'Dirty Dancing', Jewish Girls, and Radiant Confidence

My first viewing of 'Dirty Dancing' was as sacred in my home as my Bat Mitzvah, and one look at its beautiful, bushy-haired, big-nosed leading lady tells you why.

by Sarah Jae Leiber

You are now reading an exclusive piece from the Film Daze Digital Magazine, Issue 6: Adolescence. Enjoy! - The Film Daze Team

Dirty Dancing (1987) is a feature-length thirst trap with arms, legs, and a heart. Frances “Baby” Houseman’s self-discovery in the Catskills remains relevant because of its class-defying, steamy romance, its killer soundtrack, its daring depiction of an illegal abortion, and its electrifying dance sequences. But it’s also a rite-of-passage coming of age story for American Jewish women that’s already been passed l’dor v’dor — from generation to generation — in the 33 years it’s been around. My first viewing of Dirty Dancing was as sacred in my home as my Bat Mitzvah, and one look at its beautiful, bushy-haired, big-nosed leading lady tells you why. 

It’s difficult even today to find a big Hollywood story about Jewish girls, written by Jewish girls, where the Jewish girls “look Jewish” in the normative white, Ashkenazi sense. Ther…

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