It’s been a very busy few weeks, and I apologize for the lapse between entries. My thoughts have been dominated by concern about situational evil and garment manufacturing, situational evil and our racist legal system, situational evil and the continued secondary status of women in our society. I took a little time out from this to write some midrash and contemplate the role of Process Theology in Judaism. By comparison, the following thoughts seem slight.
Somehow, I ended up getting a random item in my Facebook feed about the following BuzzFeed list: The Official Ranking of the 51 Hottest Jewish Men in Hollywood. I honestly cannot explain why I clicked. From Adam Sandler (yuck) to Adam Brody (of whom, I am slightly embarrassed to admit, I have never heard), Lauren Yapalater (whoever she is) lists numerous theoretically gorgeous guys of Jewish parentage. (A few days later, I noticed that the Forward felt the need to add to the list.)
Oddly, as I chuckled at the rather odd mix of celebrities (really, can Shia La Bouf actually exist in the same realm as Daniel Day Louis?), I also watched myself feeling strangely repelled by the list. It made me think about a book I recently put on my “to-read” list, Shaul Magid’s “American Post-Judaism: Identity and Renewal in a Postethnic Society.” (Since I haven’t yet read the book, I’m not equipped yet to discuss its thesis. If you’d like to read the reviews which prompted my interest in the book, check out Ha’aretz’s review or the piece on it in The Daily Beast.) The idea of a “Postethnic” Judaism in America fascinates me. I was brought up with a sense of Jewish pride that made me feel connected to every Jew in the world, joyful for every Jew’s achievements, disappointed for every Jew’s public failings. In college, I remember how my housemate taught me the phrase “MOT”–Member of the Tribe–and how it resonated with me, even as I found it somehow crass.
Can ethnic pride be innocent, without cultural baggage?
Now, I find myself in similar territory, but as a slightly different person. Can ethnic pride be innocent, without cultural baggage? As a college student, I probably would have been totally delighted by the ethnic pride in such a list. Today, I wonder why someone finds it necessary to list publicly Jewish celebrities they find attractive. Each hypothesis makes me uncomfortable. (1) Stereotypes of nebbishy Jewish men persist. Is it important to assert that Jewish men can be sexy? (2) A sense of Jewish superiority is as vital to some people today as it was to my grandfather, for whom it served as a defense against the anti-Semitism he experienced during his youth. (3) Attachment to the public faces of Judaism is all that some people have of a Jewish identity.
What do you think of the 51 Hottest Jewish Men list?