View Full Version : "Being a Jew is Now Cool"

June 14th, 2009, 21:55
The following article from the Observer criticizes Woody Allen's latest film "Whatever Works." It's a different New York for sure, and Jews have become more accepted.

The question must be asked, for those of us who are actively intactivist, does this make our job harder? Is it now easier for anyone who speaks out against circumcision to be viewed as "antisemitic?" It's "cool to be a Jew" is quite a loaded expression. One might as well say "it's cool to be circumcised."

Too, are Jews in America truly "assimilated?" Or has it been easy to hide in a country where now everybody circumcises? How far is this "assimilation" really happened? How much of it has been a success in hiding a tree in a forest? Or rather, a stump in a lumber-yard?

I'm glad America has changed in the time that Woody Allen was gone. But has it for the better?

Now that Jewish people are more "assimilated," will it become easier, or harder for them to consider abandoning circumcision? Will it be easier or harder for us to decry the human rights violation that is circumcision?


Woody's back in New York. But this is a very different Manhattan

Once again he's still writing about neurotic Jewish Americans - but the culture he celebrated is gone. As the director returns to film in NYC, a new and confident generation asks if Allen is still relevant

Paul Harris in New York
The Observer, Sunday 7 June 2009
Article history

Woody Allen is coming back to New York. After five years making films in Europe, the greatest chronicler of life in the city is returning to his home town and the familiar turf of the neurotic Jewish male.

Allen's latest film, called Whatever Works and starring comedian Larry David, marks the director's revival of the style that made him famous: detailing the fears and hopes of a self-doubting Jew in Manhattan. Based on a script that is almost 40 years old, it feels as if the archetypal Allen never went away.

But, unlike Allen, New York has changed since he has been gone. More importantly, so has the role of Jewish life in American popular culture.

Far from celebrating the return of Allen, many media commentators are wondering if he is in any way relevant to the modern Jewish experience in America. Some are saying he and his new film will be the last of their kind. "Take a good look, you won't see the likes of them again," mourned a recent headline in New York magazine.

Allen's cinematic alter egos, filled with angst and fear, no longer seem relevant to many young Jews whose place in American life seems not only secure, but actually incredibly successful. A rising generation of Jews is becoming more and more powerful in American popular culture, and especially in comedy films: their success has nothing to do with perceived "outsider" status, and everything to do with their talent. (is that so?)

The most powerful producer in films today, Judd Apatow, the force behind Knocked Up, is Jewish. So are huge comedy stars such as Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler. Not a year in Hollywood goes by without all three of them churning out hit comedies.

But their appeal reaches far beyond Allen's. His comedy was based on being the outsider - and when Jews are so fundamentally accepted in mainstream American life, what place is there today for a Woody Allen film? When America loves you and your kind, can you still justify being neurotic? (When America loves you and your kind, could they still be willing to call a spade a spade? IE, criticize circumcision for being a human rights violation?)

Josh Neuman thinks not. The young Jewish publisher behind the hip New York-based Jewish cultural magazine Heeb is not looking forward to the prospect of Allen retreading the old tropes. "I can't even watch the trailer for this film without cringing," he said. "Allen has been a huge influence for what he has done, but he is addressing the concerns of another era."

Perhaps one need just look at Heeb to see what is concerning young Jewish Americans these days. A recent cover featured the bikini-clad figure of top Israeli model Bar Refaeli. A post on the Heeb website urges readers to vote for a Jewish porn star in upcoming adult video awards. (Is there ever an article questioning circumcision?) Heeb, and a plethora of other blogs, are in fact celebrating being Jewish and American, forging a confident identity that is very much part of the American cultural landscape rather than standing outside it. (Would this be different in a country where circumcision wasn't the norm?)

But it's not just in the media that the phenomenon is occurring. The "Jewcy" line of clothing has become a huge hit across America. Recent Jewcy T-shirts include such phrases as "Moses is my homeboy"and "Super Jew" complete with a Superman logo with the S rendered into Hebrew lettering. America's greatest satirist on television is Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, whose Jewishness is irrelevant to his humour.

"In some ways the idea of a Jewish culture now in America is absurd. We are so fully accepted. We are so successful. Philo-Semitism is a bigger problem than anti-Semitism," said Neuman, pointing to Jewish organisations that lobby against American Jews marrying non-Jews. (Uh-oh... that could be bad news...)

