Archive for July, 2008

If you ask a Non Jew “What are you?” the likely response will be something like “I’m American,” or “I’m British.” On the other hand, if you ask a Jewish Young Adult the same question, the response will undoubtedly be “I’m Jewish” regardless of their nationality. In addition, if you ask a Non Jew about their ancestry, the response will be something like “I think my mom’s family is from Germany, and my dad’s is Scottish or Irish or something.” Conversely, any JYA will respond to the same question with an answer like “They were Polish Jews”, or “They were Russian Jews”, or “They were Moroccan Jews”.

Even though on standardized tests JYAs are obligated to check the “Caucasian, Non-Hispanic, including Middle Eastern” box, in practice the average JYA would prefer to check the “Other” box. Indeed, JYA “Jacob” says that he always writes in “Eastern European Jewish,” despite the fact that the available options make it clear that for the purposes of the survey, this additional information is irrelevant. This self imposed demarcation, with its anti-assimilationist undertones, is reinforced by countless academic articles written by Jewish Elders that further encourage JYAs to feel unique due to cultural, historical, or genetic “reasoning.”

When involved in discussions about race, a Non-Jew will be strenuously corrected if they make a statement that includes the JYA in the category of white, such as: “As white people, we look kind of stupid and racist quoting that Chris Rock sketch.”

“Oh I’m not white, I’m Jewish.” The JYA will correct.

Non-Jew “Christina” reported that her JYA boyfriend would explain his preference for warm temperatures by saying, “My people are a desert people.”

“It was weird though,” she recalled, “Because his grandparents were from Russia. And I was like, um, I don’t think there is a desert in Russia”.

Usually this racial obfuscation is as harmless as trust fund kids pretending to be hard up in Williamsburg while their parents transfer cash every month. But the invariable denial of Caucasianism, even though JYAs look at sound like White people, does leave one demographic group irked: Non-Ashkenazi Jews who actually are not White.

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(idea submitted by Megan R.)

Most Jewish Young Adults meet their first Israeli soldiers at Jewish summer camp where these ambassadors for their small nation are the gentlemen with whom every young Jewess wanted to have, or had, sex. If one’s Jewish summer camp was unfortunate enough to lack military escort, the JYA probably met their first Israeli soldier on their birthright trip, or, as male Israelis Young Adults like to think of it as: “an easy way to get a handy.” In fact, male Israelis report a curious phenomenon whereby panties drop when army service is mentioned.

(Ladies ladies ladies!)

Even Non-Jews have an unusual affinity for media representations of the young Israeli soldier. Much of the fascination centers on their youth, their compulsory service, and the relative badassery of nubile women in the forces. This can be shown in the popularity of Israeli soldier girls on TV, such as Ziva David on NCIS whose accent is beyond ludicrous, and, most beloved of all, the character Yael on the popular show Weeds, who was the kind of character Americans love—sexy, young, and crazy. Of her time in the IDF, Yael relates an anecdote in which her lover (who is her commanding officer) catches her in bed with another man and shoots her in the arm. She says she could not have respected him if he had not done so because he would have seemed like less than a man.

Although Mossad agents are not officially members of the IDF, they also proliferate in our modern media. This year’s offering, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, saw Adam Sandler as a Mossad agent who wants to be a hairdresser. The film further increased the mystique and allure of male Israeli soldiers, with their adorable latent misogyny and rampant copulation.

The abundance of attractive images of Israeli soldiers leads many American Jews to mistakenly believe they would like to become soldiers for Israel. One pasty computer loving Detroit JYA, “Jacob,” looked up from his game of Scrabulous on Facebook to state: “I could spend a couple of years in the desert getting totally ripped and handling a sweet piece. When I come back, I’ll be swimming in poon.”

(I salute you big boy!)

