Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me … a nose job appointment?
Orthodox rabbis have concluded that cosmetic surgery is religiously acceptable in many instances.
April 2nd, 2012
06:46 PM ET

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me … a nose job appointment?

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - The problem for Orthodox Jewish singles, when it comes to meeting “the one,” might be right in front of them. Literally, as in staring them in the mirror.

So says a Miami plastic surgeon who recently announced surgery “scholarships” for single men and women in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Doing his part to help bring couples together, Dr. Michael Salzhauer launched this pro-bono campaign for his fellow Jews. Call it nose jobs for nuptials.

“A big nose worked for George Washington,” he said. “But there are standards of beauty that go across all cultures.” Like it or not, the stereotypical “Jewish nose” is a subject fraught with complex history.

No stranger to controversy, Salzhauer was behind a music video about nose jobs that recently gained lots of buzz. So he has no problem admitting that his offer of free surgeries is “very controversial, obviously.”

But if the goal for those in the dating pool is to marry and have children, Salzhauer says, getting noticed – or at least not overlooked – matters.

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Married with five kids and part of the religious community himself, Salzhauer, 39, knows how much family is valued in the Orthodox world. He also knows what it’s like to be ashamed of one’s schnoz.

“I had a big Jewish nose growing up. … Trust me, it was a doozy,” said the surgeon, who had his own rhinoplasty – and a chin implant – eight years into his marriage. “I enjoy noses. I identify with the operation.”

He says he completes about 250 nose jobs a year, and the news release announcing his scholarship program referred to him as “the Nose King of Miami.”

His business, and his offer of free surgeries for those in need, isn't just about noses, though. Does that mean a woman hoping to get noticed with new DD-sized breasts can simply stroll into his Bal Harbour practice and ask for financial nip-and-tuck aid?

Not even close, he says.

All applicants must be referred by their matchmakers, which are common in the Orthodox community. If they are younger than 18, they'll need parental consent. Financial need must be verified by a matchmaker or a rabbi. And each patient must meet criteria – medically, aesthetically and psychologically – before being deemed eligible for surgery.

How I learned to love my big nose

In a community where modesty reigns and tattoos are taboo, the idea of promoting cosmetic surgery may raise eyebrows – at least those on Botox-free foreheads.

Salzhauer understands the perceived disconnect, but he also has a ready answer.

“There are many leniencies for the purposes of marriage,” he said. “And as long as it’s done in a safe way, the idea of changing your body is not in and of itself against Jewish law.”

Hello, scalpel

Rabbinical scholars did not begin debating what Jewish law said about cosmetic surgery until the last half of the 20th century, according to Dr. Daniel Eisenberg, who wrote “A Jewish Approach to Cosmetic Surgery” in the June 2009 issue of the journal Jewish Medical Ethics and Halacha (Jewish law).

It was Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, described by Eisenberg as “the father of the discipline of Jewish medical ethics,” who first discussed the issue in 1961.

Jakobovits essentially concluded that cosmetic surgery should be forbidden unless it is medically recommended (after an accident, for example), can help “facilitate or maintain a happy marriage” or allows a patient to better contribute to society and make a decent living.

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A string of other go-to rabbis issued their own rulings in subsequent years. The general upshot: As long as cosmetic surgery doesn’t do harm and instead helps patients who are not driven by mere arrogance, pass the scalpel.

By the time rabbis began offering official opinions, however, the relationship between Jews and nose jobs already ran deep.

There was “a legacy of a long history of European denegration of the Jewish body, which was seen as flawed and inferior to the Christian body,” said Paul Root Wolpe, the director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University. “The Jewish nose was the strongest symbol of that inferiority.”

The idealized image perpetuated in the Western world stuck. Wolpe says that by the time “modern rhinoplasty first began in the U.S., it was significantly overpopulated with Jewish patients.”

That's because when experimentation with nose jobs entered the American surgical stage in the late 1800s, the “Jewish nose” made the list of those considered “desirable for improvement,” according to Elizabeth Haiken's “Venus Envy: A History of Cosmetic Surgery.”

Surgeons found a market and got to work, making the Jewish people the “first group of Americans to undertake surgical alteration of ethnic features in any numbers,” Haiken wrote.

It was a way to assimilate and ward off discrimination. But that didn't mean the procedures went uncriticized by others.

When Jewish actress, singer and comedian Fanny Brice unveiled amid “great fanfare” her new nose in 1923, Haiken wrote, Dorothy Parker – a writer, poet and critic known for her wisecracks – fired off a quip that Brice had “cut off her nose to spite her race.”

