Jewsquire: May 2007I am always fascinated at how the media portrays Jews in America. Most of the time, when I pick up a semi-trashy men’s magazine, I really do just want to know “How to wear white without looking like Col. Sanders” or “The State of the World” in 8 easy to digest, cleverly illustrated pages, written by a leading strategic thinker.

But those Jews! I mean Halle Berry was on the cover. I thought I’d be safe from those Jews. But no. Esquire is published in New York where one can’t spit without hitting at least 5 Jews and attracting the wrath of the ADL. The masthead of both Esquire and it’s parent company Hearst Communications Inc. is similarly full of yids and so one ought to expect some Jewish content I suppose. The question is, what Jewish image is being projected to the metrosexuals and stylin’ guys across America who read Esquire every month?

Well, on page 44 there’s a review of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, the new novel by Pullitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon. Depending on how you define things, Chabon either is or isn’t a Jewish hipster writer, or he either does or doesn’t appeal to Jewish hipsters, or the bulk of his readership is made up of old biddies who will buy anything written by a Jew that contains the word “Yiddish” in the title and whose name is familiar from having appeared in the New York Times. Chabon’s book is about one of those pulpy Jewish detective guys called Meyer Landsman (Landsman, get it?) and is set in the Jewish homeland of Sitka, Alaska. But will it play in Boise? The themes are universal apparently: the American dream, belonging, redemption etc. and the main message to the Esquire metrosexuals? Jews are literate – they are the people of the book after all. OK. I’ll buy that, and you better too lest you run afoul of Jewish media conspiracy.

The Jews make another appearance in an article titled “60 Things Worth Shortening Your Life For.” Ordinarily this would send Jewish mothers scurrying to cancel their sons’ subscription to Esquire lest something terrible befall precious, sensitive and delicate Rafael or Jacob or Chett or whatever the hell Jewish Mothers are calling their babies these days. However, it should be noted that 10 of the sixty take place in Las Vegas, the fastest growing Jewish community in the USA and 20 of the 60 things mentioned involve eating fressing (yiddish for eating). So the vast majority of the food mentioned is treiff (not kosher) but little Chettaleh always had a sensitive stomach and who is some Rabbi to tell me what he can and can’t eat! If Chettaleh wants to eat doughnuts refried in bacon grease or a Jersey breakfast dog or a dark chocolate and peanut butter gelato from Il Laboratorio del Gelato in New York then good, let him eat it.

Well… you can take the Jews out of the shtetl but it seems you can’t quite take the tenacious shtetl out of the Jews. Witness the inclusion of itemm #18: “The schmaltz at Sammy’s Roumanian, New York.” The author notes that one teaspoon of schmaltz, aka pure rendered chicken fat, contains 13 grams of fat, 11 grams of cholesterol and 115 calories. He also notes that it is delicious on steak or drizzled over bread. Needless to say, despite it’s old world trappings and surly waiters with giant magen dovids, Sammy’s Roumanian Steak House is decidedly not a kosher eating establishment. But whatever… Chettaleh needs his protein! And what to make of item #13 titled simply “Chopped Liver,” written by a guy called Scott Raab? I mean Scott?? Oh for fuck’s sake…

I was not raised by daring Jews. Nor were they brainy or accomplished. This Junior of Zion was saddled with no family legacy of piety, wisdom, or Talmudic scholarship. My people were chosen for bubkes, peasants in both countries, Old and New … I’ll tell you what we had: We had chopped liver. Hankering to defy death? Try schmaltz, hard boiled eggs, organ meat, and onions, all ground to a coarse pâté, thumbed up from the bowl on thick heels of seeded rye. Add salt. Then we’ll speak of risky feats and cardiologic derring-do.

Scottaleh goes on to discuss how chopped liver lives on wherever Jews gather to “fress (not italicized) like chazzerim, which is quite frankly, how Jews love to eat.” His last bit of advice? “Bad for you? Hell is yonder, full of hungry, heart-healthy bastards; heaven’s hither, beaming from that laminated menu in your hands. Quick! Before that white-smocked cossack comes to pump up the blood-pressure cuff.”

