such dramatic alterations of your body. After all, the Talmud specifically forbids self-mutilation, and plastic surgery can certainly be viewed in this light.
The first scholar to chime in on the debate was Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits. In 1961, he postulated that plastic surgery should be forbidden unless it is being performed for one of the following reasons:
- It is medically recommended (for example, after an accident)
- It can help “facilitate or maintain a happy marriage” (i.e. Dr. Salzhauer’s nose job scholarship fund)
- It allows a patient to better contribute to society and make a decent living (I guess it is OK for Jewish strippers and hookers?)
I’m sure there will be little arguing point number 1. As far as point number 2 goes, if you need plastic surgery to find your mate or keep your marriage together, then you may want to re-evaluate whether you should really be with that person at all. And point number 3 – well, I’m not entirely sure that prostitution and stripping is approved of under Jewish law, so this point seems rather moot to me.
Other Rabbinic scholars have contributed to this debate over the past few decades. All in all, there seems to be numerous arguments in support of and opposition to plastic surgery being approved by the Jewish God. Religion has once again found itself in a conundrum. What a shocker.
Overall, it seems like the majority of the Orthodox Jewish community tends to frown on plastic surgery. Perhaps that is why Dr. Salzhauer’s nose job scholarship fund has been so controversial. Either way, vanity will almost always trump the fear of God in 21st Century America. As long as that is the case, I predict you will always have big-nosed Jews seeking out the procedure that they helped make popular in the first place.
If you are a fellow Member of the Tribe looking to turn that big Jewish nose into a cute shiksa nose, whether to better assimilate or to help your dating prospects, please contact The Weston Center for Aesthetic Medicine and Surgery today to schedule your initial consultation. Dr. Jon Harrell serves patients in Weston, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, Florida.