Get Sober About Jewish Addiction

jssThere’s this pervasive myth among our own tribe and the world at large that Jews don’t drink. And if they do, but they don’t become alcoholics. And if they’re alcoholics, they keep it really, really quiet – because everyone knows Jews don’t drink.

It’s total nonsense, of course: Anyone who’s ever attended a ZBT fraternity party or a Purim festival in Savannah knows that not only do Jews drink, they can slam beer bongs to put the Irish to shame. And what about drugs? Half the Jewish kids I knew in college had serious cocaine problems. One friend who I’ve since lost track of had such significant meth issues that he sought out drugs while on a weekend furlough from Beit T’Shuvah – a Jewish rehab center. And you over there popping the Percoset like gum balls – hello? This farkokte idea that Jews are too smart to be addicts, or that we don’t have the alcoholism gene (which some of us may not, but there hasn’t been a gene discovered for food, drug, gambling and other substance abuse, has there?) has got to stop.

The JACS program (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others) has done an outstanding job of bringing the reality of Jewish addiction to light and providing recovery support since 1980, but there’s still this extra-thick layer of shame and guilt, especially for Jewish women.

JACS has recently published Jewish Sisters In Sobriety, a collection of personal stories and resources that is the first of its kind – a way to validate Jewish women in recovery as well as provide information for those who haven’t taken the first step. (Speaking of steps, part of the challenge for Jews seeking solace in traditional 12-step programs is that so many AA, Al-Anon, NA and other meetings are held in churches – an issue addressed in the book.)

These women’s stories pierced my heart – the child of Holocaust survivors re-creating the misery of her childhood through drug use, the mother snorting coke on the subway in front of her husband and son, the abandoned daughter seeking out relationships with alcoholics – and reading about such suffering experienced by the women and caused to their families only proves how necessary these stories be shared.

Could a woman you know benefit from Jewish Sisters In Sobriety? Buy it for her here.

Semantics, Shemantics: A Vagina Monologue

douchbagWith all the talk about vaginas lately, I’ve been wondering about the ubiquity of the term “douchebag.” It seems that it’s currently the favored perjorative to describe a person with negative qualties, “specifically arrogance and malice,” according to Wikipedia; a gentler, less-censorable version of “a**hole,” if you will. I’ve finally gotten used to hearing men who are not in prison call each other “bitch,” but could there be something vaguely sexist about speaking in a derogatory way about a tool used to wash the sacred vajayjay?

What I find interesting about this is that most of the people I hear using “douchebag” on a regular basis have no idea what a douchebag actually is – they know that it’s vaguely associated with cleansing the lady parts, but no one I interviewed had actually ever seen one with his/her own eyes (if shouting across a crowded bar “Hey, douchebag, do you even know what a douchebag even is?” can be construed as an interview.)

I dimly remember a yellow balloony thing with a hose attached that lived under the sink in my mother’s bathroom in my very early years, but it could have been part of the 70s plumbing. Certainly all of us of a certain age recall those Massengill commericials featuring a woman frolicking through a field of flowers touting relief from that “not so fresh feeling,” but I’m pretty sure that modern product doesn’t contain an actual BAG. And while you can still buy disposable douches, it is fairly impossible to buy a douchebag (although it’s easy to find out what only douchebags buy.)

And who douches, anyway? Research shows that women who douche run a higher risk of vaginal irritation and infection, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest women steer clear of the practice altogether – relegating douching to the category of things women thought were good for them but later proved otherwise, such as foot-binding, Phen-Fen and Dr. Phil.

So I guess in that context, “douchebag” makes perfect feminist sense.

And “prostate catheter” really doesn’t have the same ring.

The KKK? Why Not?!

Thanks to dear reader Kelly for sending along this vid from Australian guerrilla filmmaker John Safran (he cops to being blatant rip-off of Michael Moore) who’s one funny – and brave – Jew. His covert interview with the Ku Klux Klan is not so much enlightening (the Grand Dragon confirms that the KKK is indeed a “discriminatory organization” and its members are “rascists and bigots”) but it is pretty hilarious.

