The Great Schlep: Why Do Jews Demean Jews?

The Great Schlep video is getting a lot of publicity and has been seen by over two million viewers.   Produced by a group called the Jewish Council for Education and Research, which also runs a website called JewsVote.org, the video stars comedienne Sarah Silverman and aims to recruit young Jews to visit their grandparents in Florida to convince them, on pain of abandonment by their grandchildren, to vote for Barack Obama.

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According to the New York Times, in the video Silverman “urges young Jews to encourage any grandparents who live in Florida to vote for Mr. Obama and to withhold visits to their bubbes (grandmas) and zaides (grandpas) if they don’t comply. ‘The people that vote there are the elderly Jews, and they’re not voting Obama because his name is scary,’ Ms. Silverman said in a telephone interview. ‘But who has more power with them than their grandchildren?’”

I’m a fervent supporter of Barack Obama, so I’m happy with just about anything that gets people to vote for him, especially in Florida, a crucial swing state.

But something is very wrong with the Jews who made this obnoxious, condescending, and pathetically self-debasing video, as well as the Jews who think that it is clever or funny.

After watching The Great Schlep, I had these questions:

Why do Jews enjoy demeaning themselves and their culture?

Why do they insist on presenting themselves to the world as cartoons and caricatures?

Why do these people think that any Yiddish word is an occasion for a laughter?

Yiddish was the language of millions of European Jews who were killed in the Holocaust.  It is a nearly dead language because nearly all of the people who spoke it were murdered.  It is not intrinsically funny, and it not a series of funny noises.

Jewish Council for Education and Research co-founder, Ari Wallach, explained that the in the video Silverman takes the role of court-jester, telling unpopular truths to the king. But it is not simply Silverman who is positioned as a court-jester here, but the Jewish people in America.

But why would Jews want America to see them as clowns?

Even aside from its degrading caricature of Jewishness, the premise of the video is wrong.

The JewsVote website asserts that “Jews overwhelmingly choose the more progressive candidate [in presidential elections]. Between 1924 and 2004, Jews have given their vote to the more progressive candidates at an average rate of 76 percent. In fact, none of the more conservative candidates has ever mustered more than 40 percent of the Jewish vote, while more than half received less than 20 percent. Given this history, why is Barack Obama hovering at 60 percent of the Jewish vote, according to three separate polls? Is this all the product of a highly effective rumor campaign, spread through Jewish networks often by well-meaning individuals concerned that they information they received was true? Or is there something more?  The goal of JewsVote.org is to find out what is unsettling so many people in our community, those friends and family who have typically supported the more progressive candidate for president, and to convey to them why we are so excited about the possibility of an Obama presidency.”

They don’t cite the polls they allegedly rely on to show Obama “hoving at 60 percent of the Jewish vote,” or explain whether the polls were taken during or after the Democratic primaries.  In any case, I don’t believe that Obama’s level of support among Jews is very different from that which other Democratic candidates have received.

Sarah Silverman explained on the Keith Olbermann show that “They – the people that vote there [in Florida ] are the old Jews. They make up, really, just a small percentage of Florida , but they vote. … And – and they’re not going to vote for Obama, because his name is scary to them, old fears that may not be relevant anymore. And they think he’s, you know, not pro-Israel and all this crap. So there’s a lot of misinformation going on around there. But the good news is probably 100 percent, if you round up, of their grandkids love Obama.”

I have no idea where Silverman or VoteJews got the offensive and demonstrably false idea that the “old Jews” in Florida are hostile to Obama because of his middle name or – even more absurdly — that they need instruction in politics from their grandchildren.

These are people who are immigrants or the children of immigrants, who fought for unions and workers’ rights, who supported and fought for the civil rights movement, who still read more than either their children or their grandchildren, and who have never abandoned the humanitarian ideals and principles of the Democratic Party.

If any one thing has solidified Jewish support for Barack Obama, in Florida and elsewhere, it is John McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate.  JewsVote, like the McCain campaign, fails to recognize that Jews in America find real-life, witch-hunting, speaking-in-tongues, Jews for Jesus supporting fundamentalist Christians like Sarah Palin far scarier than phantom Moslems.

In the video, Sarah Silverman sits on a couch between a young Black man and an elderly Jewish woman, while she subjects both of them to supposedly funny racial stereotypes.  Eventually, the Black man has enough of the stereotypes and slurs, stops laughing and playing along, and walks out.

I wish the Jews had that much dignity.

UPDATE:

A Gallup.com article stating tha Jews favor Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin by more than 3 to 1, 74% to 22% also noted that:

“Recent support for Obama is a bit higher among older Jews than among Jews younger than 55. According to combined Gallup Poll Daily tracking data from Sept. 1 through Oct. 21, an average of 74% of Jews aged 55 and older supported Obama for president across this period, compared with about two-thirds of younger Jews. The slightly more pro-McCain orientation of the youngest category of Jewish voters (those 18 to 34) could be related to the fact that they are more apt than older Jewish voters to consider themselves political conservatives (29% vs. 16%).”

So much for the stupid idea behind The Great Schlep that older Jews are conservative or that Sarah Silverman and her army of youngsters are need to teach their grandparents progessive politics.

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One response to “The Great Schlep: Why Do Jews Demean Jews?

  1. While I certainly understand your position on Silverman’s video, I must respectfully disagree with that position, and attempt to argue the opposition.

    The irreverent sense of humor is nothing new to the American Jew. Mel Brooks has been exploiting stereotypes and Yiddish for quite some time. And humor has always been a way to deal with tragedy.

    Sarah Silverman was not seriously suggesting that young Jews stop visiting their grand-parents, but was rather making a real point that there is a generational disconnect between the two groups and that, who better to explain the enthusiasm and dare-I-say hope that Obama brings to the table, then that younger generation.

    It’s not that we don’t trust our grand-parents (those of us fortunate enough to still have them here with us), it’s that, as a generation, they don’t have the same fluency of access to other sources of information.

    Simply put, when they receive calls or fliers from GOP aligned PACs making erroneous claims of Obama’s religion or political stances, they often aren’t able to refute these statements as easily.

    Finally, young Jews know all about the holocaust, we take it seriously but absolutely refuse to have our identities shaped by death and destruction, preferring instead to create new life out of the ashes of our murdered people.

    This new life is embodied in publications like Heeb, Jewlicious.com and Thestloujew.com.

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