"Dirty Jews"

This is a throwback to a conversation from November 2013.  These ladies scared me so I waited to put it up on the blog.  

A little background: Bad Jews was fantastic, sold-out show at the Roundabout Theater Company in New York City.

GUEST: We’ve seen 4 shows in 3 days.
CONCIERGE: That’s great. Any favorites?
GUEST: We loved that Big Fish and Betrayal. And what was the one we didn’t like?
GUEST’S MOM: “Dirty Jews.”
GUEST: Yeah. We didn’t like that.
CONCIERGE: You mean Bad Jews at Roundabout?
GUEST: Yes! You said “Dirty Jews!”
(Guest and her mom laugh. Concierge smiles nervously. They laugh harder.)
GUEST’S MOM: I can’t believe you called it Dirty Jews!
(They really think this is hilarious.)
GUEST: We have laughed so hard on this trip! Not to talk politics, but we don’t like Obama.
(Guest looks for concierge’s reaction.)
CONCIERGE: That’s ok.
GUEST: Good. Well, I told my mom, “You don’t have to worry about it much longer. YOU’LL BE DEAD SOON!”
(They laugh and laugh and laugh!)
GUEST’S MOM: It’s so funny. I really will be dead.
(They laugh.)
GUEST’S MOM: Because of Obamacare!
(They laugh.)
GUEST’S MOM: Have you seen Dirty Jews?

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Erasure of Jewish Identity and Culture in Marvel

(Not including X-Men films: I’m not up to discussing the tragedy of the X-Men movies and the complete erasure of all Jewish characters besides Magneto, the villain, today.)

Honestly, as a Jewish person in America this ongoing erasure of Jewish identity and culture Marvel is committing doesn’t even surprise me. This sort of subtle anti-Semitism that Marvel is participating in is par for the course. The erasure of Jewish identity and culture is so common most people don’t even pause to consider it, and if they do they don’t consider it anti-Semitic. After all, they don’t hate Jews, they don’t insult Jews, they don’t attack Jews, they don’t think Jews are bad or evil, so OF COURSE it isn’t anti-Semitism if you just pretend that Jews don’t exist and destroy Jewish character’s identities. It’s just a change of backstory, after all!

The erasure of Jewish characters and the destruction of characters created by Jews is not a change of backstory, Marvel, it is anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is defined as hostility, prejudice or discrimination against Jews. By erasing Jewish characters you are discriminating, or participating in unjust treatment, against them on account of their religion. By ignoring the huge contributions of Jewish writers and artists who gave life to so many comics characters you are being prejudiced. Your hostility, or unfriendliness and opposition, to the inclusion of Jewish characters and the defamation of characters created as allegories by Jews are anti-Semitism, Marvel.

Ignoring, or ret-conning, the fact that Wanda and Pietro Maximoff are ethnically half Jewish and Roma, and always have been, is anti-Semitic and racist. Their heritage may not have played a significant plot point, but it certainly influenced their decisions and motivations. Turning Jewish-Roma Wanda and Pietro Maximoff into volunteers for the fascist-Hydra organization headed by von Strucker, a Nazi, to conduct illegal medical experiments on, is wrong.

Turning Steve Rogers, who has always stood as an allegorical shield for the Jewish people against the Nazi’s and fascism in general, into a fascist Hydra member, is disgusting. Turning Steve Rogers’ who served as Erskine’s (a Jewish scientist’s) golem, his creation and stand-in, to defeat the Nazi’s into a member of Hydra, is revolting.

Fun fact: Captain America’s iconic shield is an allegory in and of itself. What in English is called the Jewish Star or Star of David, one of the most recognizable Jewish symbols in the world, is in Hebrew called the Magen David (Yiddish the Mogein Dovid) which translates to the Shield of David. Steve’s shield with the star on it, used to protect him as he fought Hitler and the Nazi’s in the early comics, was an allegory to a powerful and well known Jewish symbol that the Nazi’s were corrupting. It was a ‘spit in your eye, fuck you’ to the Nazi’s and Jack Kirby and Joe Simon knew that their Jewish readers, desperate for news that the Nazi’s would be stopped and their families were safe, would recognize it.

