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Archive for October, 2008

Any casual observer will notice some curious behaviors when Jewish Young Adults meet as groups. First, upon arrival, there is a tendency to arrive late, and there is a high probably of extended hang gestures and greetings. Closer inspection would also reveal a third peculiarity: the inability to depart gracefully and efficiently when the event is over.

When Non-Jews gather in social situations, like a dinner party, the denouement of the evening will be indicated by one guest saying something like “Well, I have to get up early tomorrow…” or “Man, I’m so tired from all that food…”. Immediately the other Non-Jewish guests will pick up on the hint and begin their hasty departures with lines “I guess I should be heading out as well…” Within ten minutes the host can be sure that all of the guests have departed.

The same indication leads to completely different results in a group of JYAs. It can better be interpreted as a signal that it is time to shift conversations away from small talk and into high gear and focus on more pressing matters like gossip, dating exploits, or sales at Nordstroms. It is also a signal for the host of the party to expect at least another thirty minutes to an hour of revelry before anybody actually makes a move to leave.

Once any JYA guest has finally come to the conclusion that he/she is ready to leave, the logistical aspects of departure become even more convoluted involving many rushed sentences and last minute updates, usually performed while standing either in the kitchen or by the door. There will sometimes be last minute devouring of leftover dessert or wine. Frequently the actual words of “Goodbye” or “See You Later” will not even be uttered, as guests will simply disappear on their own. The entire process can take up to fifteen minutes, in addition to the one hour of extra allotted overtime.

Therefore, to any Non-Jew who is invited to a gathering of JYAs, it is customary to arrive at least fifteen minutes past the posted start time, and to stay at least an hour past what would be deemed appropriate for other Non-Jews. Leaving any earlier would be deemed as unfriendly or elitist, and might receive derisive commentary like “Guess someone has something better to do”.

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#55 Kat Dennings

One of the freshest faces to grace the movie screen and garner the attention of Jewish Young Adults is up-and-coming starlet Kat Dennings (nee Litwack). This brunette and blue-eyed Philly Jewess has been around for a while, but really made her mark in The 40 Year Old Virgin, but only very recently became a powerhouse of JYA pride with her performance as Norah in the just released Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

Female JYAs love Kat because they can relate to her character of Norah: a thoughtful, independent JYA with a strong will and appreciation for Tikkun Olam who doesn’t need to act like an airhead to get the attention of the boys. Male JYAs love her because she represents a “gettable” alternative to the likes of untouchable actresses like Natalie Portman. As JYA “Jeremy” succinctly stated after watching the movie “Dude, she totally looks like that chick I took to the ZBT formal last semester”.

So far Kat has been good at keeping a low profile and avoiding the pages of Perez Hilton, increasing her status amongst Jewish Adults as a “nice Jewish Girl”. Maybe someday soon she will grace the cover of Heeb Magazine, but until then her star will continue to rise, and her photos will undoubtedly become fixtures on the walls of the cabins at Camp Bauercrest.

Kat Dennings - meow!

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(Gram Hatima Tova to everybody)

As a traditionally marginalized group until the 20th century Jewish aggression has largely taken the form of passive aggression. This propensity for subtle guilt is notable in the lexis of Jewish mothers, whose desires are stated not as forthright requests, but a series of foregone, disappointing conclusions. “I’d like you to come home for my birthday” is a statement a typical Non-Jew might hear from his mother. The Jewish Young Adult, would likely hear this instead: “With the economy the way it is, I don’t expect you can take time off to come home for your mother’s birthday.”

If the JYA has somehow come to be confused about what that means and thinks his mother legitimately wants him remain at work, the statement would likely be followed up with. “After all, your job will be there long after I’m gone. Dr. Rosenberg—you remember Sarah’s father? She was in the gifted program in school with you? Anyhow, he says there’s nothing wrong with my health, but you never know.”

It is no surprise then that JYAs have a gift for passive-aggressive blame shifting that seems innate, and it is never more evident than on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Each year Jews are traditionally expected to take a week to think about what they’ve done that they regret so they can start the year without old baggage and guilt. When they discover something they’re not proud of, they ask the person they’ve wronged for forgiveness and make amends. But, as in any social relationship or historical study, no two people see eye to eye on what happened or can agree on an historical narrative. It is in this grey area of atonement that JYA passive-aggressiveness rears its ugly head in the form of suggesting to others that they are at fault.

As JYA female “Karen” recalls: “I told Jason that he could apologize to me on Yom Kippur for giving me the same present for my birthday that I know for a fact he gave his last girlfriend. He was really pissed off, but like, I saw her wearing the same bracelet last week, I’m not stupid, you know.”

“Jason”, however, did not agree and stating: “So I told Karen that maybe she should atone for being such a huge bitch to me all the time. Like, at least I got her a present, how was I supposed to know it’s a huge deal? Every chick has that bracelet, what’s the problem?”

Non-Jews should not be startled by the increased amount of indictments and finger pointing between their JYA friends during the Yom Kippur season, as it is only a natural aspect of centuries of predisposed habit formation. Non-Jews should also remember that regardless of whether the accusations of culpability are justified, all is forgiven after Yom Kippur, yet rarely forgotten.

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#53 Miri Ben-Ari

While there are many public faces of inspiration for Jewish Young Adults in the music industry, from producers to record executives and even to performers, there is one specific Jewess who has been quietly making strides and gaining fame: the self proclaimed “Hip-Hop Violinist” Miri Ben-Ari.

This Tel Aviv native and former Itzhak Perlman protégé has been a professional violinist for nearly a decade, but only in the past few years has become a known figure after being featured extensively on Kanye West’s College Dropout album in 2004. Since then she has been picked up by many members of the hip-hop elite and has played alongside John Legend, Jay Z, and Erykah Badu, earning props from the likes of Patti LaBelle, Wynton Marsalis, and Pharell. She has even started her own batch of followers as well.

The reasons why JYAs have a special place in their heart for Miri Ben Ari are obvious. Women dig that she has made a place for herself based on talent and innovation, and has gained the respect and admiration of the highly male-dominated world of urban music. Men are quick to note that the Stradivarius wielding virtuoso happens to be quite a looker as well, as evidenced by her photos and videos.

Ultimately, Ms. Ben-Ari connects with JYAs because she reminds all of us who played cello/clarinet/flute in middle school that hard work, dedication, determination, discipline, and a rockin’ body can only lead to good things.

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