The Yenta’s inspired to wage a similar attempt at a certain private men’s club in historic Savannah – which doesn’t allow women or Jews. Not that I’d ever want to be a member; I’d just like to fart on their leather chairs.

Word To Your Mutha

fleursMother’s Day isn’t until May 12, but it’s not too early to start thinking about it.

Actually, do better than just think about it because I know you: You’ll think about all the way until that Sunday morning and realize “oops!” you forgot to actually do something and the woman who carried you, birthed you, wiped your tushy and tolerated your fresh mouth will get a lame grocery-store card and limp flowers. Or worse yet, if she’s out of town – a pathetic phone call that evening.

So here, make yourself look like a grateful child and log onto Jewish Women International’s Mother’s Day Flower Project right this minute. For each $25 donation, JWI will send an honoree a perfectly-timed
gorgeous card
by Israeli artist Betty Rubinstein as well as send a beautiful bouquet of flowers to one of 150 battered women’s shelter’s around the country. You can even partner with JWI and get $5 back for every $25 donation for your synagogue or Hillel.

Planning ahead and giving tzedakeh at the same time? That’s the kind of multi-tasking your mother would kvell over!

Something Fishy’s Going On…

Here’s a little something to choke on: America loves Jews.

WTF? you say. No way – Everyone hates us; always have and always will. Purim. Passover. Chanukah. Read the Torah, shmendrick. The only people who don’t are just trying to bring on Armageddon.

But here’s the Yenta to tell you it’s not true! Even if we don’t count the titanic rise (and plateau?) of Jewish hipsterism, there’s still some weird things going on the world that your bubbe wouldn’t believe:

We’ve already discussed China’s recent (and wildly misinformed) fascination with all things Jewish. The Jews of France have stopped leaving in droves since their kinda-maybe Jewish president took office (also known as “The Sarkozy Effect.”) Even POLAND – the the very capital of modern Jew-hating – is having an enormous revival of Jewish culture in spite of the fact that hardly any Jews live there (we don’t need to go into why that is, do we?)

Here’s the real kicker: In a 2006 Gallup poll, a sample of folks in the U.S. were asked to rate how they perceived various religious groups, ranging from positive to negative. Not only did 58% feel positively about Jews, but 37% were neutral! Imagine that – 37% had absolutely no opinion whatsoever about Jews! This is in the era of Madonna, airstrikes and Borat and still we’re rated above Methodists? (In case you’re curious, Scientology was viewed most negatively, and this was before Tom Cruise’s creepy video hit the interwebs.)

The poll was published as part of World Jewish Digest article called “Taking ‘Yes’ For an Answer” by Mark Penn and Kinney Zalesne, authors of the MICROTRENDS: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes, and apparently, “Pro-Semitism” is a damn strong microtrend, one that might actually bring disenfranchised Jews back into the fold:

The idea that non-Jews are drawn to Jewish living, independent of outreach efforts on anyone’s part, suggests that there may be yet another way that Judaism can be successfully impressed upon Jews. Such an approach goes beyond exposure to Judaism as a “birthright,” in which young people are exposed to the joys of Jewish belonging. And it goes beyond its opposite – call it “birth responsibility” – in which young people are instructed about their obligations to the community. Instead, the premise is that regardless of your background, Judaism is a system of living and learning so rich that once you engage it, you will want to dive in deeper and deeper.

Hmm, so ultimately, this acceptance in the world at large means we might have to accept ourselves – and be accountable to heritage, history and the ethics of our ancestors. Giving up our victimhood means we’ll have to work harder at being Jewish – especially since non-Jews are getter better at it than we are.

But don’t worry, it’ll take China ages to catch up.

*Yarmulke tip to Reb Belzer, who reminds us that co-author Kinney Zalesne, the sister of a Mickve Israel member, will be one of the speakers during the congregation’s fabulous 275th anniversary celebrations July 11-13 in Savannah. I can’t wait!