I’ve seen comments on the Jewish actors in the MCU not being allowed to play Jewish characters. I feel that if in canon the characters are actively shown not to be Jewish, or it’s heavily implied at least, then it’s appropriate for the Jewish actors to portray that character as Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Atheist, or whatever that character religiously identifies as. However, for a character like Darcy Lewis, who is not a canon character in the comics at all, how hard would it be to have her say a throwaway line about her Bat Mitzvah? Or to have Jane Foster (whose religion is never mentioned in the comics) mention her Bubbe (grandmother) in a ‘my Bubbe always said’ way?

I have to wonder what would happen if Marvel suddenly decided that Sam Wilson wasn’t black? What if they thought Wakanda would be better served as a European nation? What if Kamala Khan was found to support a fascist regime? Why is it okay to erase and ignore Jews as both characters and creators? Why are Marvel’s actions not being called out as the anti-Semitism it is?

It doesn’t matter what reason Marvel gives for their choice to make Steve Rogers’ a fascist, a Nazi. It doesn’t matter if it’s a plot twist, a time-change, a clone, a triple agent or a cry for attention. Marvel has taken a character that has stood for freedom and doing the right thing, a hero and a symbol of hope not only to Jews but to people around the world that there are people who have the courage to fight back against oppression, and they have destroyed him. They can never take this back, there is no ‘oops’ here. Even if they retcon this arc in the future, like they did with William Burnside, they have destroyed the legacy of Captain America.

Wasn’t it enough to erase Wanda and Pietro Maximoff’s past? Why do you have to ruin Captain America too?

Jack Kirby and Joe Simon received death threats for creating Steve Rogers, Captain America, in a time when many Americans were either Nazi sympathizers or content to keep their head in the sand. It was a time when Jewish families checked their mailboxes every day praying for a letter from their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins still in Europe. It was a time when the US turned away boatloads of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe.  It was a time when the Third Reich steadily gained more and more land and more and more power, and while many European nations fought back against the rise of fascism the US refused to involve itself in Europe’s war despite knowing the threat Hitler posed. Kirby and Simon were surrounded by this environment of fear, because no one knew what was truly happening in Europe, but knew they had to do something about it. It is an insult to the memories of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon.  It is morally repugnant to make Captain America into a Nazi.

Marvel has erased Jewish identities of characters in both the comics and the films. That was bad enough. But now? Marvel has taken a hero I love, and have loved since I was a child, and perverted it. They have taken Captain America and twisted him around into a parody of all that he has ever stood for. They have taken a character that was literally created by two Jews to stand against the Nazi’s and say ‘screw you’ to Hitler for all the Jews who couldn’t, and made him into a Nazi. As a Jew and a fan of comics for most of my life I feel like I have been spat on and kicked while I’m down. 

Thick, intense, curly, frizzy, long brown hair. Hair that clogs a drain after one shower. Hair you find on pillows and in corners of the room and in your refrigerator six months after the head from which it grew last visited. Hair that could not be straightened even if you had four hours and three hairdressers double-fisting blow driers. Hair that screams: Jew.
—  Bad Jews, by Joshua Harmon
Meet Harlem’s African-American rugelach king
Alvin Lee Smalls' handmade, buttery rugelach have introduced the historically Black neighborhood to a Jewish staple.

A puff (pastry? don’t hit me) piece, but a sweet story.

With a JCC down the block and a Chabad on the next street corner over, it’s not surprising that this New York City bakery sells rugelach.

