(cross-posted from Kosher Eucharist)
Aish ha-Torah has visited a great deal of torment and suffering upon the Jewish people. Their brooding, medieval, property-value-destroying monstrosity of a headquarters casts an oppressive shadow over the stones of the Western Wall plaza. Their campus representatives, armed with pocket dictionaries of American slang circa 1991 to appeal to the young generation, prowl the quads and halls of America’s universities attempting to sucker hungover sorority girls into “taking a little time off” in Israel (“Hey dudes and dudettes! You know what’s way mondo? Finals week – NOT!! But you know what seriously is radder than Jason Lee popping a wicked ollie? Yiddishkeit!”). Their apologists troll the Internet for posts like this one, bristling with indignation, stories of “non-judgmental” Shabbat dinners and “eye-opening” seminars, denouncements of the spiritual emptiness of secular Jewry, and glowing additions to the hagiography of Chief Operating Thetan Noah Weinberg. Their empty-eyed charges, recently arrived from America and England and freshly outfitted in ankle-length skirts and black velvet kippot, lurch Romero-like toward the Old City of Jerusalem, their former identities and desires gradually peeled away one Bible Code class and rappelling excursion with an “awesome” surfer-turned-rabbi at a time, their relationships with friends and family cast aside for their New BFF in the Sky.
But let’s put aside for a moment their cultish modus operandi, or their drive to transform promising young Western Jews into destitute American or Israeli Charedim supporting large families with the tax shekel of the filthy chilonim. Believe it or not, a much more appalling desecration of the history, religion and culture of the Jews is being perpetrated by Aish ha-Torah.
That desecration has a name. And it is Jewlarious.
It’s hard to avoid that cringe-worthy portmanteau lately, as its ads have seemingly popped up on every single major Jewish website, including this one. Jewlarious, you see, is the newest arrow in Aish’s quiver of kiruv tactics – if you can’t reel in the kids with Shabbat dinners and subsidized tours of Israel, might as well try with that most Jewish of attributes, a sense of humor.
But when it comes to humor, much akin to its parent organization when it comes to traditional Judaism, Jewlarious completely misses the point. Certainly, Jews are widely reputed to be among the funnier peoples of the world, with an absolutely ridiculous overrepresentation in the annals of classic American comedy (our only serious competition being that other put-upon minority, the blacks). Jewish comedy flows forth from two deep wells: a long history of persecution, and a perennial outsider status. The best Jewish humor stands up and and boldly laughs in the face of tragedy, oppression, blood and God himself. Naturally, however, this proud tradition of gallows humor does not provide the best medium for scouring out the brains of young, spiritually-seeking Jews. It’s hard to offer up curdlingly cynical Yiddish gems like, “If God lived on Earth, people would break his windows” when your organization is investing its energy in promoting the fiction that before the Jews arrived in the trayfeh medina, everybody lived a blissful existence of Charedi piety and child-raising in the Old Country (which is of course what God wants from us all).
Thus, Jewlarious occupies a place in the great pantheon of Jewish humor somewhere between Paul Reiser and Laffy Taffy. I spent a distinctly laugh-free hour perusing the site’s humor offerings, and I must say, I am offended. There’s more unprotested rape by frummies of all that is Jewish and holy on Jewlarious than there is inside the walls of your average Flatbush yeshiva. I give you a sampling:
From a pallid attempt at an Onion-esque satire article, “Kosher Butcher Goes Up in Flames; Fire Sale on Smoked Meat Ensues”: “In the middle of the crowd was Sherman the Butcher flipping burgers and dogs and selling the smoked deli meat at a harried pace. ‘My meat is selling like hot cakes here. People are saying that they love my special charbroiled seasonings. I just can’t keep my stock on the shelves …well, that’s actually because the shelves were broken in the fire and can’t hold anything, but you know what I mean.'”
HAH! You get it?? It’s funny because the fire is cooking the meat! And the shelves can’t hold it because they’re on fire! JEWS LOVE PASTRAMI!
Or how about a piece on going fishing…for gefilte fish? “With records nearly shattered each day during this year’s hyper-competitive Gefilte Fishing season, it should come as no surprise to avid sport-fishing fans that veteran Gefilte Fisherman Eli Kozlowski finally smashed a two thousand six hundred and thirteen year old record, catching a 64 pound Gefilte along the shorelines of Lake Anakatan in Central Minnesota.”
JEWS LOVE GEFILTE FISH!
And then there’s a long list of jokes just perfect for your next Kool Aid-enhanced Aish Shabbat dinner, like: “Harvey’s mother gave him two sweaters on the first night of Chanukah. The next night when he came over for dinner, he made sure to wear one of them. As he entered the house, instead of the expected smile, Harvey’s mother said, ‘What’s the matter? You didn’t like the other one?'”
That’s fucking JEWLARIOUS! How do they keep coming up with this SOLID GELT?
The one bright spot in this travesty of a website is that what Aish attempts to pass off as Jewish humor is so hopelessly stale and out of touch with current standards of what’s funny (remember, the most beloved comedy show in America featured a washed-up, cocaine-addled, abusive funk star, a wholesome white family called “The Niggars,” and R. Kelly peeing on a girl’s face) that it can’t possibly attract any new meat to Aish’s oversized grinder. The only people who are going to be quaking with laughter at articles like “Shul Bans Two for Testing Positive for Davening Enhancing Substances” are the ones who have already had their brains yanked out through their noses by Aish’s twisted quiescent-Charedi version of Judaism.
But of course, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing positive we can take from Jewlarious. At the bottom of the page, it has a link back to the Big Aish itself, which reads, “Your Life. Your Judaism.”