So what is middle America supposed to make of this yiddishism-rich bit of prose? That Jews like to eat? And that their eating habits make them bad asses the way riding a Harley makes a bearded and tattooed blue-collar white guy a bad ass? And what to make of the very next article where that teflon coated Yenta Joan Rivers states that “God doesn’t care that I have a sandwich on Yom Kippur.” I don’t know. I do know that I just can’t shake this deep feeling of embarrassment. I worry for the Jews of the diasporah and I eagerly look forward to my return to Zion. Sure, things in Israel aren’t perfect but at least I don’t have to be subjected to hurl-worthy full page photos of that scary, scary woman and her lame-ass pontifications.

Follow me

About the author

ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

6 Comments

  • There are other reasons to live in Israel than to avoid this magazine. The Israeli press is not your bastion of flowing optimism and high ideals… its full of tell it all stories, scandals and the latest in sex advice.

    Israel’s TV is not much better, as it tries to be more and more like the US everyday – or so I am told from the pros.

    And speaking of embarrasement? Your prime minister in Israel is most likely going to be charged with all sorts of nasty things. Not to mention what the President was doing with his shorts down.

    Talk about SHANDA FOR THE GOYIM.

    I am also not proud that Joan and Chabon and others are the determinate of things Jewish in the USA. But don’t be distracted by the glossy pages. Most American Jews can not give a royal crapola what it says in Esquire and are not influenced by these “stars”.

    I miss Israel with all my heart, but dont pick up a magainze and start judging american Jewish anything.

    You want to know what is american Jewish? Read Hadassah and Reform magazines.

    They have the largest circulation it seems.

    I cant you go back there and make that lousy horrific government step down?

    And this one is for Ariel too:

    Zionism needs positive reasons to live in Israel. lets start with regime change.

  • Whoa whoa whoa…. Do you know how much I love Esquire? My love knows no bounds. I actually have the latest issue on my desk right now, so that when I take my break for lunch I have it immediately on-hand. I have been known to gift subscriptions just to spread the love.

    It isn’t semi-trashy. It’s not even close.

    Ok, just had to get that out.

  • Heartfelt apologies for causing you embarrassment, deep appreciation for your fretting about Diaspora Jewry, and special congratulations on your ability to judge the purity of one’s Jewiness by his name.

    Tell me — does Israel offer subsidized housing for sanctimonious assholes? Or do you rent?

    Your pal,

    Scottelah

  • Oh Scott, please tell me you didn’t really take me seriously, right? Right? There is no purity of Jewishness Scott. One either is or isn’t a Jew. I had a prof in law school whose last name was Scott… someone at immigration felt Tkatch was too hard to pronounce. I know that’s kind of irrelevant, but I always found it funny.

    Tongue in cheek Scott… We like to kid here at Jewlicious. Please don’t take it too seriously.

    By the way – this sanctimonious asshole rents his apartment in Jerusalem. Look me up if you’re ever there and I’ll buy you a beer. Alternatively, I’ll be in New York next week. Feel free to track me down and kick my ass. And then I’ll also buy you a beer.

    xoxo

    Your pal Duvidel (aka “ck”)

  • Hey man,

    Either way, you still got Scott effing Raab replying here. For me, that would be like having Chuck Klosterman make fun of my taste in music.

    Mazel tov!

  • Yes, yes… Scott is an editor at Esquire, a Cleveland native, a fan of boxing and an author. That’s all fine and good, but I really didn’t mean to offend. It’s true, I am a sanctimonious asshole, but I thought he’d rather enjoy the shout out.

    Clearly, I was wrong.

    Friggin Google indexes us waaaay too quickly and effectively. I can’t fucking say anything without being busted. On the other hand… Heidi Klum can write me back anytime she likes and no matter how many times I mention Nathalie Portman, she never responds. Saw her on Friday by Rodeo Drive by the way. Did she wave back? Noooo… man.

Leave a Comment