Perhaps no recent cultural expression of this new more mainstream American identity was more potent than the recent film Defiance. In one telling scene from the movie, which depicts the heroic exploits of Jewish partisans against the Nazis, the actor Daniel Craig addresses his scared Jewish followers and assures them that they will be kept safe from harm. Not only is the Jewish hero being played by the current (and very muscular) James Bond, but he speaks with cool authority backed by physical strength. "Is he a Jew?" asks one little boy in wonder. He is. A modern Hollywood Jew. (Is he circumcised? Asks another little boy in wonder... yes, he is, much to his disappointment. As all good American Jews should be...)

But it certainly was not ever thus. Allen springs from a long line of Jewish comedians and film-makers whose roots lay deep in their ethnic identity. This was the old Yiddish community of early 20th century America, often only a generation or two away from life in an eastern European village.

They maintained strong religious beliefs, their own language, a vibrant theatre life and - like many other immigrant groups - kept a certain distance from mainstream American life (or mainstream American life kept a distance from them). It was here that the styles of Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce, Rodney Dangerfield and eventually Allen developed. Dangerfield's signature line, "I can't get no respect!" pretty much sums up the way many Jewish comedians felt about their lot. It was also a line with a lot of truth in it.

For many decades Jews were surreptitiously barred from certain aspects of American life, most notoriously from many of the Waspy country clubs. No wonder their humour came from being outsiders looking in. Jewish actors often played different ethnic roles. Henry Winkler played the Italian-American Fonz in Happy Days. Harvey Keitel's tough guys were rarely Jews.

But, like many other immigrant communities, Jewish Americans have changed and assimilated into the cultural norm. (Oh? Have they? Or is it the other way around? The cultural norm changed to accomodate THEM???) Jewish families have long left their cramped downtown neighbourhoods and moved into the suburbs, losing the Yiddish language, loosening the bonds of faith and frequently marrying members of other communities.

"A generation of Jews will soon come along whose mothers grew up watching MTV," said Professor Robert Thompson, a popular culture expert at Syracuse University. (Will there ever be a generation of Jews who were never circumcised in the USA?) Now actors such as Rogen or Sandler play roles where their Jewishness is casually mentioned - or not at all. In short, being Jewish has become not so different from being Irish-American, Polish-American or German-American. (Has it now? Has it?)

Thompson thinks that Seinfeld, perhaps the most successful American comedy ever, was the turning point. Jerry Seinfeld's character was Jewish but he was also the cool one, the funny one and the one who was successful and got all the girls. His Jewishness was a background feature. His charm and wit and flair with the ladies were the main game in town. (He also advocated circumcision. How sad that Brises are now a "casual" thing...)

"A lot of people who watched that show probably never even realised that Jerry was Jewish," Thompson said. Yet the fact was never hidden. It was just that no one ever made a big deal out of it. The same could rarely be said for a classic Woody Allen film.

Therefore Allen's return to his roots should probably not be seen in the light of broader American culture but rather in the terms of his own life. The film is Allen's 40th. He was born in 1935. He is an old man, looking back. Even the script for Whatever Works is ancient. It was first written in the 1970s and then plucked from obscurity and updated.

In choosing Larry David, whose grumpy screen character is a rare direct descendant from Allen's own work, he is looking backwards, not forwards. "He's getting older, he's getting nostalgic. He is stuck in a time warp," said Professor Al Nigrin, a film expert at Rutgers University (and also a Jew).

Perhaps no other thing shows the huge strides towards cultural acceptance made by Jews in America than another film scheduled for release this summer. On 21 August Quentin Tarantino will release Inglourious Basterds, a second world war flick depicting a team of elite Jewish soldiers slaughtering Nazis across Europe. It stars Brad Pitt in the lead role and has won rave reviews at Cannes. Woody Allen might not be able to accept it, but for many other Americans the combination of Tarantino and Pitt in the year's hottest movie says one simple thing: being a Jew is now cool. (<--- This is what I'm afraid of, esp. in a country where Jewish still = circumcision...)

:( sigh...

June 14th, 2009, 22:22
I think this article is really stupid, and is trully a load of BS.

It was never uncool to specifically be Jewish. I grew up with kids I now know to be Jewish, Mexican, Armenian, Polish, Swedish, Indian, Bahamian, etc. As kids in the '70s we literally thought nothing of peoples' differences. We were all just the kids.

