The Canadian Jewish Congress says the Toronto Police Service is pushing anti-hate law "to its most absurd level" by listing "non-Jewish Shiksa" as a victim category in its latest hate crime study.
The statistical report reveals that officers investigated hate crimes in Toronto last year against such unusual victim groups as teachers, feminists, infidels, police, Nazis and pedophiles.
But it is the redundantly named category of "non-Jewish Shiksa" -- a slur for a non-Jewish woman, from a Hebrew root meaning "a detested thing" -- that has especially baffled the CJC, a prominent advocate for stronger hate crime laws.
"You just can't apply it to literally everything," said CEO Bernie Farber.
The report, not yet released on the TPS website, shows an increase in "hate/bias occurrences" over the year before, from 153 to 174, with 23 charges laid.
Jewish, black, and LGBT were the top victim categories, but Tamils also registered, with six occurrences. By far the most common crime was mischief, usually graffiti, followed by assault and threatening.
The 2009 shiksa incident, classified as "mischief," happened in 53 Division, a central uptown area colloquially known among police as "Sleepy Hollow" because it includes the city's most pleasant residential communities, including some of the Jewish neighbourhoods around Bathurst and Lawrence.
It is not known whether a charge was laid, or a prosecution successful.
A letter of complaint to Alok Mukherjee, chairman of the Toronto Police Services Board, says the CJC is "frankly mystified," not just because "shiksa" is "sometimes used as a pejorative" and is therefore "inappropriate" for an official police category, but because hate crime sentencing provisions were meant to reflect not just simple membership in a group, but an "unchangeable" or "inescapable" aspect of the victim.
The letter also objects to the "police" category because police already enjoy special legal protection under the Criminal Code, and "Nazi" because political beliefs are not grounds for a hate crime. The letter does not mention feminists, teachers, infidels or pedophiles.
The Criminal Code allows for sentences to be increased if there is "evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor."
It is those last five words that give rise to the category controversy.
"While it is recognized that every individual has multiple aspects to their identity, more than one of which could be cause for an offender to target them, it is the practice of the [Toronto Police Service Hate Crime] Unit to classify a hate/ bias occurrence based on the best known information that exists relevant to the offender's perception of the victim," the report reads.
The term shiksa was given its full literary expression in Portnoy's Complaint, Phillip Roth's 1969 novel about adolescent sexual frustration, in which a Jewish protagonist agonizes over bad girls like Bubbles Girardi.
It has since become a common and mostly uncontroversial piece of slang. Charlotte, a Sex and the City character, is described by her Jewish boyfriend as a "shiksa goddess." Sharon Stone, after her sexual predator role in Basic Instinct, described herself as "the ultimate shiksa." And Jewish dating sites market themselves with the cheeky slogan "Shiksas are for practice."
Who's your shiksa?
Authors and entertainers have weighed in on the mystique of the shiksa.
American is one
"It may have been gold in the streets for my grandparents, it may have been a chicken in every pot for my father and mother, but to me, America is a shiksa nestling under your arm whispering love love love love love."
-Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint
You can love one
After a reading in Montreal, "someone stood up and asked [Mordecai Richler] 'how come' he'd married 'a shiksa.' There was a pause--a hush as the audience registered the offence--and then Mordecai said, with chilling forbearance, 'Because I love her.' "
-- Daniel Richler
Not like mother
"You've got 'shiksappeal.' Jewish men love the idea of meeting a woman that's not like their mother."
-- George, to Elaine, on Seinfeld,
Less bossy, but still a threat
"The shiksa is regarded as sweet and less demanding, quieter, not like the Jewish mothers, less bossy. Jewish women see that as a threat. When they see 'willing to convert' [on Jewish dating sites] they think, 'these women are taking our guys.' Now you have to go up against these non-Jewish women."
-- Laurie Graff, author of The Shiksa Syndrome
To fly away on the wings of one
"To fly away on the wings of a shiksa. To be near a shiksa, hold her, feel the warm downy mouth of one traditionally detested by my own people. To touch a shiksa -- there, there and especially there. To be beloved by another kind. Essentially, to be free."
-- Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan