It seems as if Jews in North America have always had a presence in popular culture larger than would be justified by their numbers. From Irving Berlin penning White Christmas, to the comedic stylings of the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler and Krusty the Clown, to the music of Bob Dylan, the Ramones, Jane’s Addiction, Mickey Avalon, Peaches, Princess Superstar, Feist Regina Spektor, Amy Winehouse etc. it’s as if Jews are ubiquitous, as if they really do control the media… But we all know that we really don’t. Besides, for the most part, depictions of Jews in popular culture have never really delved into the guts of what it really means to be Jewish – as if we don’t want to make a shanda fur di goyim – why air our dirty laundry in public? Better they should think we’re all great lawyers, doctors and accountants with a touch of the neurotic to take the edge off our obvious superiority.
But that’s all changing. The news from Israel shows that the tanned, buff, scrappy Zionist Ãœbermenschen everyone used to love, are in fact fallible – although still undeniably cute. And in the US our existential tzurris are the stuff of New York Times Sunday Magazine articles (never mind the facts). The change has been so rapid and startling, fueled in part perhaps by the diminishing influence of traditional Jewish institutions, that it’s become… banal? The stuff of greeting card Web sites where concerns about continuity and intermarriage are mined for their comedic content alongside other ironic reflections on modern urban life. Yes – Jewish angst has arrived and it is part of the over arching zeitgeist!
Are we really that boring though? Oy!