If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Jews are a bunch of insufferable narcissists who need not only to keep telling themselves they’re as good as everyone else but also forever and loudly assert it in pop culture. How else to explain something like So Jewtastic, VH1’s vapid appreciation of Natalie Portman, Jon Stewart and others who walk the red carpet?
Conceived by singer Rob Tannenbaum, it’s basically a pat-ourselves-on-the-back look at how Jewish things have gotten, and how very hot Jews are just now.
I give you So Jewtastic for Dummies (which is, arguably, redundant): Look!! There’s Rick Rubin. He proves Jews are down with black people! Good for us. Over here! Adam Brody from The OC is cute, and way cool too! Wow! We’re cute and cool and on TV, where we talk about being Jewish…but don’t worry, it’s only with a wink. Did you hear Seth’s dad say the word “mensch?!” Aren’t we so lovable!!! Hey, everyone, even Madge is Jewish now, but how about we reduce Kabbalah to a one-liner, ’cause two lines might require an actual explanation and nobody wants that! Too. Much. Thinking. Okay, gang, that’s a wrap. See you at Passover, when we tap-dance about bread cravings and mistake Exodus for a Bob Marley song.
The two speakers with a modicum of insight who don’t trade on empty clichés are Scott Ian (a personal fav) and Ben Lee. The rest of the moronic enterprise is a strange, up-with-people parade of interchangeable pundits that isn’t about anything at all.
It’s not that I’m against the notion of Jews being hip or being on TV or being proud. But stop the yammering already: calling yourself hip is hardly that.
Maybe it’s no coincidence this flurry of attention is happening at Christmastime, when many Jews feel excluded from the mainstream and need, I guess, to counter that with empty expressions of pride and ostentatious parties. My posse walked out of one in Chelsea in horror and dejection. It wasn’t a Torah lesson we were after, believe me. We just wanted something beyond the bad jokes about ugly bat mitzvah dresses and the difficulty of pronouncing certain Hebrew letters that represent the essence of identity for so many of our peers.