Archive for May, 2008

(idea submitted by Amanda G.)

The act of going to a Reunion is enjoyed by Jewish Young Adults and Non Jewish Young Adults alike. Attending a 10 year or 20 year high school or college reunion, for example, is a chance for Jews and Non Jews to mingle and socialize with old friends, relive fun memories, and confirm if those that were previously attractive are still attractive. What is unique about the JYA community is that their definition of “Reunion” is much wider and vaguer than those of Non-JYAs, resulting in numerous opportunities to attend such events. Arguably, the reason why JYAs attend so many reunions, either formal or informal, is their acute need to constantly compare themselves to their JYA peers.

For JYAs, the events that fall under the category of “Reunion” can be as informal as monthly poker games with your pals from Givati, or they can be as ceremonial as The Camp Young Judaea Midwest Annual Reunion Gala Extravaganza. JYA reunioning is also frequently based on shared experiences such as summer camps, Israel trips, or Jewish Fraternities. One JYA, “Ari” recently took a four hour Fung Wah bus ride on from Boston to Manhattan in order to attend a last minute birthday party of one of his former Birthright pals from the summer before. Upon arrival at the bar, “Ari” was greeted by boisterous shouts from many of his travel companions of “Deuce Deuce Represent!” in reference to the bus (Number 22) they rode on together throughout their ten day experience in the Holy Land.

JYAs enjoy reunioning to such a pointed degree where they are willing to suffer through long journeys and uncomfortable experiences just so they can scrutinize the status of their JYA counterparts. For example, “Tricia”, a JYA from Huntington Beach, flew to Miami for the wedding of a friend from Camp Ramah, of which they both graduated 10 years prior. Upon arrival at the reception, “Tricia” mentioned: “I can’t believe I flew six hours to get here and Jessica put me at the table with all those bitches from Cabin Six. Whatever, at least they’re all fat now”.

Whatever the distance, and regardless of their affection or lack thereof for the attendees, JYAs, like moths to a flame, will go to great lengths just to gather with other JYAs from their past. This deep rooted desire to meet with people from the past and just them does not dissipate over time, and arguably becomes more intense as the JYA reaches adulthood. Unfortunately, there is no cure to this ailment in the JYA community, therefore if you are a Non Jew who is in a relationship with a JYA, be forewarned that excessive reunioning is part of the package when dating a JYA. As a Non-JYA, you are unlikely to have fun at such an event, and if you feel yourself being scrutinized, odds are strong that you are.

(Hey Oranim 2006 Bus 5! Next year in Mercury Bar in Murray Hill!)

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Jewish Young Adults, like their non-Jew peers, enjoy letting loose and reveling disguised as other characters whenever it is permissible. Unfortunately, unless the JYA is an actor or actress, opportunities to don the mask of other personae are scant. Fortunately, the JYA has twice as many opportunities to do so compared to his Non-JYA counterparts. While Non-Jews play Dress Up only on the Halloween, the JYA is awarded the opportunity at Purim as well.

The JYA approach toward dressing up stands in counterdistinction to typical Non-JYA approaches. Usually, Non-JYAs lean toward more prurient costume choices, while the JYA does not. Non-JYA women overwhelming choose to abuse Halloween noting that it is one of the few times in a year when debauchery is socially acceptable. Therefore, Non-JYA women opt to don costumes of “sexy” versions of ordinarily lackluster figures from daily life. Fraternity Halloween parties are virtually overrun with “sexy” nurses, “sexy” girl-scouts, or vintage Britney Spears. Male Non-JYAs respond in similar fashion, becoming “pimps”, “gangster rappers”, or “gangster pimps”.

While Non-JYAs revel in Halloween’s decadence, depravity, and sexual license, JYAs are typically seen in costumes that tend toward the puritan. Specifically, JYAs, whether in the US, the UK, or Israel, will costume themselves for Halloween (or Purim) in the guise of popular figures from other major monotheistic religions. These costumes can be general, like “nun”, or “abbot”, but they can also be much more specific, like “Jesus” or “Bishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu”. Whether specific or general, JYAs will rarely be seen dressing up as figures from Judaism, neither from the Biblical nor Talmudic era, with the important exception of “Moses”.

(This female JYA chose to attend Purim festivities as a Breslov Hasid)

One convincing theory as to why JYAs like to dress up as famous Non Jews during Halloween or Purim is their general curiosity about the mentality of Non Jews. JYAs are frequently baffled by how Non Jews, particularly Protestants, function in day to day life, and stepping into their clothing for two days a year serves as an adequate substitute for deeper inquiry into the faiths of Non Jews. This is also a safe way for JYAs to explore the other side while not actually having to interact with Non JYAs.

