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Archive for April, 2008

#24 Yael Naim

One of the more recent blips on the radars of Jewish Young Adults is French-Israeli singer-songwriter Yael Naim. Ms. Naim has been around the music scene for a while, her first album was released in France in 2000, but it wasn’t until one of her songs was hand picked by Steve Jobs for the new Macbook Air commercial that her fame skyrocketed.

Since then, Ms. Naim, who sings in English, French, and Hebrew, has become the teacher’s pet of JYAs from Seattle to Paris to Jerusalem, and the many JYAs who purchased her single online made her the first Israeli to hit the top ten in the US. The reason why JYAs have such love for Ms. Naim is simple, she is OG. Her own JYA-ness transcends cultural and religious lines, while at the same time she fully represents it, having been born and raised in France, served in the IDF, and toured the States. JYAs cannot help but support and respect her, even if some of them are a little jealous.

Ms. Naim, like Regina Spektor, is a proud Jewess who doesn’t hide her Jewessness, but also doesn’t flaunt it as an M.O. for her popularity. The popularity of these women will hopefully bring more musically inclined female JYAs, like Robyn Harris or Michelle Citrin, to the forefront, giving more deserved cred to Jewish Girls everywhere.

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(idea submitted by Benji)

Traditionally, Jewish Young Adults outside of Israel have found themselves alone and somewhat destitute in the days surrounding the prominent Non-Jewish holiday known as Christmas. While their Non-JYA friends were surrounded by family dinners and requisite gift giving, the JYA would console him/herself over a meager meal of General Tso’s Chicken and whatever subpar film was being broadcast on HBO. But over the last decade a new phenomenon has emerged which has liberated the JYA from their Christmas-time solitude, known as the Matzah Ball.

The Matzah Ball is an annual event, dubbed “The Nation’s Biggest Jewish Singles Event”, thrown on Christmas Eve, the 24th of December, in over 20 cities across the United States, from San Diego to Boston. The Ball attempts to bring together urban JYAs for one night to compensate their lack of yuletide merriment with expensive mixed drinks, forced social interaction, awkward flirtation, and the promise of possible conjugal experiences.

While the Ball is theoretically promising, JYAs will swear left, right, up, and down that they have no intention of attending the event, as they deem it either too “lame” or too “desperate”. Hypocritically, these same JYAs who shun the existence of the Ball on principal are the same ones who compromise the overwhelming bulk of the patrons. They can frequently be heard making comments like “I can’t believe I agreed to come to this”, “Remind me not to do this next year”, or any derivation thereof. One JYA, “Tina”, asserted four hours before the event that “There is no way in hell that I’m going to that crap”, but later in the evening when she was spotted at the event in a vermillion Banana Republic sleeveless halter dress came up with the ready excuse that “Jackie made me come”.

The overwhelming excuses from Ball attendees fall in to two main categories; peer pressure or lack of acceptable social alternatives on Christmas Eve. While both of these excuses seem legitimate, they hide the fact that JYAs actually do harbor some hope that the Ball will lead to new social encounters that could flourish into formal “relationships”. Therefore, any Non-JYA who is thinking about inviting a JYA to a family visit for fear that the JYA will be alone on Christmas can rest easy knowing that even though the JYA will claim to have no plans that night, they have already chosen a proper outfit at least a month beforehand.

(every one of the these JYAs claimed they would not be here 3 hours before)

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Like their parents, Jewish Young Adults hold a variety of beliefs about keeping kosher; some are strict and will eat no dairy from an animal that was milked by a Non Jew, others are mildly observant and will eat dairy with chicken, but will not touch ham or shrimp, and others are completely lax to the point of consuming bacon shakes.

Each spring, however, JYAs eschew the Steak ‘n Shake during the commemorative holiday of Passover. Kosher for Passover is a stricter prohibition, added on to the usual rules, wherein Jews cannot eat leavened bread—bread that rises—because when the Israelites left Egypt they did not have time to let the bread rise.

Each year, Jews are encouraged to remember leaving Egypt as if it had happened to them. Thus many JYAs, including those of the laxest possible faith, spend the Passover week carrying around a box of kosher for Passover matzo, dramatically refusing pizza and sandwiches saying, “Sorry dude, I’m keeping kosher for Passover.” To a Non-Jew, this phenomenon is roughly equivalent to Christian girls of loose morals giving up fellatio for Lent.

