The Hot Girl took an undeniably Jewish turn this past year. Vice christened tinned fish “hot girl food.” Eater declared that “hot girls love Jewish delis.” And delicore—a style characterized by luxury lox hoodies that Pete Davidson called “not, like, Balenciaga” but “blue-collar”—charmed the masses with its unfussy shtick.
Just as suddenly as this exaggerated Jewish aesthetic achieved trend status, it was commodified. Beaded accouterments brand Susan Alexandra dropped a Judaica collection that included a Larry David bracelet. Dirty Jewish Swag began producing “Jewess” necklaces. Falling in line with the Y2K revival and its Jewish American Princess stereotype (derogatory, unless you’re Frank Zappa), the Fashion Brand Company conceived Barbie-pink, two-piece sets with “Jewish Girls” scrawled across their curvy silhouettes. Even Jerry Seinfeld was served as Karbanot (a Jewish offering) for the thirsty Jewess in a Kith campaign this year.
Brands had picked up on what Jewish women, femmes, and nonbinary folks already knew: There’s a burgeoning contingent of extremely online people who are excited to wear their Jewishness on their sleeves. And with memes about scallion schmear bagels and selfies spotlighting their Star of David necklaces, they’ve cobbled together a lighthearted caricature of Jewish femininity. A new era of the Hot Jewish Girl is here, and this time, it’s of her own making.
“You have to include the fact that we both accidentally scheduled this meeting on Yom Kippur and didn’t know,” Emily Bernstein, a 31-year-old Jewish micro-internet personality, laughs. Working on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, is codified “Jew-ish” behavior—spot on for young people who identify as culturally and sometimes ethnically Jewish, but religiously nothing of the sort. (I, for example, am patrilineally Jew-ish: Judaism was passed down on my dad’s side and is more of a cultural identity than a religious doctrine for me.) Bernstein counts herself as part of the Hot Jewish Girl community.
Online, the Hot Jewish Girl presents as an outspoken, messy bitch who kvetches about the drama inherent in the Jewish woman’s existence with a wink. Her social media presence is often heavy with morbid humor—an oft-stereotyped Jewish coping mechanism. One such creator performs the POV of an Ashkenazi Jew set to audio that chides, “Spoiled, selfish, self-centered: This woman believes the sun should rise and set according to her needs.” Another takes on a self-deprecating tone while repurposing Julia Fox’s statement about being “Ye’s muse” after one of his antisemitic diatribes. Some satirize Jewish religious principles and the JAP identity, while Wellbutrin is referenced with regularity. Together, their attitude has spawned a smattering of meme pages, internet creators, and socially savvy media outlets that perform the Hot Jewish Girl identity regularly—from @jewishgirlprobs and @jewishmemesonly to Whoregasmic, Hey Alma, and Jewpi Kaur.
Bernstein believes the solidification of a Hot Jewish Girl archetype is due in part to Jewish creators’ growing visibility and the ravenous nature with which young people consume content online. Old-school Instagram, she says, catered to the appetites of straight men, serving either photos of friends or conventionally pretty—and often, gentile—influencers. But TikTok blew the doors off that model, allowing users to more quickly locate their internet personality niche and slot themselves into a “-core,” thus resulting in the cyber-convening of the Hot Jewish Girls.
“It’s kind of this self-perpetuating snowball,” Bernstein says. “If we’re getting a platter of algorithm-served content, we’re seeing people we don’t know more often… The more content you see from people who are like, ‘I’m a proud, hilarious, funny Jewish girly with stomach problems,’ the more normalized that identity becomes for you.”
Dr. Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor of digital media technology at the University of Alabama, has an anecdotal name for this: “the Instagram-ification and TikTok-ification of Jewish identity online.” “It’s almost like a very online Jewish identity trademark,” she says. “My coworkers say all I do is tweet about bagels and put Jewish jokes about bagels on my Instagram story. Well, yeah, I do. It’s become part of my identity.”