While many JYAs, particularly male, fantasize about joining the Israeli army, the chances are exceedingly slim, and therefore the desired increase in “poon” will remain ever-elusive for the typical 9-5er. For the female JYA, the ability to snag a soldier for a night is substantially higher than for the male JYA, but the probability of holding on to that same soldier for a second night is negligible. Ironically, as most Israeli Young Adults will tell you, they would happily give up their 3 years of standing around in the heat doing practically nothing just for the opportunity to sit in air conditioning and play Scrabulous during work hours.

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(idea submitted by Becca B.)

One of the quirks in the dating world of Jewish Young Adults is the transparent hypocrisy between what JYA’s claim they want, and the relationships they ultimately pursue. Frequently JYAs will adamantly state that they want to date Non-Stereotypical Jews, but in reality they find themselves returning to the same type of personality: the archetypical Jew. The reason for this might be simply that Non-Stereotypical Jews are numerically rare and widely dispersed. But there seems to be a deeper, subconscious reason as well: Jews, consciously or not, are attracted to neurosis, an affliction highly prevalent in the JYA community.

While the roots of mating preferences can be hard to discern, some theories regarding JYA’s preference for neurotic companions merit further study. First, there is the social need of the JYA to be included in dynamic, often contentious environments. Neurotic personalities (ie, the majority of JYAs), easily adapt to such an environment, whereas Non-Jews are typically uncomfortable or even startled by such surroundings, sometimes they try to ease tensions and defuse arguments which is, obviously, less than ideal for the JYA. “Michelle”, a JYA from Los Angeles, illustrated this point when she described her recent relationship with a Non-Jew, stating “So I was dating this guy Chris for like two months and one night he wanted to go out with his guy friends, and I was like, Hell No, you are taking me to Sex and the City, and he was like, Sure, and then he cancelled with his friends. And I was like, he’s such a pushover, so I had to end it”

A second possible reason behind JYA’s preference for neurotic mates is that JYAs have an unquenchable thirst for being entertained, and neurotic personalities, due to their heightened degree of drama and anxiety, tend to offer ample material for amusement (possibly explaining the popularity of scripts written by JE writer Woody Allen and JYA Zach Braff). If a JYA has a neurotic person to end the night with, he or she will have all of the stories with none of the anti-depressant dependency. In practice, therefore, most JYAs find Non-Jews to be bland and uninteresting, as they don’t offer the same quirkiness, inanity, and opportunities for group pity. As JYA “Dave” recently stated: “I was dating this chick Mary and she was so boring. She wanted to cooked me dinner like every night and I was like, let’s go to Nobu. And she would only do it missionary. I mean, please, what are you, like 15 or something?”

Even considering these two reasons, the biggest explanation for JYA’s interest in neurotic partners is simply that they themselves are neurotic, and similar personalities tend to commingle and integrate. Additionally, a JYA with a notably neurotic partner has made themselves appear more balanced in contrast and are therefore less likely to be the object of social pity. While these adaptations are logical and par for the course, there is always the lingering concern that these endogamous tendencies only serve to create increasingly more neurotic offspring and decrease the numbers of Non-Stereotypical Jews.

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(idea submitted and written by Ben S.)

A perpetual screen favorite of Jewish Young Adults, actress Natalie Portman, has appeared in “Star Wars Episodes I-III,” “V for Vendetta” and JYA darling “Garden State” (written, directed and starring pseudo-JYA-hero Zach Braff, whose entire oeuvre promulgates the notion that unattractive, irritating men will and should always score with hot girls because of their “depth.” Cf. Scrubs, all of) ). Even though JYA support for Natalie Portman can be taken as a given, JYAs specifically like touting her Israeli credentials and claiming to know her or know someone who knows her.