But look around the small one-room shop, and you won’t see the usual Jewish kitsch or stylized Hebrew writing adorning the walls. Two certifications from the City of New York, and a picture of the Obamas, hang where the kosher certificate might be. On the opposite wall, instead of recommendations from local rabbis, frames enclose a letter from Rep. Charlie Rangel, the longtime local congressman retiring next year, and pictures of other dignitaries here in Harlem.

And instead of advertising an Ashkenazi name, the front window of Lee Lee’s Baked Goods on 118th St. in Manhattan displays a picture of Alvin Lee Smalls, the store’s African-American proprietor. Below Smalls’ photo is his slogan — “Rugelach by a brother.”

Smalls, 75, has turned his unlikely business into a Harlem institution. For half a century, he’s had two missions: to introduce rugelach to his Harlem neighbors, and to keep the craft of artisanal, handmade rugelach-baking alive.

“It’s something I learned to bake, and people love it,” he said. “So they make me want to keep baking it.”

Smalls was working as a chef in a hospital in 1964 when he found a recipe for rugelach in the newspaper. He isn’t Jewish and hadn’t grown up with the pastry as a child in South Carolina, but decided to try it out. When he didn’t like the finished product, he started experimenting, altering the recipe for a few months. His new and improved formula yielded a crispier, sturdier, tastier version of the Jewish staple sometimes described as a mini Yiddishe croissant.

His secret is butter. In the long-standing debate between dairy and pareve — non-dairy — rugelach, Smalls comes down firmly, and moistly, on the side of dairy.  Smalls shuns the standard vegetable oil for a rich, dairy dough. To keep the rugelach moist, he wraps the crust around raisins covered in honey.

Smalls’ apricot and raspberry rugelach come covered in cinnamon with walnuts inside, while the chocolate variety is imbued with almonds. A dozen of the small, dense rectangles costs $15, though newcomers to the bakery get their first taste for free. The store also sells pies, muffins and bread pudding and even rugelach ice cream.

Harlemites are so familiar with Smalls’ rugelach that when he had to shut the store down in 2010 because of a budget shortfall, local blogs sent enough customers over to allow him to reopen.

But Smalls jokes that just because the store’s African-American neighbors like his pastries doesn’t mean they know how to pronounce them.

“They call it all kinds of different names,” he said. “Jewish people, when they say it, have a little click in the back [of the throat].”

Smalls still makes his rugelach with his own hands, something he says is a dying art. This week, as he stepped out of the kitchen in a white plastic apron to meet me, he turned around every couple of minutes to shout instructions to his fellow bakers.

He laments that most of the rugelach bakeries he enjoyed in the 1960s and ’70s aren’t around anymore. But with Harlem’s Jewish population booming, he hopes to stay in business for a while longer.

“Most of them either retired or passed away,” he said of his rivals. “Today’s rugelach are now made in the factory, not like the old-time rugelach.”

PSA - Social justice and Jews

If your social justice does not involve Jews, or only involves Jews of Color and excludes white Jews (because you don’t regard white Jews as being oppressed on the basis of being Jewish) your social justice is shit and so are you.

Edit: I meant to underscore that SJWs dismiss antisemitism on the basis of white privilege held by white Jews, not to imply that SJWs actually give a shit about the antisemitism faced by Jews of Color (which they fucking DON’T).

I worded that poorly and I apologize.

If your social justice only cares about Jews when it pertains to pitting them against each other (like using Jews of Color as props to show how bad white Jews are and then ignoring their actual issues), then your social justice is shit and so are you.

If you ignore Jewish voices who try to point out antisemitism when it masks itself as merely being anti-Zionist in favor of shouting them down, then your social justice is shit and so are you.

If you think that your stance of anti-Zionism is an automatic “get out of being called on antisemitism free card” when you talk about Israel/Palestine, then your social justice is shit and so are you.

If you dismiss Jews who criticize your anti-Zionism by assuming that they are Zionists, or if you goysplain to them that anti-Zionism does not equal antisemitism, but ignore the fact that there is a very real an undercurrent of antisemitism infesting the movement that needs to be called out,  then your social justice is shit and so are you.

