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Archive for December, 2008

One of the interesting side effects of late December is that Jewish Young Adults across the world feel like underdogs when compared to more popular religious and pagan holidays of the season, specifically Christmas and New Years. In order to overcome this disadvantaged emotion, JYAs have resorted to overcompensating the relevance of Hanukah, specifically around Non-Jews.

Hanukah itself is a B-Team holiday when it comes to purely religious doctrine. In the traditional rankings of Jewish Orthodoxy, Hanukah is trumped by Passover, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur. Some argue that even Sukkot and Purim are more relevant than Hanukah, but most would agree that Hannukah is more important than the 17th of Tamuz.

But even considering the second-class nature of the holiday from a religious perspective, JYAs simply cannot resist amplifying the value of Hanukah during yuletide. The situation has become so severe that there have been articles written about the subject, as well as some academic studies. While these studies are interesting, they fail to identify the real reason why JYAs embellish the holiday in that JYAs have an inherent need to feel like they are as important as the Non Jewish counterparts.

Overstating the relevance of Hanukah can take many forms. Typically the JYA will utilize any break in conversation with Non Jews to reiterate how vital the holiday is for the existence of humanity, frequently erroneously. As female JYA “Michelle” stated to her Non Jewish friend “Christine” over coffee, “Hanukah celebrates when the Jews like saved all the world, just FYI”

Sometimes overstating the relevance of Hanukah can take a more subtle tone as well, where the JYA will mention the holiday under the context of a different conversation entirely. JYA “Jonah” sat with his Non Jewish roommate “Luke” discussing the women they met a recent bar when he mentioned that “Hanukah is the festival of lights, so that Caitlin chick better come over tonight and light my Menorah, if you know what I mean. It’s like a Mitzvah or something for a girl to give a blowjay for 8 nights. Sucks you aren’t Jewish bro, you’re missing out”.

There are even instances where the JYA will try to subvert the relevance of Christmas in a blatant show of one-up-manship.  For example, upon receiving a bracelet from Tiffany’s, “Joanna” stated to her Non-Jewish sorority sisters: “And this is only for the 3rd night”.

Whatever the form, JYAs that are living in predominantly Non Jewish countries feel a pressing need to up the ante from Thanksgiving to New Years because they know that they will probably not be invited to Christmas parties, and will use whatever means they can to inflate the significance of an otherwise insignificant holiday.

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#64 Andy Samberg

Every generation of Jewish Young Adults has a male comedic hero that they can be proud of. The male comedic hero is crucial to the JYA community because they are inspiring in his ability to be both openly Jewish while at not overly Jewish to the point where he alienates the larger Non-Jewish population. The male comedic hero is also not excessively crass or vulgar in a way that may anger Jewish Adults, and therefore has widespread appeal. In a way, the comedic male hero is the public face of JYAs everywhere, and is crucial to maintaining a Jewish presence in mainstream media.

During the 80’s the comedic male hero was undoubtedly Billy Crystal, who quashed any potential rivals for the title with his role in When Harry Met Sally. In the 90’s the title was shared equally between straight-man Jerry Seinfeld and his more rambunctious contemporary Adam Sandler. The jury has still not decided on a rightful heir to the throne for this decade, but one potential candidate, who also happens to be another Saturday Night Live alum, has been making steady strides for the gold: Andy Samberg

Andy made his initial mark with the California based comedy trio The Lonely Island, which propelled him to SNL as a regular performer. He has starred in movies and television shows, but his real claim to the title of made comedic hero is from the overnight success of his faux music video “Dick in a Box”, which was very recently followed up with the even more virally successful “Jizz in My Pants” video (both starring the steamy but not Jewish Justin Timberlake).

Female JYAs love Andy’s cute and quirky side, as well as his boyish charm. Male JYA’s love that Andy gets paid to sing about premature ejaculation and penile packaging. Jewish Adults love Andy because they don’t completely understand his lowbrow humor and therefore maintain that he is a Nice Jewish Boy ready to settle down with various potential daughters from coast to coast.

If Andy continues on his path he could very well be the Billy Crystal of today’s JYA generation, but he could also be usurped by another frontrunner to the crown: Seth Rogen.

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#63 Matisyahu

(idea submitted by Adam R.)

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Part of the modus operandi for any Jewish Young Adult is the need to feel cool and hip. Unfortunately, many of the sources of coolness, like the catwalks of Iceland, the cutting edge fashion of underground hiphop, or the world of avant-garde Japanese house-ware design, are slightly out of reach for the average JYA. Granted, a lot of JYA’s are early adopters of coolness, and wear it proudly all across the Lower East Side and in Williamsburg, but the reality is that a few select JYAs actually create coolness. Fortunately, JYAs across the planet have found a convenient outlet in the form of Matisyahu, who allows them to feel like they are cool.

