Help Me Write a Jewish Character as Realistically As I Can
October 29, 2010 2:31 PM Subscribe
I'm writing a fiction book where the main character is a Jewish male aged in his late 30s living in London during WW2. I want to make this character sound as real as possible. My problem; I'm not Jewish and I don't really know anybody who is. Help me write this character as realistically as I can!
posted by Effigy2000 to Grab Bag (38 answers total)
I'm doing a lot of research around what life was like for Jewish people in London both before and during WW2, so that's not really a problem for me. My biggest difficulty is getting dialogue and culture right.
For instance, how should he speak? This character grew up in Germany before moving to London (Whitechapel, specifically) shortly after the Nazis came to power. So realistically he would probably speak Yiddish (right?) and when speaking English he would speak with something of a German accent? I don't want to get that realistic however. What I do want to know is should I just write his dialogue as though he were a natural English speaker or should I add some 'flavor' to his speech? If the latter, what sort of stuff could/should I add without descending into stereotypes or causing offense to actual Jewish people?
The other thing is culture. When my novel starts, it is December 24th, 1940, which I've researched to find was the first day of Hanukkah in that year. So beyond lighting the first candle of a Menorah, what else might he and his family (wife and two small kids, a boy and a girl) be doing during this time? Remember, there's a war on, so with rationing and so on it's likely not to be a very fancy celebration for his family. But despite that, what's important enough that he would strive not to give up during that time of year? What should he and his family be doing that night and during that time of year?
Still on culture, the novel will cover a period of time that goes well past the eight days of Hanukkah. So what other things would he be doing as he tries to live his life as best and as normally as he can in a bombed out London?