In no other area is there such a contrast between Diaspora behavior and that of JYAs in Israel. In some areas of the Midwest, the village Jew will be forced to scrounge up the one stale box of matzah in the international food aisle of Meijer and make-do for the Passover period. The Tel Avivian JYA, on the other hand, can order his McGriddle on a Kosher-for-Passover bun. Rather than having to pull a slab of matzah out of a paper bag and swallowing the dry bolus with massive quantities of water while her friends are eating out, the Israeli JYA can safely assume that everything on the menu is kosher for Passover unless otherwise stated.

By keeping kosher at this specific time, regardless of their conduct through the rest of the year, JYAs can best earn the sympathy of their Non-Jewish friends for the centuries long plight of the Jews and impress them with the more bizarre and stringent aspects of their usually low key faith.

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#21 Jewish Geography

(idea submitted by Jenny S.G. and Faith R.)

One of the more obvious and readily noticeable traits of Jewish Young Adults is their penchant for organizing other JYAs into degrees of separation. This activity, commonly known as “Jewish Geography”, usually occurs within the first five to ten minutes from when two JYAs introduce themselves to each other. The term “Jewish Geography” is somewhat misleading, in that the attempt to categorize or “place” the other JYA is not necessarily purely topographical, but is rather more vague, involving a mapping of similar or overlapping historical events, shared experiences, or intersecting social milieus.

The aim of Jewish Geography is for two previously unacquainted JYAs to quickly find common ground based on a limited degree of connectivity, usually between one and three degrees. The physical act itself involves mentioning the names of other JYAs that might overlap in both people’s lives. For example, if one JYA from Cherry Hill meets another JYA from West Bloomfield, they will mention the name of a cousin or an ex who grew up in the same township. If a match is not made on the first try, the two participating JYAs will proceed to inquire about other events in life, like Summer Camp, Youth Organization, or College, that will foster an overlapping association with a 3rd mutually known JYA. It is very rare for two JYAs to fail in Jewish Geography, as the degrees of separation, commonly accepted as 6, fall to 3 between JYAs.

Jewish Geography is a worldwide phenomenon. If two Israeli JYAs meet they will try to find a match, but they will alter their questions accordingly, like where they served in the military. Similar cultural adjustments are made for JYAs of British, Australian, or any other descent. It is not uncommon for Jewish Geography to transcend international lines and span across continents. For example, “Ari”, an American JYA, met “Mike”, an Australian JYA, at a bar in Tel Aviv and within three minutes realized that “Mike” had a cousin who attended high school with “Ari” in California. “Ari”, upon realizing that he had succeeded in his game of Jewish Geography mentioned, “Dude, Mike’s cousin was such a hottie senior year. Sucks she’s married now, but I’d totally still hit that”.

Regardless of location, Jewish Young Adults feel an overwhelming urge to connect to other JYAs, and fortunately Jewish Geography creates readily accepted guidelines that aid in this process. It still remains unknown whether Jewish Geography is based on purely altruistic goals of finding commonality amongst strangers, or if it is based on more malign motives of passing judgment or stereotyping. More research is needed in this area.

If you are a Non-JYA and find yourself trapped in an engrossing session of Jewish Geography, there is unfortunately not much you can do. No solution has been found to end the Jewish Geography process prematurely before it has reached its natural conclusion on a consistent basis. Fortunately for the Non-JYA, the entire process is fairly quick and usually painless.

(Original Jewish Georaphy?)

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#20 Michael Ian Black

The film Wet Hot American Summer was a failure both critically, and at the box office earning only a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and grossing only $292,102 but quotes from this 2001 project nevertheless pepper the conversation of JYAs, who consider the film an under-appreciated masterpiece. One of the more oft quoted lines from the film is McKinley’s irritated outburst: “Well, no, why don’t we say 9:30, and then make it your beeswax to be here by 9:30? I mean, we’ll all be in our late 20s by then. I just don’t see any reason why we can’t be places on time.” In or near their late twenties, many JYAs still find it difficult to be places on time.

While Wet Hot American Summer may be the example par excellence, it was hardly most JYAs first experience with Michael Ian Black, who played the character McKinley. Many JYAs report feeling like they were the only people watching The State back in 1993, in which Michael Ian Black purchased $240 worth of pudding and instructed cheese that it could not dial a phone.

