I was at a film screening recently when I got to chatting with a prominent film and television critic part of the journalistic old guard, before anybody with a laptop and an opinion could call themselves a reviewer. The topic of conversation turned to “John Carter,” Disney’s outrageously expensive fantasy film about a Confederate soldier (Taylor Kitsch from “Friday Night Lights”) zapped, mysteriously, to the red planet.
“Let me tell you something,” this critic said, his hair a kind of unattended grey, not a sophisticated salt-and-pepper shade. “There aren’t too many of us on Mars.”
He leaned back, looking at me like we had shared some private joke or were in the same fraternity, and added, “Not too many Jews on Mars.”
Here’s the thing: I’m not Jewish. But, it should be noted — he made a common mistake. And the more I think of it, the more I wish I was — Jewish. Not on Mars. But that too.
My grandfather was an off-the-boat immigrant from Lebanon (a member of his immediate family was part of Lebanese royalty), and that strain of exaggerated, olive-oiled Middle Eastern-ness runs through my blood too, resulting in my, er, Spartan profile, dark coloring, and affinity for arid climates.
This is the reason why, when schlepping around New York City, rabbis come up to me, arms outstretched, wailing, “My brother!” I have to tell them, “No, I’m sorry. I’m not Jewish, I just look it.” Then I ask them how they make those curls in their hair and if they ever get tired of wearing all black.
You have to be a loony to actually believe in the rampant conspiracies about an overreaching Zionist plot to control the world (and, more specifically, the world’s money). One guy in England, David Icke, once known as a sports presenter for BBC, is now famous for his theory that Jews are really blood-drinking lizards from outer space. (There’s more to it than that, but you get the point.)
There is something to be said though about the close-knit nature of Jews: In their willingness to support each other — both emotionally and financially — in their devotion to their faith and their families, and in the way they grow their beards to lengths that Rob Zombie and members of ZZ Top would find impressive; that is both highly unique and incredibly enviable. I would happily join their club.
Maybe, the next time a rabbi comes up to me identifying me as a member of his extended spiritual family, instead of brushing him off and moving on to the closest exotic pet shop, I too will outstretch my arms and quietly hope he doesn’t notice how ruddy my cheeks are or how red my beard is, or my bright pink belt.
He’ll take me to a coffee shop and expound on the perks of being a Hasidic wallflower. This rabbi, beads dangling from his waistband, will impart that when someone says something nasty or offensive to you, you can always counter them with one word: “Holocaust.” (“Unless you ever meet a Mayan,” he’ll be quick to amend.) And the women, the rabbi will tell me, well, I’ll have tons of top choice ankle to choose from.
Because at this point, I really, really want to be Jewish. One of my best friends is getting married this summer. Where did they meet, you probably aren’t asking? JDate, of course. There are tons of Christian sites, but JDate seems sturdier and more successful. (Sadly, there isn’t any Atheist Jewish-Looking Comic Book Aficionado Date, but if there is, please send me the address). I’d also get to join the elite cultural ranks of my heroes — Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen and Jeff Goldblum, who we must remember was the only one who warned us of the dangerous possibilities of “Jurassic Park.” I want to be one of them.
I already kvetch with some of the best.
If rabbis and films critics regularly mistake me as Jewish, I can probably pass as a Jew all the time. Then it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out — recommendations from cultural and business bigwigs I’ve never met (but whose last names feature suffixes like -berg and -stein and -owitz); gefilte fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and a deeper understanding of whatever the hell “mensch” means.
Although, now that I think about it, maybe I’m not cut out to be a Jew. As much as I’d like to join the rarefied ranks (it’d be cool to be lumped into a vast global conspiracy — it’s something I’ve always aspired to be a part of), I don’t have the cultural sensitivity to embrace the pain of the Holocaust or the financial wherewithal to keep my head above water, as I frequently search underneath chairs for loose change to pay for dinner. And there’s all that weird stuff that happens on the wedding night that I’m not sure I could deal with. So while I’d love to be a Jew, I think I’m going to have to settle on being mistaken for one. I could never wear all black all the time, anyway.
**NOTE TO SIMONE & DESIGNERS: If this is too long, you can cut Drew’s bio, which is in italics at the bottom of the piece. It doesn’t have to go in print if it can’t fit, we can just do it on web. Spanks. – Kim
Snark Attack: To Jew or Not To Jew
*Drew Taylor was honorably discharged from Eugene Lang College in the summer of 2010. After a fruitful walkabout, where he discovered his spirit animal was a marmoset with a cocaine problem, he decided to tough it as a freelance journalist. He currently writes for Indiewire’s “The Playlist” blog and conducts embarrassing celebrity interviews for MTV International. He can be stalked at www.twitter.com/DrewTailored.*