My favorite aspect of the Borat character is his antisemitism. Naturally, my appreciation of this relies on the knowledge that Sacha Baron Cohen is Jewish. And the more Jewish I feel, the more I feel at liberty to mock Jewishness. Like Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce, Sacha Baron Cohen is allowed to approach antisemitism in ways we wouldn’t tolerate from a non-Jew.

The other day, I was amazed to hear the British headmaster of the elite London boys school where Baron Cohen was a student, boasting on NPR about the school’s large population of “Jewish Boys.” Lord Jesus! In 2006, a sophisticated Brit can still regard “Jewish” as a special category! No wonder Sacha Baron Cohen is so savage about this subject!

I have a friend who has learned to try not to use the word “Jewish” to describe former girlfriends. He knows I will scream “Jewish?!?” and he knows where that leads.

A week after seeing the Borat movie, I attended a bar mitzvah, only the second one I’ve ever been to. It was full of ritual and tradition that I can only describe as lovely and moving. But the spirit of Borat hovered over the proceedings. Nothing could shake my sense of seeing Jews as an outsider, even as I felt a rare connection to my ancestors.

Jews! They are just so Jewish! My grandma used to stuff her handbag with packets of saltine crackers whenever we went out to eat. If she heard that someone was sick, she couldn’t get enough details. She would always ask, “What is the doctor’s name?” meaning “Is he Jewish?”

At the bar mitzvah, the Rabbi described how the torah he was using was hundreds of years old, and had been preserved by the Nazis to use in a museum of Jewish Icons. Silly Nazis! This story and all the biblical crap about Moses and Abraham helped to remind me how much the world hates Jews. And that, of course, made me that much happier about being Jewish.

As long as some upper class British guy is still commending his school for accepting “Jewish Boys,” Borat will have a mission to accomplish. Thank god the Jews run Hollywood and the media!


*originally posted in 2006

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6 Responses to Jews!

  1. Mary says:

    You are always so interesting.

  2. David Duff says:

    It might be that the Headmaster simply wanted to emphasise to his more local clientele that the school welcomed Jewish boys because north London is a heavily Jewish area. I mean, it’s not called ‘Golders Green’ for nothing, my life already!

    Alas, the Jews will always be unpopular simply because, averaged across the whole, they’re more intelligent than the rest of us.

  3. Lisamaree says:

    If it wasn’t for Jews then America would have no irony.

  4. ali says:

    Like you, I am in love with old traditions and art (most is religious). I think I told you a story once about running away to Catholic boarding school for a year in HS (even though I am not Catholic). Along the same lines – Judaism holds a special place in my heart because my last name is Abraham.

    Whenever my family moved to a new spot in the world (which was every 2-3 years) – and I didn’t quite understand this at the time – but we would always be introduced to its Jewish community by the company my dad worked for. Because of this, our first friends in every new community we joined were ALWAYS Jewish. I like to tell people that I’ve had the Jewish bakery tour of Asia!

    With benefits came “pitfalls”.

    I was frequently teased (especially in middle school in Shanghai) for “being” / “passing as” Jewish. I remember it used to be something I HATED until I decided it was something I LOVED. Either way, I feel comradery which may be considered be RACIST by some humans (?) – I am not sure. but I am proud of my adoptive heritage.

    =the ultimate guilty party for “appropriation” no matter how you slice it.

    I LOVE Jewishness and wouldn’t be the person I am today without the various Jewish communities that took my family in and ALWAYS invited us to their homes during the holidays after discovering we were not Jewish.

    – on a side note – Shanghai AND Costa Rica have very old and distinguished Jewish communities! Shanghai’s community was founded just before WW2 (predictably) but Costa Rica’s community was established about the time of the inquisition! It has a very fascinating history.

    Apologies for this rant!


  5. Sister Wolf says:

    Mary – How nice of you!

    David Duff – Yep, we’re the chosen ones, alright. We can’t help it.

    Lisamaree – Yes, and if you know your Lenny Bruce, we are also known for being ‘charming.’

    ALi – No apologizes – that’s a great story. xoxo

  6. Andra says:

    If I wasn’t an atheist I’d want to be Jewish.
    Or Buddhist.

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