Friday, December 16, 2005


Let my people...not be like everyone else. Please

I know Heinrich Heine wrote, “The Jews are like those among whom they live – only more so.” But do we have to keep proving him right?
A Happy Hipster Hanukkah

"HELLOOOOOOOO Jews!" the M.C. shouted to the 1,000 or so people sipping drinks and jostling elbows in the hazy purple light of Crobar, the Chelsea club, on Sunday evening. Disco balls twinkled. Electric menorahs glowed. In the candlelighted V.I.P. area, people bit into chocolate Hanukkah gelt. From a stage on the dance floor Rachel Dratch of "Saturday Night Live" bemoaned being Jewish at Christmastime, and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the foul-mouthed puppet, belted out a joyous rendition of "Shalom Aleichem." It was not long before people were waving their arms above their heads and lobbing inflatable dreidels through the air like beach balls.

There was a name for this merriment: "A Jewcy Chanukah," a freewheeling celebration of the holiday produced by Jewcy, a group that brings together young Jews through celebrity-filled events. (Proceeds from Sunday night went to Natan, a philanthropic organization that supports projects that engage young Jews in their religion and heritage.) At the end of the evening, which included performances by the rocker Perry Farrell and the cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," Jon Steingart, a founder of Jewcy, peered down at the packed dance floor. "This," he said, "bodes very well."

"A Jewcy Chanukah" is but one of many kitschy celebrations that in the past few years have made comedy as much a part of Hanukkah as latkes and sour cream. The irreverent and sometimes R-rated Hanukkah productions, popping up during what many people have called a Jewish hipster moment, are largely a reaction to what many Jews say is an overwhelming amount of Christmas hoopla. Their humor-laden productions attract thousands of young Jews (some of whom have never gravitated toward their own culture before) and, perhaps inadvertently, raise the question of what it means to be Jewish.


Over the last three years more and more young Jews have been flaunting their heritage, donning T-shirts that proclaim their Semitic roots, listening to the Hasidic reggae singer Matisyahu and climbing onto the celebrity-driven kabbalah bandwagon. And though many occupy the same Lower East Side walk-ups that their grandparents once did, they are not interested in quietly assimilating. They identify more with the cultural trappings of Judaism - the music, the cuisine, the humor - than with the teachings of the Torah.

"We ourselves are less observant Jews, but we are still very culturally Jewish," Mr. Steingart of Jewcy said. The comedian Rebecca Drysdale is of like mind. "My connection with being Jewish is not a religious one," she said. "It's cultural."

Mr. Neuman explained: "There's this emerging sense of new Jewish culture that is self-consciously postdenominational and largely devoid of religious context."
But would it be too much to ask that they also identify with the prophetic Jewish tradition, the one that equates “charity” with “justice” and demands “Justice, justice you shall pursue”? There’s nothing wrong with fun, but there’s a lot more to being Jewish than just going to a hot Chanukah party or pretending to know something about kabala. Hillel wrote, 2000 years ago, “If I am not for myself, who shall be for me. But if I am only for myself, then who am I?”

Our ancestors spent those 2000 years suffering and dying and persevering so that we could still be Jews today. I myself am only mildly religious, but I make up for my lack of that kind of fervor with a passionate devotion to social justice. To me, that’s as Jewish as davening 3 times a day, and certainly more so than thinking that it’s enough to eat latkes one week a year. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Well, actually, there is – I want to eat latkes 52 weeks a year.)

Don’t want to go to shul? Fine. But why not volunteer at American Jewish World Service or donate to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. You can feel Jewish and at the same time actually be Jewish. What’s not to like?
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Greetings, I was reading some blogs and came across your blog. I'm quite impressed , with how it has a good feel. This is one to watch.


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" Post a Comment

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