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Understanding Judaism Through Pop Culture

It’s Hanukkah again, and that means the standard round of jokes made by non-Jews and Jews alike that never really come close to explaining anything about the holiday or elucidating why it is people find Hanukkah funny. But man, do they ever. Hanukkah is to comedy what Tom Cruise is to acting. It’s so ingrained and ever present, but no one knows why. And it rarely leads to entertainment.

The problem, of course, is that few people take the time to learn about Judaism. People know more about Scientology than Judaism, despite the fact Judaism has no spacemen and has a few thousand years on L. Ron’s nutty clubhouse. So how does one learn about Judaism? You could read their handbook, the Torah, or maybe sit down to kibbitz with a Rabbi over some kosher ham sandwiches, but that seems time consuming and what if it turns out Jews really are evil and out to control the world? Better to learn from the safety of your own home and what better way than to absorb the wealth of knowledge pop culture has to offer? You may not know this but the entertainment industry actually has Jews in it. And they do entertaining things? Let’s look!

Richard Lewis , Do you remember Richard Lewis? He’s like your grandmother if she never combed her hair and was OCD about sex. Lewis has parlayed being a Jew into an actual source of revenue, making him the Jewish Dalai Lama. Probably. Did that make sense? Not really. Neither does Lewis’ 20 years of being neurotic as an act that has spread across the world of stand up, film and television.

What he Teaches Us About Judaism: In his appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm and various late night talk shows, Lewis has confirmed that Jews have lots of headaches.

Adam Sandler , A long time ago, Adam Sandler was the funny guy on Saturday Night Live. Then he was the funny guy in movies. Then he was the guy who used to be funny but now stars in Spanglish. Now he’s the guy who sang the Hanukkah song who we desperately hope will make a sequel to Happy Gilmore and not make another movie with Paul Blart. Dude, no one likes Paul Blart. No offense, I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but come on. Come on!

That said, Sandler also made one whole cartoon train wreck of a movie and devoted it to Hanukkah, capitalizing on the success of a song that was made famous on SNL and one of his albums, the Hanukkah Song. Because there are lots of Christmas carols, but very few Hanukkah ones.

What he Teaches us About Judaism: Sandler rarely falls back on his Jewishness for laughs, but when he does it is in song form. The Jews are a musical people.

The Dreidel Song , If you’re listening to a song that’s clearly Jewish, and it’s not the Hanukkah song, then it’s probably the Dreidel song, made famous on South Park and, presumably, Jewish homes. A dreidel is a little top that is actually used in a game. It’s basically a tool for amusing childhood Jew gambling. Everyone puts a game piece into the pot, they spin the dreidel and, depending on what Mr. Dreidel says, they add more pieces or they win them. There’s even a competitive dreidel league. It’s the MLD (Major League Dreidel). But of course none of us knew that, because the Dreidel song seems to imply Hanukkah is just 8 days of kids playing with one of the most rudimentary toys in existence in front of a menorah. Maybe with latkes handy. A bagel at the very least.

What it Teaches us About Judaism: The Japanese are famous for video games, America has baseball, Scots have golf and the Jews have spinning chunks. Jews are entertained by simplicity.

Golem , Is it a bit of a stretch to call the golem pop culture? Yes and no. No, in that monsters are very chic and have been so for years and yes in that it is. It so is. Still, it’s worth knowing a little about Judaism’s only contribution to the world of monsters, unless Bigfoot is out there wearing a yarmulke.

The Golem is a being made of clay or mud. You could probably make one from pop bottles or gum and no one would fault you for it, though. From there, stories say you could write a word on the golem’s forehead, or on a scrap of paper and put it in the golem’s mouth, and it’d be like your little soulless butler. Cool! Mostly people used it to destroy enemies though, as is the end result of all butlers.

What it Teaches Us About Judaism: Well, it’s a monster that follows commands to the letter and will, without fail, do something you never intended that probably ends in death. Jews like to gamble.

Seinfeld/Larry David , Today’s ultra Jews take their queues from the upper echelons of the Hollywood elite, and few Jews have enjoyed more success in the entertainment world than Jerry Seinfeld and his cohort Larry David. Seinfeld’s show is on TV like 60 hours a day. That only makes sense on foreign TVs.

Seinfeld’s show was about nothing while David’s show is about how he can screw things up in an irrational way for 20 minutes then have all those screw ups come together for one big screw up of a closer in the last couple of minutes. It’s funny.

What They Teach Us About Judaism: Jews don’t give a shit.

Woody Allen – One of the most famous Jews in all of New York, which is like Israel but with better pizza, Allen has been making films for going on 5 decades now. That’s impressive. Unfortunately, most of his movies are the same movie about a neurotic New York Jew who inexplicably has sex with women, but some people seem to like that.

Woody Allen is the source of the neurotic Jew motif that is sort of the same shtick Richard Lewis uses. Unlike Richard Lewis, Woody Allen is a goblin who married his step daughter.

What he Teaches us About Judaism: Jews live in New York

One Response to "Understanding Judaism Through Pop Culture"

  1. Varolokkur says:

    Taco, Taco, Taco, gather ye rosebuds while ye may, time is still a’ flying. Translation; you’re getting old!