What is a Shiksa?

I’m so glad you asked! Most Yiddish dictionaries describe “shiksa” as simply “a non-Jewish woman.” Today, the word is often used to describe a non-Jewish woman who is in a relationship with a Jewish man. In other words, if you’re a non-Jewish girl, especially one who is married to a Jewish boy, you might be considered a shiksa. Historically, the word shiksa has been used in a derogatory way, meant to convey that the shiksa is somehow “less than” somebody born into Judaism. Some have even equated the word shiksa to a “vile abomination” or an “unclean thing.” Not so cute, right? When I first heard that, I took offense. I was born a shiksa, and I assure you I take showers regularly. Luckily, those definitions aren’t very popular anymore.

Nowadays the word shiksa is pretty much used with good humor—as I believe it should be! After all, there are many shiksas in the world; interfaith marriage is increasingly common. I feel it’s important to focus on the things that unite us, rather than the things that divide us. Fundamentally we are all the same. A good meal can bring warmth and joy to anybody, no matter who you are or what background you come from. Therefore, I’d like to officially liberate the word shiksa from its negative past.

As a convert to Judaism, I’m technically not a shiksa anymore. Even so, the nickname stuck, and I’ve embraced it fully. Rather than shy away from the word, I choose to let my background empower me. I have no shame that I was born a shiksa; I am exploring Judaism through the eyes of somebody newly reborn and thrilled to be part of the Tribe. I am happy that I was born a shiksa, because it made me who I am today. Judaism is now my spiritual path, but I will never forget where I came from.

If you’d like to learn more about my conversion, or why I use the word shiksa, please read my blog postings:

The Shiksa Is Jewish!

The Power of Words

Through this website, I am hoping to keep the art of Jewish cuisine growing and thriving. I want to reach out to new generations and re-engage them in the art of preparing and savoring wonderful Jewish meals. I also hope to introduce people who don’t know much about Jewish cuisine to the exciting, unique flavors they’ve been missing. I encourage people from all faiths and backgrounds to join me on my journey into the heart of Jewish cuisine. Let’s all eat, drink, and embrace our inner shiksa!

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  1. As others posted, I too, felt kind of “cringy” when I read “Shiksa”. In our family, (grandfather and his brothers all grew up speaking Yiddish), that was a mean, ugly word, sort of the same feel of saying the “N” word in English – or “schvartze” in Yiddish. Not nice. You lower your voice when you say it so no one hears you. But I get that you know this, and are deliberately trying to change the meaning of this word. Well, you’ve got chutzpah, anyway! I get so sad when I experience bigotry and prejudice among any people, but especially among my own. And yet, I do understand the need (required by Torah) to not intermarry (unless the person is converted). If only there was so much love, and so much love of Torah, that all young lovers would be drawn to the teachings of the Torah, regardless of their previous religious/ethnic affiliations, and find the way of peace there. Anyway, I found YOU looking for babaganouj, which I serve in the sukkah this week. Thank you for all your wonderful posts, recipes, and thoughts. May you have joy in your journey.

  2. Hi Tori,

    Love your website – making the mushroom barley soup as I write this. I have a question not related to food, but to your faith. What were you before you converted to Judaism? How did you decide to convert and what was the defining thing – spiritual that made you believe it was the right “way”? What does it do in a spiritual and personal way for you? Curious? Thanks so much.

    Best,

  3. OK… here is another way to see it.
    I was born in Poland to a Jewish family, Holocaust survivors… They all “look” Jewish… with all the stereotypes that are out there… when I was born – blond and blue eyes – I kept hearing the following: U look like a Shiksa… If u had to survive during the war (2nd world war), u would have survived…. Interesting ha?

  4. You have such a nice positive way with words!! Just met your blog and love it!! I am Catholic but I worked in an orthodox Glatt Kosher hospital for years !! You are very interesting!!! Geri

  5. Hi Tori,
    I am a shiksa as well…married to my wonderful husband for 32 years. I love your attitude and your recipes lookk wonderful. I agree with you that embracing diversity is the way to go!

  6. Dear “Torileh” (“Little Tori,” affectionately said the way my late Tateh would have said it),
    I was looking for a good roasted cauliflower recipe and stumbled upon your site. I ended up eating almost a whole head of cauliflower (oy, vey!) because your recipe is sooooo good. You are a fascinating shiksa and a shayna maidele (pretty young woman), and I think my nephew’s lovely shiksa girlfriend will enjoy your website, so I’ll pass it on to her. She’s been cooking all sorts of Jewish delights for my nephew and my sister’s crew and their in-laws.
    Best of all, with the variety and diversity of folks sharing their thoughts on your website, we are all united–and proving those who would say otherwise incorrect. Could it be that your site is a move toward world peace? I think so!
    Your “soul shvester” (sister), Dee

  7. I came across your blog when I was looking for a salmon recipe with a creamy dill sauce. I love this blog!
    I’m a Korean American woman who have Christian values, but in a committed relationship with a Jewish man. We plan on having a family together and talks of religions are common, but respected. I probably will not convert, but we I do keep a kosher home so that his family can dine at my table when they visit. It’s also good practice for when we share our future home together. I love this blog and I’m excited to explore more, as I’m trying to adapt my cooking more and more to a kosher style. Thanks for sharing your recipes!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story and the beautiful recipes.
    And yes “Shiksha” translates to education in Hindi and marvelled at how that made sense too.