It was a charge Brice forever denied. She was proud to be Jewish, she insisted, and this wasn't about her origins. She simply wanted to improve the nose she had, which she described as “a sight in any language,” Haiken wrote. Even so, Haiken added, Brice's biographer acknowledged that Brice “must have hoped that the operation would make her look less Jewish. ... Ethnicity was definitely not fashionable in the 1920s.”

And it certainly wasn't fashionable or desirable during World War II, as anti-Semitism reared its hideous face not just abroad but also in America. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's cousin, the wife of the U.S. commissioner of immigration, drove that point home.

Laura Delano spoke up in opposition to the Wagner-Rogers bill, which would have relaxed quotas to let 20,000 young German Jewish refugees into the country.

Delano’s words: “20,000 charming children would all too soon grow into 20,000 ugly adults.” This perspective, Haiken wrote, “was in many ways typical of American opinion in 1939,” and the bill was rejected.

If Hitler infamously obsessed over physical and racial differences, what does Salzhauer say to those who might think his fixation on the Jewish nose perpetuates that prejudice?

“If your vestiges of Judaism have receded so far away that all you're left with is your Jewish nose, that's not good news,” he said. “That's exactly the opposite of what should define people. Your Judaism should be based on internal beliefs, internal thoughts. We shouldn't be limited by any physical characteristics.”

Who's coming to the table?

In some American Jewish circles, rhinoplasty has been joked about as a rite of passage. Some women have no qualms admitting to their “sweet 16” nose jobs.

Knowing exactly how many Jews go under the knife or seek new noses is impossible to determine. It’s not like the American Society of Plastic Surgeons keeps those sorts of records. But the appeal today, for at least some Jews, remains real.

Already, Salzhauer says, he has 15 potential “scholarship” patients lined up. We hoped to talk to at least one of them, but the surgeon said plastic surgery is still stigmatized in the Orthodox community - which is partially driving his mission. The patients he invited to call CNN never did.

Salzhauer’s pro-bono service is one Rabbi Benzion Klatzko is fully behind.

He is the founder of Shabbat.com, a site that helps people – the bulk of them singles - find places to go for Shabbat, or the Jewish Sabbath. A section on the site is dedicated to helping singles find matches. In fact, the tagline on the site reads, “Helping people find their Challah,” both a reference to the bread eaten on Shabbat and a play on the Hebrew word for bride, kallah.

When he learned about Salzhauer’s offer, Klatzko says, he was “taken aback.”

“We all want to live up to our higher selves, and our higher selves don’t look at the size of a cheekbone or a nose,” he says. “But there’s a reality that exists,” and it’s one he’s all too aware of. He’s seen too many amazing women, for example, get overlooked by potential husbands at Shabbat tables. And like the surgeon, he’s all for helping singles gain confidence and find matches.

Salzhauer's offer makes sense to Emory University’s Wolpe.

“It is not surprising that someone should propose plastic surgery to try to enhance matrimonial chances,” he said. Faith, after all, doesn't leave people immune to “Western European standards of beauty.”

Still, when he heard about the scholarship plan, the ethicist's first thought was, “Oy.”

A Nose Job Love Song’

Last month, Salzhauer created another stir after he hired the The Groggers to write a song about nose jobs. The self-described modern Orthodox “Jewish pop-punk band with a comic twist” flew to Miami from New York to shoot a video for “Jewcan Sam (A Nose Job Love Song).”

The plot line is, in many ways, ripped from a typical high school playbook. Boy likes girl. Girl likes other boy. The reasons, at least at first, have everything to do with looks.

The song begins:

I want her, but she don't want what I am.
She says you got a beak like Jewcan Sam.
She says I only go with guys,
With perfect upturned noses, so cut yours down to size.

The video features lead singer L.E. Doug Staiman before and after his own rhinoplasty by Salzhauer.

What unfolded leaves the musician laughing.

When Salzhauer contacted the band about five months ago, Staiman scoffed at the surgeon's invitation, saying it was “the most ridiculous concept I ever heard.” He says he fired off a response, in jest: “Wanna give us all nose jobs?”

The surgeon said, “of course I'll give you nose jobs,” Staiman remembers. And as he got to know the doctor, the song idea grew on him. As for taking Salzhauer up on the offer of free surgery - Staiman was the only band member who did - he remained uncertain.

The video concept they all came up with, though, called for it.