If you want to meet a Nice Jewish Girl or Good Jewish Boy at the next Halloween parade in Manhattan, avoid the many alluring and scantily clad women and men dressed like Jezebels and Absaloms– these partygoers are not Jewish. If you are looking for a JYA, seek out a modestly dressed reveller, perhaps one who would fit in equally in the confessional.

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#30 Tardiness

(idea submitted by Blair H.)

One of the more common peculiarities of Jewish Young Adults is their tendency to be tardy. This incessant lateness, commonly known as Jewish Standard Time, is frequently exhibited in social situations, where the JYA will, on average, arrive at least twenty minutes past when they were expected to arrive. While many cultures exhibit the quality of delayed arrival, there are specific traits within the Jewish community that make JST a distinct anomaly which merits further study.

First, there is the generation issue of JST. While JYAs will seem to place no moral or ethical value on punctuality, their Jewish Elder counterparts are notorious for their early arrival. JYAs can be seen running through the airport to catch a flight because they couldn’t leave the house on time, while JEs can be seen sitting in the departure lounge reading Margaret Atwood three and a half hours before boarding time. Therefore, one of the unique aspects of JYA lateness is how quickly the JST effect dissipates and reverses into a fanatic need for uber-promptness as the JYA ages.

Secondly, there is embedded nature of JST that has permeated across all JYA communities world-wide and has become so systematic that it seems irreparable. A group of JYAs who have all agreed with each other to meet at the local JDate Speed-dating event at 8:30 will not bother showing up till 9:00pm because they know full well that none of their counterparts will be there till 9:00pm either. A typical interaction between two JYAs who have planned to meet typically runs as follows: Say they have previously planned to meet at 9:30pm at the local bar. Neither of the two will officially make any indication of leaving the house until one gets frustrated and calls the other, asking where they are. The second will lie and imply that he/she is leaving the house now, even though he/she has not prepared for departure. The first will automatically assume that the second has not even begun preparing for departure, and therefore will only then begin his/her preparation to leave as well at that moment. Both will arrive at 10:15.

Lastly, it is important to note that JYAs take liberties with showing up on time only with other JYAs, or with family. When the JYA has scheduled with Non-Jews they are instinctively trained to show up on time, knowing subconsciously that Non-Jews do not share in their apathy toward punctuality, and would therefore not understand the status quo.

These three factors make Jewish Standard Time an unavoidable daily occurrence; a fact that is widely accepted and unquestioned. Unfortunately, the JYA penchant for leaving for a meeting roughly at the time that they are supposed to arrive creates frequent friction between JYAs and JEs; which seems to be irresolvable.

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#29 Reefer

(idea submitted by Hannah W.)

There is a wide held belief that every minority group has its own characteristic vice. For example, the Catholic community is allegedly inclined toward alcohol consumption, the Mormons have a penchant for polygamy, and the Japanese seem to display a liking to buying underwear from vending machines. In the same vein, Jewish Young Adults also display their own idiosyncratic subversive habit in the form of Cannabis.

While many subgroups and ethnicities have a tendency to toke, JYAs display more than a simple inclination toward smoking Marijuana; with JYAs it is more of a disposition. There are two interesting aspects of JYAs propensity to puff-puff-give. First, usage of the Wacky Weed is limited to JYAs only, and the trend does not continue with Jewish Elders. The most prevalent vice for JEs is coffee, in all of its various forms, and it still remains to be revealed what exactly triggers the switch from joints to java in the Jewish community.

Secondly, the desire for doobie in the JYA community transcends both national and religiously sectarian lines. Secular JYAs are just as likely to choke down the cheeba as religious JYAs. In fact, the Orthodox Yeshiva communities of Jerusalem are known country-wide as the best areas in Israel to score some hydroponic green in times on need. The universality of Mary Jane for JYAs is also a worldwide phenomenon. The means of “getting blazed” might be different in the various communities, but the ends are the same. JYAs from the States seem to favor the direct hash-pipe approach, and the occasional water bong, while JYAs from Europe and Israel prefer the spliff method, usually in the form of a 50-50 mix of Pot and Parliament Lights.

Be it medicinal or recreational, JYAs show a heightened interest in Tetrahydrocannabinol, more so than other minority groups, which seems to affect even the most devout non-smokers. For the Non Jew who is ever looking to purchase some Marijuana, odds are very strong that a nearby JYA will probably have some sitting in tin in the freezer, readily available for consumption. And if for some reason the JYA is “dry”, he/she will undoubtedly be able to make a quick phone call to any numbers of other JYAs to solve the crisis. Unfortunately for Non Jews who are looking for “harder” substances, the JYA will be unable to help, and the Non Jew would be better off asking a WASP.

