Friday, December 12, 2008

Hannukah Albums aren't so much Jewish.. Jew-ish.
If we build on Marx's perception, in his essay "On the Jewish Question," that the supposedly secular State in Christian society is deeply Christian, we can begin to understand what Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz has dubbed "Christianism." .... Kaye/Kantrowitz says "In the U.S., Christian, like white, is an unmarked category in need of marking. Christianness, a majority, dominant culture, is not only about religious practice and belief, any more than Jewishness is. As racism names the system that normalizes, honors and rewards whiteness, we need a word for what normalizes, honors and rewards Christianity," an invisible, taken-for-granted system of domination that affects Muslims and other non-Christians as well as Jews (and, one might add, atheists and other secular people regardless of origin).
This is where most non-Zionist anti-antisemitism today seems to get bogged down, though. They can't actually acknowledge the degree to which Jews are sidelined by the dominant culture, because, it seems to me, they can't understand how some Jews, Jews for whom Jewishness apart from Judaism is an important part of our identity, relate to a secular Christianist society.

Sometimes in discussions with Jews who are less solidly pro-Israel (but neither completely stupid about antisemitism nor uninterested in a Jewish identity), I find they emphasize a view that Jewishness is "a lot more than Israel." This is, of course, true; but it's typically a non-sequitor, as it doesn't address anything in particular about Israel or Zionism, the topics at hand when such pronouncements are made. Such Jews only ever seem to me to emphasize religious aspects, failing to really articulate anything about what Jewishness is apart from Judaism. It's as if all secularism were equivalent, and secular Jews were merely transitioning from Jewish to secular. In doing so they minimize my Jewishness, othering Jews like me. My identity, then, isn't complicated and intersectional, but interstitial and queer. Jewishness is not only about religious practice and belief, any more than Christianness is.

There are basically two approaches to choose from within American culture: multiculturalism or assimilation. For Jews, we've failed miserably at both. Assimilation (public secularism, though not as radical as in France) has meant denying Jewishness and closeting ourselves. Thanks to Julie for the following video. As is written at Heeb
The effect of the clip strangely exposes the rhythms and timing of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld’s writing as straight-up Jewish humor.
But people other than Jews often don't realize quite how Jewish Seinfeld can be (as many straight people never realized how gay Hollywood could be).

Multicultural approaches to Judaism amount to pushing Hannukah albums. Yeah, I'm sure I'm going to buy Songs in the Key of Hanukkah. Y-Love, Yasmin Levy, Idan Raichel, produced by Erran Baron Cohen. Sounds pretty awesome as a album.

And perhaps an important response to this, sad but true, feeling:

But, even though Hannukah isn't that important in Judaism, it was the only Jewish holiday I grew up with any knowledge of. It's the only Jewish holiday most Americans have any idea of. Perhaps the only one they've heard of. Pushing Hannukah albums inflates the importance of the holiday because of a coincidence of calendars. It's entirely about being embedded in a Christianist society.

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