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Archive for March, 2008

If you have ever spent time in a car with a JYA roughly between the hours of 5pm and 6pm, you have undoubtedly spent a few moments listening to your local affiliate of National Public Radio. Now, if you are not a JYA then you have probably thought to yourself “What the hell is this crap?” On the other hand, if you are a JYA then you have thought to yourself either “I totally love Brian Lehrer” or “I totally scrolled through the contents of today’s show online three hours ago”.

Yes, JYAs of today are crazy for their National Public Radio, from All Things Considered to Marketplace to Prairie Home Companion. Not only does NPR feed in to their progressive liberal elitism, it also creates a stronger sense of their progressive liberal elitism. NPR and JYAs are in a symbiotic relationship of general equilibrium and Pareto optimality! NPR needs JYAs as much as JYAs need NPR.

Now, JYAs don’t necessarily donate to NPR, but their parents donate, so it’s totally OK. It is also a safe assumption that a disproportionally large amount of JYAs constitute the listeners of NPR as compared to the non-JYA national average. In addition, once a JYA gets exposed to NPR, (usually as a toddler from their JYA-with-child parents), they are hooked for life. Meaning that, when a Jewish Young Adult becomes a Jewish Well-to-do Retiree they will continue to listen to NPR, except they complain that NPR is too progressive, liberal, and elite.

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(Submitted and Written by Natalie K.)

It would be logical to assume that Jewish Young Adults would, in keeping with their ethnic heritage and embracing of kitsch make use of uniquely Jewish expressions of exasperation and annoyance. But in their native habitats, whether that’s Cherry Hill, Huntington Woods or Mercer Island, their profanity resists this sort of stereotyping.

JYAs today are much more likely to invoke the famous but contentious figure of Jesus Christ. In addition to the classic exclamation: “Jesus Christ!” The Hebrologist will also note a number of variations on the theme, ranging from the more profane “Christ on a Cross!” or “Jesus son of Joseph!” or “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” to the silly “Jeezy Creezy” and “Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick!”

This phenomenon is not isolated to diaspora Jewry. When JYA Rebecca moved from New York to Tel Aviv she commented, “I have to start practicing not saying Jesus Christ anymore, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.” After a year in the ancestral homeland, her usage has increased, and this is hardly atypical.

Maybe it is rooted in irony, or maybe it just feels good to say, but if you hear an under the breath “Jesus Christ!” look around, it’s probably coming from from a JYA.

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#8 Regina Spektor

Yes, we all know Amy Winehouse is Jewish, but the way she has been acting lately is anything but as a Nice Jewish Girl. Yes, we all know that Bette Midler and Barbara Streisand are Jewish, but JYAs of today have nothing to do with the Borscht Belt. And yes, Pink is half Jewish, but she really doesn’t associate, does she?

(Regina: Az a yor ahf mir)

Today’s JYAs get their wholesome inspiration from a different source entirely, in the shape of the blue-eyed songstress Regina Spektor. Female JYAs love her because they can relate to her catchy yet eclectic lyrics that speak to womankind. Regina is like their best friend from Jewish summer camp who made it big but still sends them free tickets to her concerts whenever she is in town. Male JYAs love her because she presents an image of being potentially “gettable”. Regina is like their girlfriend from Jewish summer camp who made it big, doesn’t send them tickets to her concerts whenever she is in town, but would still remember their name if she ran in to them in the street.

Ms. Spektor is also an unabashed Jew, a graduate of Jewish day school in Riverdale, and the Frisch School in Paramus. She has played numerous times at various Jewish arts and music festivals around the country, and has also performed in Israel recently. In addition, she credits her songwriting spark to a hike in the Negev on a childhood trip to Israel.

So who better to earn the support of Jewish Young Adults than Regina Spektor? Talented, gorgeous, modest, and doesn’t act like Amy Winehouse. Plus she’s allegedly single. What more could you want?

(Amy: Es iz a shandeh far di kinder!)

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The funny part about Jewish Young Adults is that they like to think of themselves as an independent ethnic/cultural group from the rest of society. The reality is that they are not a separate group, they are a subgroup within the larger framework of modern Americana.

The media tastes of Jewish Young Adults fits this mentality entirely. They seek out things that are independent in flavor, but in reality are just mainstream objects that are craftily disguised and marketed as independent to appeal to the Jewish Young Adults.

This peculiarity can be seen in any number of media streams. Jewish Young Adults are avid fans of underground hip-hop, but not the truly underground, rather the underground-sounding subgroups of major labels. Performers like Kanye West, Common, and Mos Def make frequent appearances on the Shuffle selection of many an Ipod of Jewish Young Adults. And while each one of these performers is skilled and noteworthy in their own right, it is much rarer to find truly independent artists like Serendipity Project or Atmosphere.