“We wrote the script, and I wasn’t sure if I’d do it or not,” says Staiman, who’d grown into his original big nose, the one that was “pretty bad in high school.” And then, as the shoot crept up on them, he realized, “I either have to get a nose job or rewrite the script. … Laziness got the better of me. Rewrites are really tedious. So I thought, ‘The hell with it. I’ll get the nose job.’ ”

The song and video was all in fun, the singer and surgeon say.

It was created for less than $10,000, plus Staiman’s nose job, for social media purposes, Salzhauer says. It would be a new song for The Groggers, a band he likes and wanted to support, and his plan was simply to send it to existing patients and colleagues. The responses he got from people were overwhelmingly positive, he says, and peppered with LOLs.

Soon the video began to spread, as did the hype. Though a couple nasty notes came in, he says, plastic surgeons from across the country sent him kudos.

Then the media pounced. The video (which Salzhauer points out also mocks Oprah, Tom Cruise, high school crushes, the inappropriateness of student-teacher relationships and more) became a hot topic of discussion on shows like "Dr. Drew." The Anti-Defamation League weighed in, calling it “distasteful and offensive,” claiming it played on stereotypes, namely the caricature of Jews with hook noses.

“I find it hilarious,” Staiman said. “It’s bizarre that it got this far. I’m constantly in awe that anyone cares about this story.”

But care the American Society of Plastic Surgeons does. It’s called the video “inappropriate and offensive” and says it’s “initiated an investigation under its Code of Ethics which clearly requires ASPS members to uphold the dignity and honor of the medical profession.”

Because this is an “active investigation,” the society would provide no further details to CNN.

Salzhauer isn’t particularly fazed. He says he’s issued an apology, but the fuss befuddles him.

“The ASPS is ‘concerned’ that the video may set unrealistic expectations and ‘preys on the vulnerabilities of the human condition,’ ” Salzhauer wrote in an e-mail. “I’m not exactly sure how they got all that from a humorous self-deprecating video.”

While critics dissect what he's done, the surgeon will forge ahead with his latest plans, latex gloves on and tools in hand. He'll take recommendations from matchmakers, consult with rabbis and shrug off those who question his intentions.

It seems he won't be acting alone. A few days ago, he heard from another Jewish plastic surgeon who wants to help the cause.

But not wanting further American Society of Plastic Surgeons complications, Salzhauer is doing some pre-op work. He says he called the ethics committee to see whether his scholarship program would be considered a “contest,” something prohibited for surgeries. The committee told him it might, but if he creates a nonprofit, he'll be in the clear.

The Miami doctor plans to establish his nonprofit organization this week. The name he's going with: Operation Chuppah, a reference to the Jewish wedding canopy.

And – who nose? – perhaps someday soon he'll find himself dancing the hora at a scholarship-recipient's wedding.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Ethics • Faith & Health • History • Holocaust • Judaism

soundoff (453 Responses)
  1. J.C.

    Inside, you're ugly
    Ugly, like me

    April 3, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  2. Smart Deb

    This HAS TO Be the BEST Article yet (being sarcastic of course).. Suppose to be so Religous and Holy, get 'values' all screwed up, and brain shallow, just to get a Man or Woman !! Oiie vaye..

    April 3, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • whoCares

      Didn't I see this opn Space Balls

      April 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  3. mdn

    Cutting the tale off a mouse dose not lead to a generation of mice without tales as science has already shown us. A Jew with a plastic nose is still a Jew!

    April 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      You are an idiotic piece of racist human detritus.

      April 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  4. Pipe-Dreamer

    1Cr 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.

    Our "Labours" with God are just exactly what? Could it be whenever He, God, makes a rather labourious physical malady, our doctors take over and labour to fix the physical problem(s)? Husbandry in terms of breeding stock should become a social imperative because of and due God's inabilities to see His final figurations. All that God wants is to Create Buildings of Celestial grandness in which to House His Lots of Godly Beings.

    April 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  5. Nissim Levy

    I wish a plastic surgeon would give me a longer middle finger so I could better give the finger to idiot drivers who cut me off.

    April 3, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  6. Pash

    I hated my nose growing up and through pretty much my whole adult life. Then when I was 32 and my son was born with my nose I can't tell you how incredible that felt. This child who I had carried for 40 weeks was suddenly there in my arms and he had my nose. He had my nose. All I could think was thank goodness my mother never let me get a nose job when I was younger because now here was my son and he shared this feature with me. Now I'm proud of my nose, he has it too. If nothing else he'll always see himself in me.

    April 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Teri

      Lovely story...

