The Way I Was

Confessions of a Gay Jewish Streisand Ignoramus

By Jay Michaelson

Published October 08, 2012, issue of October 12, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

By way of contrast, Streisand is often mentioned in the same breath as Frank Sinatra, one of the few other cultural icons to sell so many records, act in so many big movies and also do it his way. Sinatra, too, didn’t change his name, didn’t hide his Italian-boy-from-Jersey roots. But Sinatra was a man’s man. He boozed a lot, fought a lot, bedded a lot of women, and his politics were (eventually) red-blooded Republican. I love his early crooner records, made when he was a kind of teenage idol, all dressed up to be safe for the bobby-soxers. But the mature Sinatra, the swaggering one — I respect him, but I can’t get close to him.

My lack of Streisand connection, I think, points to a gap in Jewish culture. Religious Judaism replicates its memes (to use the language of noted atheist Richard Dawkins) extremely well. In mid-September I witnessed my nephew ascending the bimah to watch the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. You can’t fake that kind of cultural-religious-emotional immersion. It’s in his kishkes now, and his Yiddishkeit is there to stay.

But when it comes to cultural Judaism — let alone queer cultural Judaism — we’re back to Crisp: wholesale ignorance, and retail education only if you’re motivated enough to find your own way. I wish we could have cultural Jewish bar mitzvahs along with the religious ones, plus additional celebrations for lesbian and gay kids, for Sephardim, for any Jews who otherwise might not know their own history. Imagine the gifts! Instead of the Kiddush cup from the Men’s Club, there might be a Mel Brooks DVD collection, or maybe Sid Caesar — plus Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Woody Allen. And instead of the candlesticks? Well, of course: a whole shelf of Barbra.

Jay Michaelson is a contributing editor of the Forward. He is the author of “God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality” (Beacon Press, 2012).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.