If you accuse someone who defends Israel on any issue whatsoever of defending the occupation and by extension, of being complicit in it, then your social justice is shit and so are you.

If you ignore the fact you can unintentionally further antisemitism and/or hold unconscious antisemitic views by virtue of your gentile privilege, then your social justice is shit and so are you.

If you pride yourself on being an ally to oppressed groups, but scoff at the idea that Jews even *need* allies, especially if they’re white, then your social justice is shit and so are you.

Stop being shit.

Or at least, make an effort to learn.

We Jews would appreciate it.

I urge everyone, Jew and gentile alike, to reblog this.

Thank you.

Like clockwork, when something bad happens Jews get blamed. 

Notice that this is coming from both ends of the political spectrum here. Blaming the other side for antisemitism while ignoring it on your own is putting us in danger. We are not a political football. We are people. Fight antisemitism on your own side first where people are prepared to listen to you. We can’t do this on our own. 

There are so many fewer of us than people think. 70 years later and we’re still only at the cusp of recovering our numbers from the Holocaust. Antisemites trade in myths of Jewish power. But we are small, we are vulnerable, and we are scared to even speak up because we know that you will dismiss our fears as invalid and selfish. Don’t be silent when antisemitism rears its head in your movements. Don’t spread antisemitic conspiracy theorists or denials of Jewish history. Don’t use “antizionist not antisemitic” as a catch-all excuse. Don’t treat call outs of antisemitism as automatically disingenuous. 

Antisemitism isn’t over. It feeds on your ignorance and apathy as surely as it does on the conscious hate of the people who made these tweets. 


Look.  I hate to say it, but…

If you want to gauge how bad xenophobia and nationalism are,watch antisemitism.  We’ve always been the canaries in this particular coal mine.

In England, particularly, antisemitic attacks increased by 60% last year.  And that’s in London.  People who bet that Labour would stop this…look at the crisis they’ve been having, and Corbyn’s been making worse rather than helping.

This sucks, especially for the people in Scotland and Northern Ireland, who don’t want to go, and the people of London who also voted to remain (as well as a couple of other cities)…but, to me at least, it’s not the big surprise that it is to everyone else.  For the same reasons that I worry about Trump or LePen, and many other right wing, xenophobic, demagogues.  If you want to know how strong they are, look at how bad things are for Jews, and particularly if they’re getting worse or better.

Really, is it so hard to understand why Jews might not just nod along as they’re told about how privileged their experience is?

Let’s just take the twentieth century…

Got off to a smashing start with Kishinev. Then, pogroms, the Beilis trial, the Leo Frank lynching, Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron. The ethnic cleansing of Jews from Western Russia. The ethnic cleansing of the Jews from Afghanistan.The Soviet Union. The Evian Conference, the turning back of the St.Louis, the Wagner-Rogers Bill.  The Nuremberg laws, the death camps, and the murder of a third of all the Jews in the world. Baghdad. Then the ethnic cleansing of the Jews of nearly all of the Middle East and North Africa, another 900,000 displaced. The forcing out of the surviving Jews of Poland. The Doctors Plot trials. (Did we mention the Soviet Union? Continued persecution of Jews in Ethiopia. The Paris synagogue bombing. The Goldenberg restaurant attack. Refusniks. Arrests and executions in Iran. The LA JCC shooting.

And this is just a kind of haphazard Greatest Hits list. For one century. And this shit did not stop in 2000, either.

Looking at this, is it so hard to figure out why the response to “you get extra special treatment because you’re white, well, most of you, not all of you, but anyway, you’re rich and influential,” gets a response that is less “gosh, let’s examine our privilege!” and more “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT NOW, EVEN MORE BLOOD?”

Especially when our presumed wealth and influence, half the fucking time,was used as a REASON to come and kill us?