      April 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • The Flamingo Kid

      Maybe you should both get nose jobs. You can bond over it.

      April 3, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  7. Sajor

    Salzhauer you mamzer! Stick your new nose up your old...

    April 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  8. gggg

    Two people, both of whom have had a free nose job. Him: Oh, my you're cute. Her: You too. Marriage follows ... Nine months later: Him: Are you sure you didn't cheat on me? Look at the schnoz on that kid ... It doesn't look like either of us. I demand a paternity test!

    April 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Mickey

    Well, seems the nose of Jesus was put to rest.

    How can Christians be anti-Semitic – they pray to an orthodox Jew.

    Not all people with a large nose get it fixed.

    Not all Semitic people have large noses – and not all have 'Christian' noses.

    Oh, btw - people who were Jews and then chose to be Christians will have large noses and pass them down to their children! I guess that's why so many Christians get their nose done! LOL Or they just have so much money they don't know what else to fix. Certainly they don't want to fix their preJEWdices!!! They go to church and get forgiven for their sins and must listen to their priests TOO hard!!

    In my life, what other people do does not affect me – as long as they do me no physical or emotional harm.

    Remember: Christians are pagans and Jews who did not want to listen to the words of G-d – and without Jews there would be no Christianity.

    April 3, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  10. Darth Helmet

    "Permit me to introduce the brilliant, young
    plastic surgeon, Dr. Philip Schlotkins. The greatest nose-job man in
    the entire universe and Beverly-Hills."

    "Your highness."

    "Nose-job? I don't understand. She's already had a nose. It
    was a sweet- 16 present."

    "No, it's not what you think. It's much, much, worse. If you
    do not give me the combination to the air shield, Dr. Schlotkins
    will give your daughter back... her old nose!!!"


    April 3, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  11. Eric of Reseda

    SICK, SICK, SICK! This is nothing more than a plastic surgeon trolling for dollars. Period. So, what, the KIDS will have to get nose jobs too, and their kids, and theirs?!? Why not skin-lightening for people of color, prosthetic legs for short-people, leg-shortening for tall people, and of course, eye-straightening for Asians? This is BULL! People need to take pride in their genes, so to speak...

    April 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Can't forget the hunch-backed nor the nowel-legged or even the pigeon-toed,,,,,

      April 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  12. Mandy


    April 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  13. WDinDallas

    Where is the ACLU on this one?

    April 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  14. Lady T

    Oh how sad it is that christians today are so desparate to rewrite history for their own benefit. Hitler was a christian.....there are photos (google please) of him celebrating christmas and easter during WW2. Also if he was an advit atheist, why did he assist the catholic church during his tyranny? Why did the catholic church help so many nazi war criminal escape. Why do the catholic still hide nazi war criminals from prosecution even today?

    April 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Lady, hogwash.

      The RCC helped over a million Jews in Italy alone. Hid them in churches, monestaries, private homes and other places. Pope Pius XII was heralded by the Jewish community, even today. Hitler persecuted Catholics, second behind the Jews.

      Remeber, Germany was Luthern (Protestant).

      April 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  15. Akira

    So, is this a bris for people's noses? 🙂

    April 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • shootmyownfood


      April 3, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  16. jason

    hahah they need it. They have HORRIBLE NOSES

    April 3, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  17. JustinCase

    It's not the size of the nose that matters.... It's how one uses it.

    April 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  18. daveinla

    Orthodox Jews? It would have to be free.

    April 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • shi

      lol, you couldnt help yourself could you?

      April 3, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • The Flamingo Kid

      Maybe you should both get nose jobs.

      April 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  19. blow hole

    Why get a nose job? Its what God gave you. If its not a matter of health, life or death, then its just not needed. A Jew will marry another Jew and their kids will have big noses. then you have to explain to your kids why their big noses dont match mom and dads nose. and once you explain it to them that their kids noses are big and ugly like their parents nose was, they will have to convince their kids that they should keep thier big nose for what reasons? Or get a nose job too cause God is unhappy with their nose size and nobody will possibly love them for their big nose...........what a message to send to your kids.

    April 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Logic tells a clear tale

      Whenever you say that God gave you something, you are stuck with the things like cancer and birth defects and mental illness and all the other things that God gives people. God makes no sense in that discussion – why would he do such hurtful petty things to make people suffer?

      But if you consider it as the action of nature and evolution, it makes perfect sense.

      God does not make sense.

      April 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  20. LoneStar

    Just what we need: a Druish princess...

    Barf: "Funny... She doesn't look Druish..."

    April 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.