This fall, eight guest editors are helping to shape the Forward Forum by commissioning opinion pieces. This week, it’s Sam Apple, editor-in-chief and publisher of The Faster Times, an online “new type of newspaper for a new type of world.” He is also the author of two books, “Schlepping Through the Alps” and “American Parent.”
The sound of Hasidic music blasting from tinny speakers can inspire dread in the hearts of some Jews. The tune portends contact with men straight out of Shalom Aleichem’s shtetl. With their beards and peyes, their black suits and beseeching eyes, these merry soldiers in the Rebbe’s religious army will inevitably approach and deliver a challenge disguised as a question: Are you Jewish?
‘Don’t be a shvitzer,” said the mother to her son as he left to join the IDF. This is but one of the wonderful bits of motherly advice in “Eskimo Limon,” the 1978 Israeli cult classic. “Eskimo Limon” is among the many hilarious Israeli movies from the ’60s and ’70s known as “Bourekas films”: tawdry, cheaply made and rife with political incorrectness and cleavage shots. In other words, kids might actually look forward to learning Hebrew on Sunday mornings if Bourekas films made up the core of the curriculum.
Picture yourself on a Tel Aviv beach: A parade of tanned, toned Israelis marching past like some alternative half-nude army, flashing butt cheeks in string bikinis as you revel in a paradise of sand, surf and Semitic good looks.
We don’t have to wait for the 2010 Census results to know our numbers aren’t good. Will the Jews still be 2.2% of the U.S. population? Maybe 2.1%? Or 1.9%? I was just in Israel and saw dozens of Birthright trips, but at best, they only slow down the decline in our numbers. Judaism needs new blood, new punims topped with crocheted kippot. Forget the traditional ban on proselytizing. That was pre-Internet, a time of less competition. It’s 5771. We need an ad campaign.
The trouble with temptation is that it’s so damn tempting. This, it seems, is a problem when it comes to keeping Jews in the fold. But perhaps instead of seeking to steep young Jews exclusively in tradition, we should embrace the horrors of gentile ways.