Black is himself Jewish (born Michael Schwartz). He frequently appeared on VH1’s I Love the (Fill in the Decade of Your Choice) and was featured in Ed, and in the short-lived series Stella. Recently he has directed another JYA favorite, Isla Fisher, in the little seen film Wedding Daze.

Black’s success at poker is also enviable. He is consistently chosen as a favorite in his appearances on Celebrity Poker Showdown, and in fact has appeared as a guest more often than any other celebrity. Online he maintains a self-deprecating blog and contributes to McSweeney’s, each of these—McSweeney’s and self-deprecation, being notable beloved in the tribe.

The perception of Black’s success as still under the radar (which is seemingly contradicted by his many successful projects) may lead to him being seen as one’s personal celebrity despite sharing this seemingly intimate bond with virtually 100% of Jewish youth. But his qualities as a JYA role model—famous, rich, lucky, photographed with Isla Fisher—are undeniable.

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#19 Giving Pets Jewy Names

Jewish Young Adults of today have a tendency to put their mark on numerous aspects of their day to day life, whether it is through their language, their behavior at the dinner table, or their vocations. JYAs also have a tendency to extend the influence of their uniqueness into other fields as well, notably concerning their choice of pet names.

Anecdotal evidence has frequently pointed to the JYA’s need to be regularly reminded of their JYAness, and therefore giving pets Jewy names gives the JYA needed support when they are not surrounded by other JYAs.

There are three main categories for JYA pet names, each according to the specific characteristics of their pet. First, there are pseudo Yiddish monikers. One JYA, “Chad”, nicknamed his exceptionally virile Mastiff “Shtupper”. Another JYA, “Jill”, owns an particularly petulant Pekingese named “Shpilkes”.

Secondly, there are Hebraic names which are common to JYAs, both in Israel and in the States. Popular names include “Motek” and “Doobie”. Frequently hebrophile JYAs will turn to culinary inspiration for their nomenclature. One JYA has given his cat the name “Shwarma”, only because the names “Hummus” and “Tahina” were already bestowed on his twin Pearl Gourami.

Lastly, JYAs will frequently turn toward more historic roots for their pet names, resorting to more biblical origins. “Delilah” is a best-seller among female JYAs, particularly cat owners, and similarly male JYAs with a penchant for canines will use “Samson”. Other, more peripheral characters from the Pentateuch, like Jethro, become retro-chic when reborn in animal form. One JYA famously renamed her 20 year old Box Turtle “Methuselah” after the character in Genesis who reached the age of 969.

In general, if you are a Non JYA who is questioning the Judaic status of a friend, a safe assessment can be made by asking the name of their pet. Odds are very strong that if the pet has a name of vague Yiddish, Hebraic, or Biblical origins, your friend is probably a JYA.

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(idea submitted by Emily B)

Upon entering a restaurant with a Jewish Young Adult, it is best to be patient and understanding when the waiter comes around, for JYAs exhibit a strong tendency toward ordering “augmented” dishes from what appears on the menu. Frequently a JYA will chose to adjust or alter any given dish in very specific ways, sometimes to the chagrin of wait staff, food preparers, or neighboring Non-JYA diners.

There are many examples of this specific attribute of JYA behavior, ranging from the benign, “Can I get the dressing on the side?”, to the slightly irritating, “Can I get the salad without the mushrooms?”, to the borderline ridiculous, “Can I get the milk 1% and the foam 2%?” While higher end restaurants will readily acquiesce to the whims of the JYA, the JYA does not alter his/her behavior in lower end restaurants, and can be frequently seen requesting modifications even at their local burrito shop or hummus joint.

This behavior probably stems from the JYAs need to assert their uniqueness, specifically in public situations. It could also stem from the JYAs lack of flexibility concerning meals and foodstuffs. It could also be related to the JYAs peculiar penchant for claiming allergies to common foods. It is also important to note that this specific behavioral trait does not diminish over time, but rather becomes more pronounced as the JYA becomes a Jewish Elder.

Whatever the underlying reasons, the JYA of today feels a pressing need to have their culinary tastes satisfied to 100%, apparently without any leeway or flexibility, and feels that most dining establishments are incapable of completely satiating their specific gastronomic needs. If you find yourself dining with a JYA it is best to be prepared for such behavior by taking deep breathes, ordering quickly, and sharing understanding glances of irritation with the wait staff while the JYA is listing off his/her fourth modification. If you still find yourself feeling uncomfortable, you can leave a 17% tip to compensate for any potential grievance.

(Dressing on the Side)

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