I 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 pÃ¢tÃ©, 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.