News story headlines are often confusing, fragmented or downright bizarre-sounding. At times however they can be borderline deceiving. We have heard of this recently, mainly of the exploitation of the name of a certain celebrity sportsman to draw in readers.
Although Tara Murtha’s story “Eating Disorders In Jewish Culture” sincerely attempts to identify a cultural pattern, I feel that the title of her piece makes an affirmation which its contents in turn cannot fully sustain.
The leading statement “Eating disorders aren’t just for models and white, middle-class teenage girls anymore” is ambiguous. To my knowledge, the single Jewish women whom the articles identifies as the protagonists of unhealthy eating patterns within this community are ,at large, constituents of this very category: middle to upper class young white females.
The pressure which arises from food awareness due to the crucial observance to aliment within Jewish faith, I understand. I trust that “…growing up in a niche culture that routinely ritualizes food within a mainstream culture that relentlessly prizes thinness…” may indeed create circumstances which might facilitate an eating disorder or ‘E.D’. However who are the experts behind this conclusion? Jewish community leaders, psychologists, sociologists?
That young Jewish men have become increasingly observant of their potential brides’ weight seems like a pretty obvious assimilation of modern day beauty standards.
The story builds around the testimony of a young Jewish Philadelphia female, Hillary. She is a bright college graduate and E.D sufferer who goes on to state:
“I’m a firm believer that it was just something hard-wired into me.”
She also claims that while in treatment:
“People come in of all different races, ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures, with all kinds of different eating issues.”
In other words, Hilary herself nudges us to consider the bigger picture and indiscriminate nature of her illness.
Murtha goes on to describe how Renfrew Rehab Clinic in Philadelphia has initiated a specific program geared toward the treatment of Jewish patients. Considering the institutions’ CEO Sam Menaged grew up in an Orthodox household it is not surprising that he would be particularly attune to catering to clients from his own community. Because I have no substantial data telling me otherwise, or confirming a high percentage of patients who happen to be of Jewish faith this is an assumption I naturally make.
Raising awareness about eating disorders is commendable. Intertwining a perspective on this disease from a particular community’s point of view is also interesting. However, claiming that this story deals exclusively with this particular community’s vulnerability to the issue is unsubstantiated.
– Natalia Chiarelli