Evelyn Frick, an associate editor and one of the social media voices at Jewish feminist website Hey Alma, says Hey Alma’s Instagram-ified take on Jewishness has given readers a blueprint to “talk about Jewish identity in a way that hasn’t been platformed all that much before.” Hey Alma uses English words alongside Yiddish words (Chutzpah! Supreme self-confidence!) and, despite the usual centering of white Ashkenazi Jews in the media, caters to Jews of all ethnic backgrounds and body types. This, while meme-ing the bat mitzvah culture, Juicy velour tracksuits, and Coach wristlets of yore.
Frick says some of the site’s coverage around curvy Jewish bodies (or zaftig) has encouraged them to more readily showcase their own body in all its queer glory online. “Something I love so much about reform or more progressive circles of Judaism is that there isn’t this emphasis on modesty or shame for sexuality, like there is in other religions and even other branches of Jewishness,” Frick says. “So when I was growing up, I never felt like I had to separate those parts of my identity. I am solid in my Jewish spiritual connection but can also dress however I want and express my sexuality however I want.”
Not unlike Broad City’s Ilana Wexler, with her blazing nipples, crop tops, frizzy curls, and portfolio of sexual dalliances, the Hot Jewish Girl is also a performance of sexuality (though Hot Girls themselves are not gendered and exist beyond the realm of physical beauty standards). She posts casual thirst traps, layering Jewish discourse atop cleavage shots and mirror selfies. Her Jewish body is a central focus of the bit—a “dare to look away” confrontation with the viewer.
That sex-curious Hot Jewish Girl shows up in a number of different circles. In Netflix’s reality show My Unorthodox Life, various denominations of Jews (orthodox, reformed, queer, and influencer) blunder through sex in the city. Instagram account the Tokin Jew celebrated Shabbat by posting a dominatrix on all fours in a catsuit. Website Kosher Sex touts that sex can be both holy and hot, while Jewish erotica author Kitty Knish wrote a collection of 69 “Sexy Jewish Stories” that are “kosher and raunchy.” (She also sells “burning bush” leggings.) A musician named Fae calls herself a “Japanese and Jewish dark pop artist that makes you feel like a hot villain with a god complex,” and Raquel Rottmann, a Peruvian sex influencer, tucks her Jewishness neatly into her sex ed content.
“I’ve always been really horny,” says Arielle Kaplan, known better to her followers as Whoregasmic or Jewish Internet Princess. Aside from her early love of lesbian porn, Kaplan became fascinated by female desire during college, when she helped conduct studies for the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University. After a formative breakup (“My ex did not go down on me, so I was breaking free”), she rebranded herself as a sex influencer and got on OnlyFans, where she was sometimes contacted because of her Jewishness. One Jewish woman paid her to go to the supermarket, pick out a pomegranate, and film herself while removing the seeds with her fingers.
“I appreciated my body more during that time. I was spending so much time naked and taking photos of myself, it wound up being pretty good exposure therapy,” Kaplan says. “It boosted my self-esteem for sure.” Now, she shitposts about blowjobs on Rosh Hashanah, wishes “L’shana Ho-va” to “semitic sluts,” and captions photos of herself with “I dressed as a little horny jew.”
Kaplan, who identifies as a liberal Zionist, used to save her musings on Judaism and the state of Israel for her personal Instagram account. But in May of 2021, Israeli authorities launched heavy airstrikes in Gaza in response to Hamas militants launching rockets towards Israeli cities. For decades, the loaded geopolitical conflict has caused immeasurable harm: Palestinian civilians have suffered disproportionate casualties, while Jewish people have seen unprecedented levels of antisemitic violence, including on U.S. soil. In an attempt to quell that Jewish hate in her own small way (much of which she says came from antizionists), Kaplan “morphed into this femme fatale-turned Jewish girl” on her Whoregasmic account.
“My simps? Not all of them are Jewish,” she says. “I probably have a 50/50 ratio, and I got a lot of messages from people who are such good Jewish allies. I’m trying to make the world less antisemitic by seducing all antisemites and goyim and changing their minds, and it’s easier to get someone to listen when I talk about Jewish history if my tits are out.”
