Don’t Be A Drag, But Definitely Go In Drag

Purim ShirtChag sameach! If you’re over 8 and don’t yet have children of your own, it’s likely that Purim is off your radar as far as Jewish holidays go. Your memory hearkens back to your childhood synagogue carnival, where hordes of little Hamans with black eyeliner goatees spazzed with their crazy loud groggers, and maybe some crumbly dry hamentaschen was forced upon you by the Hadassah treasurer, and even though there’s some killer Purim party happening near you tonight, you’re thinking “Nah, I’m gonna stay in and watch ‘The Apprentice.'”

You need to get over it, though, really. Purim rocks sooo hard. Not only is it a story of intrigue and mystery set in ancient Persia, there’s always a new way to interpret the Megillah. For instance, I always thought Queen Vashti should be admired for refusing to dance nekkid for that pig King Ashauerus and his drunk buddies, but then I read an article by Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller, who shows that Vashti wasn’t such a stand-up feminist heroine after all.

And since mixing it up is what Purim’s all about (the sages say we’re supposed to party ’til we can’t tell the difference between good and evil,) El Yenta Man has promised to fulfill the family tradition of cross-dressing. It all began as a “real men aren’t afraid to show their feminine side” type of dare, and he caused such a sensation last year as Queen Esther that our congregation president asked him to join the board right then and there. He wants to go as Vashti this year “’cause she’s sexier,” he says, but wait ’til I tell him she’s a huge beeyotch to boot.

So go find some Jews tonight, toss a few back; if you’re anywhere near San Francisco you’re so stoked because Matisyahu and Perry Farrell are headlining Purimpalooza at Ruby Skye, which lets you know right there that Purim is the hippest of hipster holidaze, yo.

And go in costume, even if you’re just wearing this stick figure t-shirt that distills the Purim shpiel down to the remedial basics. But be careful of that Queen with the big shoulders — she’s taken.

T-Shirt Of The Week: Give ‘Em A Hand

ethiopian hamsaConsidering the brouhaha happening behind the scenes about last week’s Shmata of the Week (apparently someone’s sensibilities were deeply offended), here’s an Ethiopian Hamsa from Bellmar, a company that uses “the Global Village as the playground for flavor,” with designs “created by the influences of the Williamsburg Hipsters of Brooklyn, Punks of the Lower Eastside, and the Jewish Ethiopians of Queens and Israel. Bellmar is a company that inspires a style for understanding and peace.”

See? Nothing offensive here. Although there’s got to be somebody who will take umbrage with the fact that it’s upside down.

Todah to the Rotem Gear Informer for the tip!

The Bookends of Celebrity Judaism

matisIn this month’s Rolling Stone, Matisyahu considers whether to accept Madonna’s invitation to her Passover seder:madonna

“I don’t know if I can go,” he says. “I’ll have to check it out with, like, multiple people, to make sure it’s kosher.”

Oh, to be a caterer at that party… please, SNL, take a break from the rap parodies and write a sketch!

Oh, and watch the “Youth” video here

Your Parents Do It, No Matter How Gross You Think It Is

susan seidelmanSusan Seidelman, the director who brought us Madonna’s film debut in Desperately Seeking Susan as well as a host of other 80’s delights, has another one of her “social comedies” in the works: A baby boomer romance set in South Florida.

Oy, you say. Who wants to see old people gettin’ it on? But Seidelman says her Boyton Beach Club taps an “underserved market” of moviegoers who want to see Sally Kellerman topless — 60 being the new 40 or somesuch.

Seidelman’s mother, Florence, is the producer, and since she lives in Boyton Beach, also served as an insider to the area’s smoking hot senior citizen dating scene. With the location, the story is bound to have a Jewish flavor, but Seidelman protests tha “not everyone is Jewish in the film,” while laughingly conceding that “Everyone is Jewish, if you know what I mean. Let’s get real here.”

The film premieres March 17.

Neverending Identity Crisis

alienWhat makes a Jew? I continually mire myself in this question; in fact, I practically bathe in it everyday.

I’m just beginning to understand what it’s not: It’s not commitment to Torah, since there are many more Jews who know very little about our religion than those who know a lot. (Of the 14 or so million Jews in the world, about a million are Orthodox.)

It’s not about culture or cuisine, since American Ashkenazic Jews differ in customs, language and culinary choices than our Sephardic/Israeli/Ugandan tribemembers. (That shakshuka dish might be tasty, but it looks like something might find splattered on the sidewalk outside a punk club.)