Matisyahu, nee Matthew Paul Miller, is a Hasidic reggae musician famous for infusing rock, hip-hip, and traditional Jewish themes. The artists went from being a virtual novelty to an overnight success after JYA favorites Phish invited him onstage for a set at Bonnaroo 2005. Since then the artist has blown up, playing to sold out crowds of JYAs from Toronto to Tel Aviv.

Matisyahu’s appeal is obvious. He gives JYAs some coolness credibility, while at the same time allows them to stay close to home and avoid risking questionable scenes of scary looking gangsters or grubby hipsters. JYA “Jessica” summed up this sentiment after attending a Matisyahu concert in Cleveland, stating in glee “Oh My God, I feel so hard core! I’m totally like a deadhead now!”

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#62 Dry Land

(idea submitted by Becca B.)

Over the course of recent history there have been a handful of famous Jewish athletes who made name for themselves in water based sports. Arguably the most famous is Mark Spitz, the Olympic swimmer who made a name for himself in 1972 winning 9 gold medals. There are also more recent examples like Lenny Krayzelberg and Garrett Weber-Gale who both won 4 golds between 2000 and 2004, as well as Dara Torres, who converted. In skating the number of famous Jews is slimmer, with Sasha Cohen being the only recognizable household name. Skiing has even less, where any Jew would be hard pressed to come up with a name without the help of Wikipedia.

The reason why there are so few Jews in these events in general is not because of aptitude, it is because Jewish Young Adults simply prefer dry land. Even though JYAs will sometimes go to skiing weekends or the beach, the reality is that they would much rather prefer to remain on solid ground without the involvement of any combination of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. JYAs are much more apt to spend a summer afternoon playing softball/basketball/ultimate frisbee than at the local pool with the Goyim.

JYA “Jenna” explained her reasoning when responding to an e-vite for a ski trip for young adults organized by a local Jewish organization. “Being cold is something I try to avoid, not pay to do”, she stated, and then added, “My idea of a ski trip is drinking lattes in front of a fire… and maybe flirting with the snowboarders”.

Another JYA, “Melissa”, described the source of her aversion to water sports, stating “We went to Raging Waters one summer at Camp Ramah and I almost died underneath the mats at the bottom of the waterslide cause that fat kid Phillip piled on top of me”.

Whatever the reason, be it avoiding uncomfortable cold/wetness or a deeper psychological issue, JYAs of today tend to prefer staying on dry land. If you find yourself at a ski lodge and see someone who never leaves the lodge, odds are they are a JYA. If you find yourself at the beach and see a group of females who refuse to enter the water, odds are that they are JYAs. As Jenna’s mother succinctly stated “Honey, we’re Jews. We don’t move down icy mountains at high speeds.”

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Drinking at the Lodge at the Jewish Singles Ski Retreat

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#61 Phish

Jewish Young Adults across the planet sample a variety of tastes and interests. In addition, preferences and hobbies change over time depending both on the JYAs age and social group and what movies or albums are popular at the time. Even considering these varied concerns, there is one group that has sustained the attention of JYAs all across the land, from the most materialistic JAP to the smelliest Granola Jew.

phish1The band Phish has been around since 1983 officially, and has been a part of every JYAs summer camp experience since then. The band itself is 50% Jewish, and bassist Mike Gordon has frequently touted his Jewish Day School roots as inspiration for the band’s music. In addition, the band has also recorded a few songs in Hebrew, including Yerushalaim Shel Zahav. Over the years Phish has amassed throngs of Jewish fans, and there is even a conglomerate of traveling rabbis called Gefiltefish, who attend concerts and interact with young JYA pseudo-hippy fans in the misguided hope that the half-jewish surroundings will spark as much interest in judaism as it sparks joints.

There are many theories why so many Phish fans are Jewish, there have even been articles written about it (here and here), but there is an underlying reasoning as well. JYAs in general like feeling special, and they further like touting their pseudo-indie credibility whenever they have a chance. Therefore, it is only natural that JYAs will be attracted to an underground band that has been together for over twenty years but has never had a song on Billboard’s Top 40. Claiming to be Phish fans, even if they are not, gives JYAs a veritable one-up on their predictable Non-Jew counterparts. As JYA “Aaron” pointed out to recently at a bar “That guy Chris is so lame, he doesn’t even know who Phish is.”

Even the most straight edged JYAs, those who would never dare go to a Phish concert because of hygienic concerns, are closeted fans, or at least have some sentimental claim to the band. JYA “Jessica” explained her nostalgia for Phish when she entered a house party on the Upper West Side and noticed the song Bouncing Around the Room playing in the background. “Oh My God!” she squealed, “I totally gave my first blowjay to this song!”

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