Whether conscious or otherwise, the Hot Jewish Girl can be interpreted as a reaction to rising Jewish hate. Long before Kanye West began going “death con 3 on Jewish people,” antisemitism was at historic levels in the United States. The deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history took place just four years ago, when a mass shooter murdered 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Incidents targeting Jewish institutions increased by 61 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). And the vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism told CBS News, “We are seeing a level of antisemitism related to the conflict in the Middle East that is beyond quantifiable.”
But all of that is far too grim for an individual to process in real time, which is where the Hot Jewish Girl can prove therapeutic. The darkness gets internalized and repackaged, erupting instead in nihilistic TikToks dripping in sexual subtext. It becomes something more palatable: a joke. A thirst trap. A meme about staying alive.
“You could argue that the reinvestment in sexual Jewishness and pride in Jewish femininity…is part of the tailwind of Black Lives Matter, but also the creepy takeover of a Trumpian, MAGA world, which requires us to ground down in whatever amount of pride we can muster,” Dr. Hannah Schwadron, a Jewish researcher and author of The Case of the Sexy Jewess: Dance, Gender, and Jewish Joke-work in US Pop Culture, says. “It’s a resistance movement.”
While the Hot Jewish Girl fits squarely into the broader religious irony embraced by the extremely online, she is also an antidote to millennia of biblical and cultural erasure. Kaplan, for example, notes that before Judaism became a monotheistic and patriarchal religion, God had a wife named Asherah, who ancient Israelites worshiped. But scholars weren’t aware of Asherah’s existence until 1967, when an Oxford scholar discovered she had been almost entirely scrubbed from the Hebrew Bible. Lilith, a character in Judaic mythology and Adam’s first wife before Eve, met a similar demise. After being banished from the Garden of Eden for refusing to bow down to Adam, Lilith sprouted wings and flew away. Though her origin story was feminist in nature, her legacy in religious texts as described by men was insidious: Jewish folklore mainly remembers Lilith as a succubus who stole men’s semen at night.
Today, that same penchant for erasure is alive and well. “Jewface”—what Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman calls the passing over of Jewish actors in favor of gentile actors—is still unsettlingly common. Jewish queer director Emma Seligman launched Rachel Sennott’s career by casting her as the Jewish lead in Shiva Baby, though Sennott is not Jewish. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s titular character, an American Jewish comedian, is played by non-Jewish Rachel Brosnahan. A plucky Jewish schmuck often falls in love with a shiksa, as in When Harry Met Sally, Orange Is the New Black, and Annie Hall. Winona Ryder’s stardom rocketed after she changed her name from Winona Horowitz.
With Jewish representation leaving much to be desired, millennial and Gen Z Jewish girls spent much of their early internet years looking at the mainstream beauty of non-Jewish people: Sleek blonde tresses, sloping elfish noses, and scant body hair splashed across fashion magazines, advertisements, and Disney Channel shows.
“Like any form of white supremacist hatred, a lot of antisemitism is based on appearance, portraying Jews as ugly and not human, as creatures or bugs,” Frick says. “I think being able to express oneself as feeling beautiful and confident in how you look and posting risqué things online feels like a form of protest against that.”
When Jewish women weren’t being ignored, they were being objectified. In 2009, the now-defunct Details magazine published a sexist article titled, “The Rise of the Hot Jewish Girl: Why American Men Are Lusting After Women of the Tribe.” The piece hyping “JILFs” was accompanied by an image of a woman in lace underwear with a Star of David tramp stamp.
The obsession with “naughty shul girls” didn’t start with Details’ editorial staff, though they’d surely cream themselves to be credited as such. Jewish women have long been fetishized for their mix of mostly whiteness and exoticism. European artists depicted the beautiful Jewess as submissive and “other,” the antithesis to the Western woman, into the 19th century. In the 21st century, a video called “Jewish girl has perfect ass” has 1.5 million views on PornHub. That fetishization is now happening on TikTok, too, with commenters simping “please be my jewish queen” and “why do jewish girls always have gigantic—.” But none of that deters Kaplan from offering up her body online.