Portman was born Natalie Hershlag in Jerusalem, and studied at popular JYA abroad destination Hebrew University in 2004. Thus, this object of fantasy for Jewish males between the ages of 14 and 67 also acts as a source of Israeli pride for the whole JYA world. While JYA males enjoy looking at/spending large parts of the day thinking about Israeli women in general, Portman receives special attention because she is not a cult favorite, she is also famous among non-Jews. Should a Gentile bring Portman up in conversation or allude to any of her movies, a JYA will combine her name in a sentence with some permutation of the word “Israel” within the next 10.3 seconds. JYAs who happened to be at Hebrew U. at the same time as Portman, or have friends who were at Hebrew U. at the same time as Portman, or have friends of friends who were at Hebrew U. at the same time as Portman, will continue the story by relating how they ran into her in some pedestrian location, such as a bathroom or cafeteria, but did not bother her out of respect for her privacy. Then they will talk about how she looked naked in The Darjeeling Limited.

The Portman-Israel connection also dominates the internet. Reason number eight in the JYA-dominated Facebook group entitled “The’ Top Ten Reasons Why I Support Israel” is “three words: Natalie Portman Hershlag” (above “Because it contains the holiest places in Judaism”) and the group’s picture is Portman posing in front of an Israeli flag.

Mentioning Portman’s Israeli-ness is akin for most JYAs to attending Yom Kippur prayers when it comes to fulfilling their cultural duty and avoiding divine Jewish Guilt. While most Jewish mothers have yet to accept the Portman mention as an acceptable substitute for Sabbath observance, parents who are aware of Portman’s nationality hope that her positive qualities will encourage their son to marry Jewish and will thus be more likely to turn a blind eye when they catch him watching “Garden State” on Yom Kippur instead of attending the afternoon service.

(Portman buys a water at the same corner deli in Tel Aviv where my second cousin on my father’s side once bought a pack of Parliament Lights)

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(idea submitted and written by Shayna D.)

“Jewish Guilt” is a chronic condition for many Jewish Young Adults which manifests in several significant ways.

The most prevalent kind of guilt is endogenous, and is cyclical within Jewish communities. This guilt was not created ex nihilo, but rather has its roots in the JYA’s relationship with his or her mother. A Jewish mother is never satisfied by the achievements or behavior of the JYA. For example, a JYA who receives a 98% on a difficult calculus exam can expect to be greeted with: “What happened to the other two points?” The remarks of the Jewish mother leave the JYA with a looming sense of guilt so strong that the mother’s actual physical presence is not required to illicit appropriate behavioral adjustments.

It is important to note that this guilt is institutionally perpetuated by nearly all Jewish holidays, notably Aseret Yemei Teshuva (the ten days of repentance after Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Kippur (the official day to sit in shul and feel guilty for). A hallmark of most Jewish holidays is feeling guilty while not eating, feeling guilty about wanting to eat, or eating as a symbol of something to feel guilty about.

More interestingly, there is a second category of Jewish Guilt that involves the intentional deploying of guilt exogenously, meaning at Non-Jews, to coerce them into doing the things you want them to. This is particularly useful against Protestants who have not been raised in a culture of guilt and have developed no defenses against shame. Guilt directed at Non-Jews involves the JYA incorporating the same behavior-altering skill that they have learned from their mothers.

In a typical scenario, the JYA might have a regular bar night to attend. After being guilted into going because it’s someone’s birthday or because it’s only for an hour or because it’s only once a week she hears that some coworkers are skipping out. In order to change their decision, the JYA will adopt the tried and true practices of Guilt, staging: “I have a migraine, and I’m still going, so I think you can probably find a way to come along.”

Later that night a gentile friend might decide to order a drink. The JYA might then ask for a glass of ice water without too much ice and a slice of lemon. “Why don’t you just come with me?” The gentile will reasonably ask. Again the JYA will reach into their arsenal of finely tuned Guilt techniques and say: “Fine, I just thought that since you were getting up anyway, and it’s just a glass of water that you might get it for me especially since I’m not feeling well, but never mind. It’s not a big deal.” The gentile will feel horrible and will instantly fetch the water.

Why does using Jewish Guilt on Non-Jews work? Simple, the JYA has invoked suffering, and in non Jewish circles suffering is less like water and air and more like something to be avoided.

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