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#28 Self Deprecation

(idea submitted by Becca B.)

Self Deprecation is defined as tending to undervalue oneself and one’s abilities. It is frequently used as a form of humor where people make jokes about themselves or their shortcomings. Jewish Elder comedians like Phyllis Diller and Sid Caesar brought this Jewish idiosyncrasy out of the shtetl and in to the public eye with their stand up routines of the Fifties. Many JEs of that era derived strength from the use of Self Deprecation; as 87 year old lifelong Hadassah member “Marlene Shoenholtz” states: “That way we’ll make fun of ourselves before the goyim do” Since then, Self Deprecation has evolved and grown with the times, but the core principle of belittling oneself has remained intact, and has become a cornerstone for many social interactions in Jewish Young Adults.

The use of Self Deprecation in the JYA community of today has become more robust and sophisticated, ranging from the traditional use in humor to more advanced techniques ranging from flirtation to encouragement. For example, many male JYAs will use Self Deprecation to present themselves as meek or pitiful with the hope that a potential female JYA will take pity and offer support, ideally in some physical form. Commonly used forms of Self Deprecation in this manner include “I used to be fat in high school”, “I was such a band geek growing up”, or “I am so bad with women”. The male JYA uses these examples in the hopes of eliciting sympathetic responses from female JYAs, like “Who cares what you looked like back then, you’re a little hottie now”, or “Any girl would love you”.

Self Deprecation as a means of encouragement is a more subtle procedure, usually favored by female JYAs. Usually one female will be unsatisfied with a specific attribute, and another female friend will offer support accordingly. For example:

Tricia: “OMG I look fatter than Brittney in these Diesels I got yesterday”

Jackie: “You look totally hot. You are so much hotter than I am. Nobody is even going to talk to me tonight cause you look so hot”

Such an interaction usually merits reciprocal Self Deprecation as a form of encouragement from the first female, which may or may not lead to a secondary, and possibly even a tertiary round of Self Deprecation between the two parties.

To the casual Non Jewish observer, Self Deprecating interactions could seem to indicate a severe lack of self esteem or self confidence, but the truth is rather different. The JYA is quite self confident and assured, they just use Self Deprecation as a cunning method of having other JYAs share in their self confidence.

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Though smoking cigarettes is not a healthy or appealing habit, there are a number of Jewish Young Adults, both in the States and abroad, who smoke regularly or socially. Of those that smoke, there is an undeniable preference amongst JYAs for Parliament Lights.

JYA Regina Spektor reminisces about smoking Parliaments in her song “That Time.” While Ms. Spektor certainly has her individualist quirks, this places her squarely in the fold of the JYA community. Most JYAs probably smoke their first cigarette in High School or College, and 87.3% of the time, that introductory cigarette will be a Parliament light. Shaken from a blue and white pack with a distinctive recessed paper filter, this cigarette inspires a brand loyalty that spreads like viral marketing through the JYA community creating a bond that will last until the Jewish Elder the JYA has since become ceases smoking or dies.

If you have never encountered a Parliament cigarette, you can be sure to spot dozens at any Alpha Epsilon Pi gathering where they will be chain-smoked by girls standing next to the pony keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon who “only smoke when I’m drinking or stressed” neglecting to add that drinking and stress are daily occurrences. The parking lots of High Schools in New Jersey and Long Island are also a fruitful hunting ground, as are weddings in Israel for cousins of varying degrees of familial connection.

There are many theories as to why JYA smokers prefer Parliaments over other cigarettes. One possible speculation is that JYAs enjoy disassociating from the mainstream in general, and therefore would inherently choose a more exclusive brand of cigarettes than the garden variety, and best selling, Marlboro Lights. Secondly, JYAs frequently harbor feelings of superiority over their Non-Jewish peers, and therefore would be subconsciously attracted to the seeming exclusivity of the name “Parliament”. One theorist has even postulated that JYAs prefer smoking Parliaments because of their Blue and White packaging, in subconscious solidarity with the State of Israel.

Whatever the reasons, the propensity of JYAs to spark up a Parliament Light as opposed to any other brand of cigarette is readily observable, and merits further academic inquiry. For now we will have to rely only on anecdotal evidence.

(another JYA social smoker)

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One of the more prominent idiosyncrasies in the Jewish Young Adult community is the online dating website known as JDate. What is unique about the website is that it specifically caters to the Jewish community as a whole, with the overwhelming bulk of patrons falling in the JYA category. The relationship between JYAs and the website known as JDate is tenuous. Even though JDate purportedly assists in creating potential conjugal experiences between JYAs, JYAs feel mixed emotions toward the website.

