What makes being Jewish cool? Since high school, when people learned I was Jewish they would exclaim, “Wow that is so cool!” Or even just the other night, one of my friends came over to celebrate Chanukah because she had never celebrated it before and she wishes she could be Jewish for eight nights. Now, it has gotten to the point where people will identify me as Jewish even though I am more of a secular Jew and not a practicing Jew. For my friends who read this and think.. “oh no.. is she referring to me?” I do not mind. I suppose it is nice to stand out in this way… Well at least I would rather people label me as “Jew” rather than something less complimentary. (I’ll leave that to your imagination.) In fact, other people’s interest in my being Jewish has actually made me more interested in exploring my background and religion.
Now, back to the original question, what makes being Jewish cool? Well, ultimately I could not find a real answer to this question. There is something different about being Jewish in the present day rather than in the 1940s during the time of the Holocaust (well… clearly). Jews wanted to assimilate and later, became afraid to display their religion. Now people literally tattoo their Judaism on their skin. A new pride has swept in and what some refer to as “New Jews.” Those who are leading the movement are surprisingly varied in background. There are “rabbis, religious educators, people who know their stuff. But they’re not interested in foisting labels on people — like the denominational terms Reform, Conservative or Orthodox — nor do they want to perpetuate the pressures that come with fitting into religious, political and social mold” (Ravitz). Others lead this movement in a way that has become viral in popular culture. In 2010, The Maccabeats released a music video for their song “Candlelight,” which parodied Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.” The idea is “by making Judaism and its rituals more accessible and meaningful, ‘Emergent Jews,’ as they’re also often referred to, hope they can inspire a long-lasting connection to their faith” (Ravitz). Somewhere along the way “making Judaism… accessible” clung to popular culture.
Of course the talented and entertaining Jewish actors cannot be forgotten. Natalie Portman, Dianna Agron, Andrew Garfield, Jonah Hill, Daniel Radcliffe, Adam Sandler, James Franco, definitely help make Judaism cool. I would think that by knowing these actors are Jewish give Jews a way to connect to Hollywood and identify themselves. Personally I thought it was great when I found out Natalie Portman was Jewish. Unconsciously, I was putting a famous name to being Jewish and at the same time thinking that being famous is cool. Ergo, being Jewish is cool. Basic logic! I assume I am not the only person with a similar thought process (Jewish or non-Jewish).
Being Jewish is cool because Jews want you to know that more and more Jews think it is cool. I have become proud to be Jewish. I will probably never develop a taste for He-Brew Beer (at least until I am 21… of course), but pass those potato latkes!
Ravitz, Jessica. “‘New Jews’ Stake Claim to Faith, Culture – CNN.com.” CNN.com. Turner Broadcasting System, 30 Oct. 2009. Web. 22 Dec. 2011.
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