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Adam Sandler and the Price of Jewish Cool

Nov. 24 2015

The Jewish comedian Adam Sandler recently performed an updated version of his 1994 “Hanukkah Song.” For Andrew Silow-Carroll, the song epitomizes the current American environment, in which being Jewish has a certain cachet (as long as one doesn’t express strong support for Israel). But being cool isn’t always a good thing:

[The] “Hanukkah Song” . . . is essentially a list of Jewish celebrities, from Dinah Shore and William Shatner to Goldie Hawn and Henry Winkler. The song is an unabashed expression of Jewish pride, going so far as to “out” celebrities who tended not to have advertised their Jewishness. It makes Jewish ethnicity “cool” by identifying it with secular cultural heroes. . . . It rejects the idea that Judaism is a stigma, or a burden, or the very thing that separates you from the mainstream.

At the same time, I worry that the song speaks for generations for whom Judaism may not be a stigma nor a burden but may not be very distinctive, either. Sandler’s celebrities are cool because they happen to be Jewish, not because they represent a particular Jewish way of being in the world. . . .

[I]n some ways the “Hanukkah Song” is the Hanukkah of songs. Hanukkah’s integrity as a Jewish holy period has been overshadowed by its role as a consolation prize to Jews left out of the Christmas hoopla. Hanukkah kitsch affirms Jewishness in the mainstream—see the blue and silver decorations right next to the green and red ones!—without conveying much sense of what we’re celebrating or why. Pride is a wonderful thing—but pride without meaning or responsibility is a hollow sort of cool.

Read more at New Jersey Jewish News

More about: American Jewry, Celebrity, Comedy, Hanukkah, Religion & Holidays

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy