What I Will Do Differently Now That 23andMe Says I’m Only 5% Jewish but 45% Italian

Changing a lifetime of behavioral traits won’t be easy, but now that 23andMe has revealed the real me…

No more jokes about the Mafia, La Cosa Nostra or The Syndicate; finally make it through The Godfather Part II; no more poking fun at Marlon Brando’s accent.

23andme: Revealing genealogy, changing behavior!

Embracing Italian wines, I will switch from Manischewitz to Montepulchiano; learn what makes a “Super” Tuscan so terrific; and remember that Valpolicella is the wine and Velociraptor is the dinosaur (thereby avoiding embarrassment at Italian restaurants).

Rosanno Brazzi singing “Some Enchanted Evening” will become my mood-setting date-night song, replacing  Zero Mostel singing “If I Were a Rich Man” (which probably sent the wrong message, and may account for my lack of success in that department).

I will admire Italian painters, from Botticelli to Vermicelli, and appreciate Italian directors, from Fellini to Fettuccini. (Note to self: learn to distinguish Italian artists from Italian pastas).

Speaking of food, I’ve always loved pizza. I will continue to do so, but will now add prosciutto and olives, while keeping the extra cheese (unless extra cheese is too Jewish). (Note to self: never again request a lox pizza, even in jest.)

I also love soccer. But I will stop rooting for Nivheret Yisrael and throw my support to Juventus (great name!).

I will gesture with my hands. (Caution: I’ve always gestured with my hands. Am I supposed to gesture more or less?) (Also, can I still say “gesundheit” after someone sneezes?)

At my children’s weddings, no more stepping on light bulbs: Murano glass only!

I will replace the Talmudic imperative – that a father is duty-bound to circumcise his son, find him a wife and teach him how to swim – with the Italian proverb, “I buoni nuotatori al fin si affogano,” or “Good swimmers often drown” (or is “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes” more Italian?). (Speaking of circumcising, anything to be done – or undone – there?)

They say the three most important things in choosing an ethnic identity are “location, location, location.” So out goes Jerusalem, in comes Romulus and Remus. (Note: Although Rome was sacked by the Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Cyber Goths, and someone named Norman, Jerusalem was captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice. In short, I like my chances with Rome.)

However, I will keep my Jewish doctor, Jewish lawyer and Jewish accountant. (We Italians know that, when it ain’t broke, you don’t call the Mafia for a Fixer) (my last Mafia joke). But there are more things I will give up including:

  • Annual pilgrimage to temple for Yom Kippur (though I will miss critiquing the rabbi’s sermon, I will not miss the High Holiday appeal)
  • Passover Seders (though I will miss matzah and maror, I prefer pasta and pizza)
  • Obsessing over Scarlett Johansson and Emmy Rossum
  • Hanukkah (I will miss the candle lighting, but not miss being accused of waging a War On Christmas – I like Christmas) (as long as it doesn’t start its war on me in October)

Which begs the question: Am I Catholic? Apparently 80% of Italy is; but since 23andMe says I’m only 45% Italian, I have less than a 50% chance of being part of that 80%.

So maybe I’m still Jewish, like Camillo Olivetti (the typewriter guy) or Camilo Giorgi (attractive tennis player) (but no Scarlett or Emmy).  Therefore, please ignore what I wrote above.

Howard Zaharoff
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