OyChicago blog

A kvetch about kitsch

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01/31/2012

Is enough enough yet?

We have seen booksmoviessongs (this one's NSFW, but it was the first one that came up)… magazinesT-shirtspuppets… even plays.

There is nothing wrong with kitsch. In spoonfuls of sugar. It's when kitsch becomes the meal that I have an issue. It's when Judaism itself is so medicinal it takes, well, this to get it down.

Jewish kitsch has been around for a very, very, very long time. And as you can see by these links, it has mostly been expressed by music.

But today, you can go through the entire year of Jewish holidays, including Shabbat, with kitsch. You can celebrate every part of the Jewish life-cycle with kitsch. It can even be there before a Jewish life has begun (these last two are seriously NSFW).

So when I see that certain Jews relate to their faith, tradition, and people primarily through kitsch, parody, and pop culture, I worry. I worry that some people are using joking-about-Judaism as their main way of identifying as Jewish. As being Jewish.

There is nothing wrong with a spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down. The problem is when you see certain things as "medicine" when they are really the "sugar."

Judaism is not medicine. It is not an unappealing-but-necessary thing. I don't "take" Judaism because I'm sick and it will help me get better. It's not even an apple to help me keep the doctor away.

Judaism is not the medicineit's the sugar. I don't feel that I'm put-upon because have to be Jewish. I'm lucky because I get to be Jewish.

I get to have a holiday almost every month, plus one every week. I get to have a role in of one of the longest-running shows in human existence. I get to claim the Torah. I get to claim several wonderful languages and musics and literary traditions and cuisines and yes, comedians. Plus a very special slice of the Earth that everybody else wants, just because we said it was special.

As I said, there is nothing wrong with poking fun at Judaism. We Jews have a very good sense of humor about ourselves. In fact, we're sorta famous for it.

But when we predominantly see Judaism through the lenses of humor and parody, it becomes hard to take it seriously at all. And when Jewish jokes become Judaism, I'm afraid that the joke will be on us.

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