In Our Identity-Obsessed Age, Being Jewish Somehow Doesn’t Rate

Last week, the stand-up comedian and actor Richard Belzer died at the age of seventy-eight. In his comedy and television appearances, Belzer made frequent mention of his Jewish identity—once even performing a ribald Yiddish parody song from the 1940s on The Late Show with David Letterman. The musician Paul Shaffer, his collaborator in that particular routine, has also touchingly recounted Belzer accompanying him to synagogue when he, Shaffer, was saying kaddish for his father. Eddie Portnoy documents Belzer’s interest in Jewish matters, and notes something peculiar about the way his death has been covered, given especially the current fixation on the “representation” of minorities:

[I]t’s been strange to read obit after obit in outlets like the New York Times, the Guardian and the Hollywood Reporter, among others, that didn’t bother to mention that Belzer was Jewish-—even when, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency pointed out, the character for which he was best known, Detective John Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, identified [explicitly] as Jewish.

Moreover, according to Paul Shaffer, he was a proud [Jew]. . . . To call Burt Bacharach an “American composer” or Barbara Walters a “pioneering woman newscaster” is accurate, but misses a significant ethno-cultural aspect of these people, one that was integrally responsible for making them who they are and influencing their creative choices.

One case in point is an excellent book by Kliph Nesteroff that appeared in 2015 called The Comedians, which richly details the history of stand-up comedy in America. Assiduously researched, it’s become the definitive work on the topic. The book, however, deracinates the history of the field. From reading it, you would never know that 20th-century American comedy was largely a Jewish enterprise. In fact, you’d hardly know that Jews were involved at all.

Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: American Jewry, Comedy, Jewish humor, Yiddish

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University