Jewish Journal


November 9, 2000

Sex, Drugs and…Lots of Jews?


Sex, Drugs and...Lots of Jews?

In the introduction to his new book, Guy Oseary - the maverick Maverick music exec responsible for signing Alanis Morrissette and Prodigy onto Madonna's label (which he now runs) - writes, "I was born in Israel and moved to the United States when I was 8 years old. I can still remember how excited I was when I learned that some of my favorite musicians were Jewish - it made me feel proud of my Judaic background and where I came from."

Now others can share that same Jewish pride via Oseary's just-released paperback "Jews Who Rock" (St. Martin's Press).

Sex, Drugs and...Lots of Jews?

With a humorous forward by movie mensch Ben Stiller and an afterword by Peretz Bernstein (better known as Jane's Addiction lead singer Perry Farrell), "Jews Who Rock" entertains as it informs, with tidbits and trivia about musicians - many of them pioneers and legends - who happen to have Jewish background.Sure, the Jewishness of many in the book, such as Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, and Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, may be common knowledge by now. But Manfred Mann, Rush front man Geddy Lee, and Mick Jones of The Clash?

The book also outs a roster of younger, cutting-edge Jews which The Journal has reported on in recent months, such as Beck, Save Ferris' Monique Powell, Lenny Kravitz, and Slash (of Guns 'n' Roses). If the book has one glaring flaw, it's that more ink is spilt recapping career highlights than on information about the Jewish backgrounds from which these popular musicians derive. With figures like Sex Pistols founder Malcolm McLaren and Courtney Love, such insight might have been welcome. Nevertheless, for any Jew who's ever played the name game (i.e. every single one of you), "Jews Who Rock" is a brisk, eyebrow-raising read. Big bonus feature: reprinting the entire lyrics of Adam Sandler's "The Chanukah Song." - Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer

Say It Loud, I'm Half-Jewish and Proud!

Married authors Daniel Klein and Freke Vuijst know what it's like to experience the half-Jewish dilemma. Several years back, their half-Jewish daughter, now 21, experienced some discrimination during a trip to Israel.

"Samara had a terrible time at a kibbutz in Israel where they basically said she was not Jewish," said Klein, "despite the fact that she had a Bat Mitzvah and spoke Hebrew."

Klein, who is Jewish, and Vuijst, who is Dutch Protestant, decided to address half-Jewish issues and celebrate half-Jewish pride and culture in their new collection of tidbits, trivia and tongue-in-cheek tips, "The Half-Jewish Book" (Villard Books).

Vuijst - whose parents helped hide Jews during wartime - told The Journal that, sometimes, comments emphasizing continuity within Jewish culture not only hurts the half-Jewish offspring, but the non-Jewish parent.

"It is troublesome when you're a non-Jewish partner," said Vuijst, "and you're made to feel like you're doing something wrong, something detrimental to the Jewish culture" by marrying a Jew. However, Vuijst added that she has not experienced such resentment within the Jewish community of the small Massachusetts burg where the authors now reside.

What Klein and Vuijst could not foresee prior to researching their book was the kindred spirit half-Jews shared; a sort of unofficial network of bonding based on shared injustices and cultural ambivalence. Klein even believes that many "half-Jews are more likely to get a Jewish education with one parent than those with two Jewish parents," who might take their Judaism for granted.

"One thing that all of them spoke about is a heightened sense of duality," said Klein. And the authors feel that half-Jews are "more tolerant of other cultures and points of views," perhaps explaining the plethora of half-Jewish talent. Adam Sandler touched on this cornucopia of celebrities in "The Chanukah Song" when he put together half-Jews Paul Newman and Goldie Hawn to make one "fine-looking Jew." Now Klein and Vuijst take it one step further in their book, as they lionize the long list of famous half-Jews, such as Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz, each of whom has an African-American parent, and half-Jewish/half-Irish Protestant Daniel Day Lewis, who married half-Jewish/half-German Protestant Rebecca Miller, daughter of playwright Arthur Miller.

In fact, the half-Jewish factor has produced many of popular culture's sexiest thespians in recent years - Noah Wyle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harrison Ford, David Duchovny, Matthew Broderick and his wife Sarah Jessica Parker, and the Arquettes (including Rosanna, Patricia and David) all have half-Jewish heritage; of another generation, Anthony Newley and Joan Collins, each half-Jewish/half-WASP, and comic actor Peter Sellers was half-Jewish, half-Anglican.

Since the book's publication, Klein says that he has been flooded with e-mail from people pointing out the half-Jewish celebrities their list excluded, such as Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia. However, "The Half-Jewish Book" is not short on witty inclusions, such as Amy Irving, the half-Jew best known for portraying Jewish women in "Crossing Delancey" and "Yentl," and Tommy Pickles of "The Rugrats," the first-ever animated half-Jew, created by the now-divorced couple Arlene Klasky (Jewish) and Gabor Csupo (not). And "wannabe half-Jew" Howard Stern, who has routinely claimed to be part Italian, is outed as the full-blooded Jew he really is. Readers will also find an extensive interview in the book with author Judy Blume discussing why she made her eponymous character half-Jewish in "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret."

Perhaps shedding some light on the absurdity of prejudice, the authors rightly include the famous words of Groucho Marx, who was stopped from swimming at a restricted country club's pool because of his religion: "My son's only half Jewish - can he go in up to his waist?"- Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer

Prairie Jews

There are two ways to compose a book on the Jews of Wyoming: superficially, as in Gee whiz, Jews in cowboy hats!, or thoroughly, as in the way photo-journalist Penny Diane Wolin created "The Jews of Wyoming: Fringe of the Diaspora" (Crazy Woman Creek Press, 2000). Wolin's subjects, posed against wide-open expanses or amid the plain furnishings of prairie life, seem to embody the joy of frontier freedom and the yearning for a life with more of their people.

But the book goes well beyond portraiture. It includes documentary and oral histories of the successive waves of Jews who settled in the Western state, first as Spanish and Portugese secret Jews in flight from the Mexican colonial Inquisition, then as Western and Eastern European immigrants "spilling over" from urban centers, and now as second-homers looking for a bit of big sky. Their stories are all here, along with many of the photos - a fascinating read. For information,go to www.jewsofwyoming.org or call (707) 829-8568.

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