I never even imagined that the kids with darker skin might have a whole family of similar looking folks at home. In school band I drummed along side a guy who was black and I remember being surprised when I met his mom that she was black too. We just didn't think about it.

It was never uncool to be Adam Sandler. It was always uncool to be Woody Allen.

June 15th, 2009, 11:45
Is it cool to be Scottish? I'd hate for Jews to get all the coolishness and leave us Scots out in the cold. We want to be cool, too!

June 15th, 2009, 12:36
"White people are evil because some of their ancestors did bad things. Let's (self-hating white people and bitter minorities) make organizations for every non-white person so that non-whites feel better.

No, wait. We can do more. Let's uplift and glorify other cultures within America. It's "cool" to remain separated."

People sit back and take this BS without much, if any, thought as to just who is perpetuating all of this crap. Our enemies know that a nation divided will not stand.

June 15th, 2009, 17:10
I know!

It's so funny how they try to celebrate that they're "assimilated," yet so much stress is put on the fact that they're JEWISH.

Not even Irish, Scottish, German, Russian etc. people stress their ethnicities anymore.

Yet "'Is he a Jew?' asks one little boy in wonder. He is. A modern Hollywood Jew."

So why's that still important? Because this author is probably Jewish and doesn't give a shit for "assimilation," that's why.

June 15th, 2009, 18:58
most people do not think of circumcision when they hear jewish and many christians for whatever reason believe they should be circumcised as well.

fom what I've heard - the jewish religion is against body modification for non-religious reasons, so in theory they should not be recommending it to others.

June 15th, 2009, 19:03

As a "born and raised" Reform Jew, who married a gentile, and who now has a wonderfully intact 10 year old son, let me plead: Don't let this author speak for all American Jews!

Yes, that self congratulatory back patting is BS! I totally, agree, and that sort of rhetoric does nothing to ease antisemitism or gain mutual respect. If anything it has the opposite effect.

It seems the audience of this sort of dribble, is likely the "poor me" type of Jews (NY city?) that can't/won't really assimilate because, for one they can't let go of their victim status. Victimization and discrimination were very real issues in the not so distant past,(and still likely are to some degree) but it is time to move on.

Jews don't hold the monopoly on this attitude. Reparations anybody?

Anyway, what does this mean for RIC in America?
Nothing, I suspect. Most American Jewish boys are circed in hospitals within 48hrs. This does not fulfill the covenant, and is done for the same damn reasons/excuses that most of you were cut. I suspect if circ were not essentially imposed by doctors, as RIC, few American(At least Reform) Jews would seek it out.
Perhaps this is just wishful thinking.....?

Point being, debunk all the "medical" myths about RIC and the practice will fall from practice, cool Jews or not. Education and truth will prevail over ritual,superstition and lies.

It is part of Judiasm to ask questions, and challenge assumptions. The honest thinkers will evaluate the ritual of circumcision and the enlightened will conclude, as we do, that it is an outdated ritual, that does not make one Jewish. Judiasm is something you have in your heart, not your body.

I have to disclose, that I am a bad Jew. So I can't really speak for the Jewish community. I am a bad Jew because I don't accept the theology as truth. I don't buy it. I don't have it in my heart. My circumcised penis does not make me a good Jew. Perhaps my restored penis will make me a better human being?..Probably not.:rolleyes:

Am I a cool Jew...not hardly. Would I want to be a "cool Jew"? No. I just want people to accept me as a fellow human being who is trying to do the best I can on this earth in the limited time I have.

The real "cool Jews", IMO, are the ones who balance their spiritual beliefs with respect for the human rights of their offspring and don't mutilate those bodies, male or female.



June 15th, 2009, 20:20
It is part of Judiasm to ask questions, and challenge assumptions. The honest thinkers will evaluate the ritual of circumcision and the enlightened will conclude, as we do, that it is an outdated ritual

It was easy to question and discard:
- Stoning disobediant children and adulterers
- Avoiding menstruating women
- Forcing raped virgins to marry their attackers
- Barring disfigured people from full sacred involvement

Let's just go one more.

July 22nd, 2009, 23:24
Anyone know where to get that superjew t-shirt worn in the movie funny people, I want to get one!! or 10 since we have 99% of the money:)