Remember when Eliot Spitzer was Governor of New York? The Jews loved him! And Ari Fleischer? Oy such naches – President Bush’s Press Secretary, a Jew (so what his boss is a moron)! And of course we all love Jon Stuart, the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. What about Sasha Baron Cohen? The Jews adored Borat! And yet… Spitzer never had a bar mitzvah and married out. Fleischer and Stuart and Cohen are also married to non-Jews. In fact, very few famous Jews, from the ones I already mentioned to Scarlett Johansen, Sarah Silverman, Amy Winehouse, Leonard Cohen, Norman Mailer, The Beastie Boys etc. are particularly, you know, Jewy. However, it seems that their fame more than makes up for it and we tend to uncritically embrace them as we would a warm knish after Yom Kippur. Unless of course they get caught ordering prostitutes, or they marry their ex-girlfriend’s children. Then we cry “Shanda Fur the Goyim!” But barring that… Jews sure do like famous Jews. What? What about Natalie Portman you ask? She speaks Hebrew so that makes her a better Jew than most of you. Now shush.
Jews frickin LOVE Florida, particularly Boca Raton and Miami. Every December they descend upon these cities like a swarm of locusts. Is it any wonder then that the most well attended Matzo Ball parties are in Boca and Miami? It’s easy to understand why though. Most of the visiting Jews are there to escape the cold North Eastern winters where they live and to hang out with their friends who are doing the same. It’s also nice to get away from all that incessant Christmas mishegas, and well, since Florida is a thriving destination for retirees, they get to visit Bubbe and Zaiyde too. Add to that the existence of many establishments that sell Old Timey Jew Food and really, it’s no wonder the Jews love the State of Florida. Well all except for the North and the Gulf Coast. That’s mostly for the Rednecks and for the Republicans. Feh.
“What do I mean?” What am I supposed to mean? Many attribute this unique cultural predisposition to Talmudic scholarship, particularly the Gemara. The Gemara (500 CE) represents Rabbinical analysis of the Mishnah (200 CE – itself an analysis of the Torah) and is presented in the form of questions and answers in a kind of virtual debate that spans time and space. Others attribute this ethnic trait to Jews just being shifty and never wanting to give you a straight answer. Who is right? What? Do I look like a Talmudic scholar? Do I have to do everything for you? Let me give you a hint Einstein. One choice could be a reasonable possibility and the other choice is often voiced by Antisemites. Ha ha. Shmendrick.
If there’s one thing Jews like as much as, if not more than Old Timey Jew Food, it’s kvetching about Old Timey Jew Food. Maybe Kvetch is an understatement. The discussion at Chowhound regarding knishes in New York for instance, verges on the angry and irrational! Some claim the Knishes at Katz’s are better, but Katz’s Deli gets their knishes from Schimmel’s. Over at Jewschool, the conversation got to the point that one of their bloggers, an employee and devotee of Schimmel’s, moved his blog site off of their servers! These debates are endless though – which city makes the best bagels? New York? Montreal? Which bagel joint in a particular city makes the best bagels? H&H vs. Murray’s in New York? St. Viateur vs. Fairmount in Montreal? Pick a traditional Jewish food, express an opinion about who makes it best and soon legions of Jews will be on your ass telling you you’re wrong. The fact is that there really are very few authentic Old Timey Jew Food makers anymore. In North America, when the Jews moved out of the inner cities and into the suburbs, the food carts and Old Timey Jew Food stores gave way to strip malls and supermarkets. Old Timey Jew Food is now prized for its sentimental value more than anything else – biting into a latke reminds one of the latkes Bubbe used to make. Or something. Obviously nothing will ever compare or be as good as that knish you had that day in Queens with your Zaidye. It’s an area rife for dissent where one person’s glorious memories clash with another’s. But seriously, get over yourselves people. Old Timey Jew Food is peasant food. Eastern European peasant food at that. What’s to talk about? Eat your knish and shut up.
On the Lower East Side on Houston Street, within two blocks of each other, you can visit both Russ and Daughters and Yonah Schimmel’s Knishery. Within these establishments on most Sundays, one can find Jews from all over New York and the US taking a gastronomic trip down memory lane by chowing down on all manner of bagels and shmears and lox and smoked fish and knishes and kugels and latkes. They bring their kids with them, they get all misty as they bite into the food their parents and grand parents used to eat. This scene gets repeated over and over, wherever the Jews are – from Schultzy’s in Miami to Schwartz’s in Montreal, from Canter’s in LA to Goldberg’s in Paris. Never mind that this food is mostly unkosher and not particularly Jewish – what’s important is that Jews sure do love their Old Timey Jew Food!
With greater acceptance in mainstream America, many Jews felt that traditional manifestations of Jewish identity were, well, kind of uncool. While sill tenaciously maintaining their identity, Jews needed something with which to anchor it – and there ya go, the Holocaust fit the bill perfectly! Of course it is important to honor your dead, but often times Jews use the Holocaust as the central tenet of their identities, as if before the Holocaust, there was no good reason to be a Jew. Consequently Jewish communal resources are inordinately dedicated to Holocaust-based organizations, Museums and memorials. Is it any wonder that newer generations of Jews are uninterested in an identity based on virtual necrophilia? But still, that Holocaust train keeps a chuggin’ along!
Jews sometimes behave like Canadians. Allow me to explain. In Canada, the quickest way for an emerging artist, writer or musician to be taken seriously, is to first achieve success south of the border. It’s as if popularity in America is the ultimate validation – the greatest proof that someone is worth being taken seriously. It’s kind of the same with the Jews. Like what’s the ultimate compliment you can give to a kosher restaurant? The fact that you can bring your goy friends there and they won’t even know it’s a Kosher restaurant! The fact that non-Jews like Matisyahu, that SoCalled plays at European music festivals, that makes them more acceptable to Jews. Graduating from Harvard gives you more yichus than graduating from Hebrew Union College, the cover of the Rolling Stone is better than the cover of the Forward, belonging to a fancy shmancy country club with few Jews is better than being a member of the JCC, dating Leonardo DiCaprio is cooler than dating uh… Abe Foxman. You know what I mean…