Pop Culture

Jerry Seinfeld, Ross Geller from Friends, Dr. Joel Fleischman from Northern Exposure, and even Krusty the Clown:  It’s worth noting that American Judaism has become a staple of the American cinematic experience, and in most cases, these characters are largely self-deprecating.  The recent series, The Goldbergs, provides yet another example of a Jewish family featured in a TV series.  Each of these (and the hundreds of other examples) provides an opportunity to reflect on how the Jewish experience in America is viewed—by both Jew and Gentile alike.  



You know “Freeze-Frame.”  You know “Centerfold.”  You may even know some of their older singles, such as “First I Look at the Purse” or “Till the Walls Come Tumblin’ Down.”  But did you know that five members of the six-man J. Geils Band were Jewish?  Indeed, lead singer Peter Wolf, keyboardist Seth Justman, bassist Danny Klein, drummer Stephen Jo Bladd, and harmonica player “Magic Dick” Salwitz were all Jews.  The band’s only Gentile was guitarist and namesake Jay Geils, who passed away last month in Groton, Massachusetts, at age 71.

The “Jewish Rolling Stones,” as they were often called in their heyday, or the “J. Geils Jews Band,” as they jokingly referred to themselves as a parody of their original name, the J. Geils Blues Band, was known for their hard-driving rhythm and blues style, their wild concerts, and their turn to pop with their album Freeze-Frame in 1981, but they also had a knack for feel-good rock n’ roll, both covers and originals.  Lesser-known “Just Can’t Wait” from their 1980 album Love Stinks is one of their originals that features a guitar solo in Geils’ (the guitarist’s) clean, high-energy style.  You’ll notice that the album’s cover art is reminiscent of simpler times as well:



According to Wikipedia, IMDb(The Internet Movie Database) “is an online database of information related to films, television programs and video games.”  According to Wikipedia, similar to Wikipedia, anyone can post or edit IMDb.  The content there can be, therefore, erroneous, creating a somewhat Kafkaesque situation. (Wikipedia says that another site is like itself, and therefore may contain tampered or false facts)

Nevertheless, they have created a list of the top 100 Jewish directors.  Considering that Jews make up just .2 percent of the world’s population, it is incredible how many blockbusters have come from Jewish directors.  Test your film acumen and take our Jewish Directors Quiz.  Then, check out the full lineup:  http://www.imdb.com/list/ls008382443/

Match the movie with the director:

Woody Allen                                                  To Be or Not to Be

Sidney Lumet                                                Casablanca

Stanley Kubrick                                             All About Eve

Michael Curtiz                                               Annie Hall

Milos Forman                                               Saving Private Ryan

Ernst Lubitsch                                              One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Fritz Lang                                                     The Shining

Steven Spielberg                                         M

Joseph L. Mankiewicz                                 12 Angry Men

High interest rates, wide bell bottoms, dyn-o-mite disco—is there much good to say about the 70s?  At least it can be said that out of that decade came the proliferation of the plucky, the bold, the pillowing pillar of hair: the Afro. Moment magazine’s Svetlana Shkolnikova chronicles(January/February 2011) the genesis and exodus of the “Jewfro” in “The Jewfro Grows Up and Out.”  First dubbed (unsuccessfully) the Isro (a mixture of Israel and Afro), the characteristic long, thick, unruly, and curly locks of many Jews came to be known as the “Jewfro.”  Embracers of the “let it be” hair philosophy include Jewish pop culture faves Dylan, Garfunkel, Streisand, and modern comic youths Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill.  Seen in the 60s as a visual symbol of literal liberation that many African-Americans felt, the Afro extended up and out as did the God-given rights and freedoms of its wearers.  Some Jews (many of whom joined blacks in the fight for their civil rights) felt the same about their own hair and freedoms.  Shuly Rubin Schwartz, a professor of Jewish history, says that Jewish women who long sought to curb curls and kink finally began to ask, “Why are we sitting under the hair dryer?”  “Thus,” Schwartz says, “the Jewfro was born.”


Don't know Judith Leiber? Google her and you'll find some really, really expensive handbags. You will also find a woman, who, now in her nineties, looks like she doesn’t quite fit with the culture of fashion and runways in which her handbags have remained a dominant part.

A Hungarian Holocaust survivor, Leiber’s story is quaintly told in this video, where this creative dynamo (her husband and she) is quietly underscored by their love of art, gardening, handbags—and one another.

http://www.leibermuseum.org/  (link to video)