The same can be said about movies. Jewish Young Adults will bend over backwards to praise movies like Juno or Fargo, which have the look, feel, and smell of independent movies. But in reality these films are Studio films just like Spiderman 3.

Jewish Young Adults feel the same way about their weekly rags. Slate, McSweeney’s, and the New Republic, while independent in spirit, all have massive corporate parent companies.

Jewish Young Adults get off on feeling like they are special, and their taste in music, books, and movies augments this feeling of special-ness. But at the same time, Jewish Young Adults keep the door to mass media and pop culture open at all times, just in case they stray too far off the path.

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#6 Organizing Ourselves

Probably the most popular pastime of Jewish Young Adults is organizing ourselves. We make official and unofficial groups for practically every possible activity. We have gatherings for everything from speed dating to prayer circles to book clubs to bowling leagues. It seems like every single city in the US has an organization for Jewish Young Adults devoted to itself. And there are even meta-organizations to organize the organizations.

Looking to join a Jewish organization in Chicago? Try the Young Leadership Division of the JUF. Want a non-denominational Orthodox-style service for Friday nights in San Francisco? The Mission Minyan in filled with Jewish Yuppies on a regular basis. Looking for a movie night with a bunch of Russian Jews in Boston? Shoot an email to the Makor Center and get on their mailing list. Find yourself in Kentucky and want to go to the races with some Members of the Tribe? The Young Adult Division of the Louisville Federation makes an annual trip.

The phenomenon of Jewish Young Adults organizing themselves in not just limited to the States either. The need to join group activities with other similar members exists all over the planet. Sydney, Toronto, Paris, or practically anywhere, a quick Google search can easily point the way to the nearest Purim party or pub crawl.

So why do we do this? Why do we compartmentalize our social activities into structural form? Why do we institutionalize our communal interactions and limit them to others of our kind, when most of us probably have a majority of Jewish friends anyhow? I don’t really know the answers to these questions, but I’m thinking of starting a Salon of Jewish Young Adults in my neighborhood so we can have bi-monthly discussions on the subject.

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(submitted by Joshua N.) 

Of all of the vocations that are deemed “Jewish” in nature, one of the most overlooked and underappreciated is being a television writer. Take a look at the list of writers for any of the major sitcoms or dramas over the past decade, and the list is disproportionately Jewish in nature. Of the 45 writers credited for the sitcom Friends, at least 18 are probably Jewish. Of the 67 listed for the Simpsons, at least 24 are probably Jewish. The two most popular shows on TV right now according to the latest Neilsen rating, Law & Order and Lost, have at least 36% and 47% respectively of probable Jewish writers to their credit.

This phenomenon is not some recent quirk of television history. The important sitcoms and drama through television history have also been dominated by Jewish young adults. All in the Family boasted probably 16 Jewish writers out of 40. 3 of 5 writers for I Love Lucy were Jewish. For a minority group that only has about 2.2% of the US population, it seems like over a third of all television writers are of Jewish lineage.

So forget being a Lawyer or a Doctor. And who wants to put in all those hours being an Investment Banker. The Jewish young adult of today is stowed away in a conference room in a mobile trailer in the back of the Fox Television lot furiously rewriting Britney’s lines for How I Met Your Mother at 3:30 in the morning.

And they say Jews have an influence in media…

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#4 Ultimate Frisbee

Maybe it’s the undeniable fact that Jews in general are not that good at sports, or maybe it is the fact that every single Jewish summer camp plays Ultimate Frisbee during free time on Shabbat, but it seems like the one sport that truly caters to the Young Jewish population on the planet is Ultimate Frisbee.

No other sport has ever had an MVP who is Jewish, yet the governing body in charge of Ultimate Frisbee, the UPA, has bestowed their highest honor, The Callahan Award, on multiple Jews. There is also a Jewish All-Star team, the Matza Balls, that meets regularly at tournaments to put a Maccabean-style smack down on their goyish rivals, frequently taking first prize. Ultimate Frisbee has even taken off in Israel, complete with an all-Israel championship tournament during Passover break.

So what is the appeal of this sport? First, Ultimate Frisbee is a sport that does not put a limitation on things like size or height. Let’s face it, the average Jew is not that tall nor is the average Jew that big, so it is no wonder why you don’t really see Jews in Basketball or Football. Secondly, Ultimate Frisbee is a decidedly non-contact sport, which appeals to all of the Jewish mothers out there that fear fire and brimstone whenever they drop their kid off at soccer practice. Lastly, there is the decidedly independent nature of the sport. The sport emerged in colleges across the country in the late 70s outside of the jurisdiction of the NCAA, meaning that it suddenly gave non-athletic Jews around the country an opportunity to be athletic.

So unless you believe that Chess or Economics are sports, we can safely dub Ultimate Frisbee the un-official sport of the Jewish people.

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