  9. I am absolutely in love with your blog. While I was still dating my now husband, an adorable Jewish man, I started trying out jewish cooking. We lived away from his family and he missed his grandmothers food. As we are now on the way to growing our family and keep our family in the jewish faith, I’m trying to go all in on the jewish cooking. I stumbled across your site and can’t wait to impress my hubby and in-laws with all I learn from you! Thanks!!

  10. Hey! I made your challah and it was the best I ever made. Gonna use your apricot filling recipe right now and will investigate later for the muhn one. Lovely blog, and as a special ed teacher, I appreciate how you have broken down the instructions into small, very clear portions. Great job!

    1. So happy to hear that Lauren. May I say thank you for your work as a special ed teacher? It is such an important contribution you’re making!

  11. Every, I mean every holiday, you just amaze me with the perfect recipe I can trust! I made your recipe for Hamantashen and they were just right! I tried my trusty cream cheese recipe and they were delish, but they opened up.
    Thank you for your consistency! I love your daily recipes too. You are so trustworthy and I share your blog with everyone where I teach. Chag Sameach!

  12. Dear Tori,
    Has anyone told you lately that your site is the best? As an American Jewish girl who has lived in Israel for over forty years and who has never lost the Yankee attitude (although as the child of Polish Jews I wasn’t your typical Yankee) your collection of recipes with the backgrounds that go with them is fascinating, while your sense of humor and irony make perusing your site a pleasure. I’m hooked. You’re amazing, and I look forward to many hours of reading and follow-up cooking. All the best. Anita Raymond, Ashdod, Israel

  13. I came across your site by chance hoping to find a recipe for matbucha which I discovered in London, at Solly’s, an israeli restaurant/take away in Golders Green originally founded by a Lebanese Jew. I love it and never thaught to use the net until this day. The picture on your site was the nearest one to their recipe so I clicked on it and will try your recipe today. I did wonder why you would call your site the way you did because as a French Jew currently living in London UK, I can only remember my grandmother (however wonderful and kind she was, using the word shiksa with a derogatory connotation and I thing it still does over here in Europe. I explored your site and found a bit more and your explanation as to why you chose that name for your site. I read some of the comments and share some of the opinions expressed as well as yours. I was brought up by parents who were Sionists (I was actually born in Israel) rather than religious, although my father went through what I call “mystic” phases including a very strong one just after his Bar Mitzwah (in Switzerland, having luckily been able to escape France and the Nazis with the help of the Jewish Resistance/Underground) and the other after he lost his mother. But his parents who I kind of grew up with were very traditional and kosher so I have inherited more of an identity than anything else; I salute you for actually joining the Tribe as you quite appropriately name it! I too do respect people for who they are no matter what colour or religion they are as long as they do not start preaching that theirs is best! I do agree with your opinion and respect your courage in expressing and explaining the origin of your site’s name and your opinion. So hat off to you and I just hope your recipe will come close to Solly’s and avoid me a fairly longish drive there. I’ll let you know! Finally, I also would like to share and tell you of a remarkable book which you may already know but if not, try to get it – it is absolutely fascinating and so interesting, explaining about the roots and origin of various worldly “Jewish” dishes. It is a history/cookery book and if you don’t already know it, I’m pretty sure you would love it. It’s called “The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to the Present Day” and you can get it from Amazon.
    I will explore your site a bit deeper and see what other recipe(s) I fancy trying… I’m sure I’ll find one. Keep on sharing and spreading the joy and warmth of Jewish food… Take care

  14. Hi Tori,
    Shiksha in most Indian languages means TRAINING. How appropriate for your blog “Training in the kitchen”.
    Love your blog by the way.

    Ravi

  15. Tori, you are a delight! You give new meaning and dignity to the term “shiksa” and it’s interesting that you developed an interest in Judaism before you met your husband. I found you because I’m looking for more mandelbread recipes than my own tried-and-true chocolate-chip variant. My daughter-in-law is also a convert, and makes much better matzo ball soup than I, a Jewess. She’s a great cook and wife and mother and our family is lucky to have her. Keep up the good work, Tori!

  16. Tori,
    Found your website while doing research for my science fiction novel (looking for an Israeli recipe for breakfast for someone from the planet New Israel). I’m going to try the shakshouka for dinner tonight. Can’t have my characters eating something that I haven’t tried. Will let you know how it went.

  17. Thanks for clearing this up for me. I’m doing a musical right now called “The Last Five Years” and one of the songs is Shiksa Goddess. The character sings about the local JCC crumbling to the ground cause he is in love with a shiksa goddess.

  18. Good for you, Tori!! Growing up we sadly used the word in the more derogatory sense…I’m glad that you embraced our Jewish sense of self-deprecation and humor! Been chuckling a lot and appreciate your light-hearted site. Thank you for your recipes and all of the extras on your site; am bookmarking it for those “go-to” recipes my ‘eema’ used to cook, G*d rest her soul. And one last thing…am also a Northern CA native so thanks for “representing” the West Coast!

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