Initially, JYAs do enjoy the process of selectively screening potential mates, hacking through profiles with a discerning machete. JYAs also enjoy sharing potential matches with friends, comparing notes, and gathering objective opinions on the “hotness” of possible dating partners. One JYA, “Tricia”, accurately explained the initial appeal of Jdate, stating “So Jackie sent me this photo of this guy that she is chatting with and maybe might go on a date with. And he totally went to high school with me. And then I was like, OMG, Jackie, that photo is from high school, he’s totally like 30 pounds heavier now. She fully owes me big time for saving her from going out with a fatty”.

Fairly quickly after the initial charm of JDate wears off, JYAs feel a distinct aversion to the site. Typically after a month, the JYA will deem JDate “lame” or “desperate” (see The Matzah Ball), and will claim to shun all association with the site. This reversal of sentiments usually stems from a string of failed encounters with potential JDate matches, resulting in grudge-bearing against the site as a whole. “Tricia” again presented this argument well, stating “Ugh, the guys on Jdate are such losers. I went out on three dates, each guy was uglier than the one before it. The last guy just talked about this girl he was still in love with from college, and he didn’t even pay”

Finally, after a latency period of around three months, the typical JYA will again overturn their opinion of the site, again showing favoritism, except through different usage. Instead of using the site to find potential matches, they will share their negative experiences from months before with other JYAs, usually by commiserating over new members to the site, or stalking members they previously dated. Anecdotal evidence has also indicated that JYAs will show renewed favoritism to the site also because they harbor hope that newer members will be more attractive. “Tricia” summed up her rekindled partiality toward JDate three months after she initially logged on, stating “Jackie and I totally sit around and laugh at all these new dorks that are on the site. I mean, its not like I’m paying for it anymore or anything. Please, I only did it for a month. But, you never know, you know?”

While JDate has become a veritable household name for JYAs, both in Israel, the States, and elsewhere, the emotive response to the site is anything but uniform. JYAs like the site, while at the same time they hate that they like the site, while at the same time they like that they hate that they like the site. Fortunately for JDate and its financial backers, JYAs have a strong enough internal need to procreate where even with their mixed emotions there is no fear of going bankrupt.

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Unless a given Jewish Young Adult lives in New York, New Jersey, or the HolyLand, he probably cannot arrange to spend all his social time in the company of Members of the Tribe. In these instances of Jewish Drought, an acceptable substitute is the Catholic Friend.

Catholics have a lot in common with Jews. While many Catholic Young Adults (though by no means all) have long ago given up on actual belief in the tenets of Christianity, they still feel inordinate pride in their Catholic identity. One CYA was recently heard saying, “If Catholics wanted to be boring and lame, we’d just be Protestant.” Both groups are feasibly accessible to mainstream (Protestant) America in a way that Hindus and Scientologists are not, but they are also perceived as having somewhat exotic and strange rituals and both have been accused of harboring dual loyalty. Opponents impugned that the first and only Catholic President would take his orders from the Vatican, rather than the American people, but unless the Pope mandated conjugal encounters with later Jewish convert Marilyn Monroe, their fears seem to have been unfounded.

If you are a JYA seeking a Catholic Friend or a CYA seeking a Jewish Friend there are several recommended topics of conversation:

First, Guilt. While Both Jews and Catholics are accompanied everywhere they go with the crushing sense of guilt, the experience is subtly different. Catholics worry a good deal less about their mothers and more about the sex and drinking. (Note: In a reaction that may confuse the novice, this shame will simply cause them to drink more and adopt the curious “everything but” policy when it comes to sex.)

This leads us to the second topic—drinking. The JYA may share his experience with drinking four cups of wine every Passover since he was young, and the CYA will reciprocate with a story of drinking a cup of wine before noon every Sunday. Naturally, this will usually segue into a discussion of off-putting foods. The JYA will report on the pulpy, gelatinous mess known as the gefilte fish and the Catholic will reciprocate with the consumption of the flesh of Christ.

Finally, JYAs will be able to connect with CYAs on the topic of Protestants. “It’s not that we like Catholics, it’s that we don’t like Protestants” JYA “Tamar” states. JYA “Dan” reported of the West Coast that: “I had a hard time connecting with my Grad School cohorts and I didn’t know why. And then I realized—they were all Protestant.” Indeed back in the midwest, Dan reports that he and his roommates instituted a “No Protestants” rule at their apartment. When asked if this prevented anyone from coming over, he said the rule had no effect.

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