“I think Jewish women have always been highly sexual…but we haven’t always had social media,” she says. “Jewish women are like the ultimate Madonna whore: You either want to fuck me or kill me or sometimes even both. So I’m gonna profit off it.”
Schwadron sees the Instagram-ification and TikTok-ification of Jewish femininity as a performative subversion of all Jewish women have endured. Her work examines how Jewish women in a post-assimilation America used their bodies for cultural change—in many cases, Schwadron writes, using it to embrace her “damned role as a failed femme, a social misfit, a funny girl in low-brow moves that comically undermined herself as much as the world around her.” From Barbra Streisand and Fanny Brice to drag queen Lady SinAGaga and neo-burlesque performer Zoe Ziegfeld, performers have processed their Judaism this way—a mixture of grief and pride that beats aggressors to the punch.
Now that the performance has trickled online, “It’s what you call ‘tits out’ behavior,” Schwadron says, laughing.
“Embarrassing myself is easy; the sexy clown is an archetypal role for Jewish women,” Julie Weitz, a queer Ashkenazi performance artist, said of her 2018 piece My Golem as the Great Dominatrix. She created the exhibition as an “absurdist, schmaltzy protest” to the Charlottesville rally held by neo-Nazis the year prior.
Something that Weitz understood about her Jewess-ness is its tug-of-war between repulsion and seduction, humor and politics. The new generation of Hot Jewish Girls seems to understand this, too. But the memes, TikToks, and Instagram accounts giving voice to the hot mess brand of Jewish femininity also run the risk of removing nuance from that identity altogether. As Schwadron wonders, “Is it punching up or punching one’s self in the face?” If all Jewish femmes are performing the same online persona, as Black Jewish TikTok creator Raven Ariel Schwam-Curtis cautions, that persona flattens, becoming shallow. For instance, Hot Jewish Girl content often falls into the trap of “Ashkenormativity”: the centering of Ashkenazi Jews in conversations about Jewishness due to their racialized privilege of whiteness.
“These bits of Jewish culture get picked up and epitomized as all of us, and regurgitated over and over and over again to such an extent that I don’t know if it’s generative anymore,” Schwam-Curtis says. “Is it fruitful? What is it doing for us? Whether it’s like we’re talking about bagels all the time, that’s our shtick—or pickles, or IBS.”
From that lens, Schwam-Curtis understands these “little meme-y bits of content” can be good for visibility and are easier for online audiences to digest, especially on an escapist platform like TikTok. She’s jumped on the “Hot Jewish Girls have IBS” trend herself but mostly creates educational content surrounding the Black Jewish experience—anti-Blackness and antisemitism in tandem.
In his 2016 book Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power, Neal Gabler described Streisand in the opening scene of 1968’s Funny Girl as possessing a “cool, diva elegance only slightly betrayed by…the self-scrutiny that gives way to self-consciousness that gives way to self-confidence that gives way to self-doubt.” Streisand, one of the few Hollywood stars to refuse to assimilate, instead luxuriating in her divine Jewishness, held the status of an enduring outsider. She was, Gabler writes, a threat “to conventional ideas of beauty, conventional ideas of female roles and femininity…conventional ideas of what it meant to be American.”
Just as Streisand gave Jewish women across the country a sense of kinship, the mere existence of a binding Jewish femininity online can offer community for a new generation. Certainly, the Hot Jewish Girl meme has the potential to distill the diaspora down into a one-dimensional joke. But it also can serve as an entry point to more nuanced conversations about Jewish identity—the sort of conversations that Schwam-Curtis prefers to have.
“The world is a brutal place, and anywhere that we can find community and communion and reprieve is really important, especially in a world where antisemitism is on the rise seemingly every single day,” they say. “Having space for Jewish joy, or in my case for Black and Jewish joy…it matters. It really does.”
In the spirit of extremely online discourse, you could call the Hot Jewish Girl a starter pack of sorts. She’s got her gnawing neuroses and silly TikToks, her sparkly mezuzah and mirror pics of her ass. Because a starter pack is just that: a starter. An appetizer. The kugel bites to the matzo ball soup.
Editor’s note: We’ve updated this story to clarify the nature of Kaplan’s social media presence.