It’s not location, though those Upper West Siders are lucky to be able to take a tight Jewish community for granted. I can count on one hand the number of Jews in my neighborhood, and two of them came out my netheregions. But we are indeed everywhere.

It’s not just our DNA, as one reader argued, because our hair color or whether we have detached earlobes do not figure highly into our personal identities. (Or maybe you do feel a personal connection to other people with freckles or outie bellybuttons. But can you play “Detached Earlobe Geography?”)

And finally, two to three generations after WWII, none of us wants to claim that being survivors of a massive genocide is what makes us Jewish. We’ll keep saying “Never again,” but there are plenty who would like everyone to say it more quietly.

Laya at Jewlicious , who lives in Israel, has pointed out in a thoughtful, articulate post that it’s the quality of “otherness” that makes us Jews; that defining ourselves as what we’re not in relation to the rest of the world is today’s Jewish identity.

I have to agree: I feel so “other” not only in relation to non-Jews but to other Jews: Rather than comraderie with other Jewish bloggers more observant than I, I sense my own inferiority. I don’t speak Hebrew, I can name maybe 12 out of 613 mitzvot even after a big dose of ginkgo, and I love lobster. I may be a bad Jew — or maybe not bad, just lazy — but I’m still a Jew. I work hard at being a good person, a good wife, a good mother, friend and neighbor. So maybe sometimes I confuse my personal neuroses with being Jewish — but I know I’m not the only one, yo.

For lack of a better answer, this “otherness” is satisfying for a minute of two, but of course it’s not really an answer at all. Laya continues in the post to question the rise of “Jewish hipsterdom,” this weird trend that has made the smartest, strangest kids in the class the most popular all of the sudden. (Dude, Matisyahu was on “Conan O’ Brian” this week. Who could have predicted haredi chic?):

“The “Jewish Pride” that’s in vogue seems to be taking the form of embracing that otherness. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But does that really tell us much about who we actually are? … I wait with baited breath for a new paradigm of Jewish identity to emerge out of the petri dish of hipsterdom.”

I’m not really that deep, I’m just glad I’m not alone in my alienation.

An Upbeat Proposal

 sobelSo I hear the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars tore it up when they Jewish Music Festival on Saturday at Oakland’s First Congregational Church, just days after their righteous Mardi Gras return to their still-devasted hometown.

The band’s been living in San Francisco since Katrina busted up the music scene and everything else, but they’re making lots of memories here in the Bay Area:

Witnesses say towards the end of Sundays’s show drummer Dave Sobel (seen here, with Jewfro, slapping the skins at famed N’awlins hotspot Tipitina’s in 2003) abandoned his drums mid-song to place a “throne-like chair” in front the stage, grab his longtime girlfriend Jenny Bagert from the audience and place her on the throne.

While the band played on, Sobel kneeled down, pulled out a ring and and her to marry him. She must’ve said “yes,” because there was much “hugging and kissing” before he went back to his drums smiling to finish the song. Audience members then picked up Bagert in the chair and carried her around the room as Jews are wont to do on happy occasions. The audience chanted “mazel tov” as the All-Stars finished up their set.

Super cute, Dawg. But who will play at the wedding?

*Hat tip to Alix at the j.

No Oscar Coverage Here

rachel…’cause we don’t have cable out here in the hinterlands and it was raining too durn hard for me to drive anywhere else. Besides, all that red carpet finery makes me feel shlubby.

But it’s good to know our girl Rachel Weisz got hers (could there be anything more fulfilling than accepting an Oscar with a belly full of baby?) and that Jon Stewart passed muster with the “dreidel-off” joke.

For the rest of the Jewish-slanted Oscar reportage, no one else does it like JTA’s Tom Tugend.

Still awaiting Esther‘s promised post…

Messiah Real Estate

TimesOnline reports that someone representing an “international celebrity” has been cold-calling residents of Israel’s picturesque Rosh Pina, the supposed site of the Messiah’s return as told by the Kabbalists, asking if they’d like to sell their modest homes for exorbitant amounts of money.

Hmm, who could it be

So that explains why a crummy old shack can go for upwards of a half million dollars in Israel; can’t beat front row Moshiach tickets.

But how to explain the real estate insanity of Marin County, California, where people would pretty much rather bathe in spoiled milk that admit to any kind of biblical or religious allegiance? Front-row earthquake seats or what?