I was raised culturally Catholic, but my appearance in recent years has led strangers to assume I’m Jewish. A Palestinian with a mental illness once challenged me to a fight because of it when he got in my face about the situation in the Middle East, thinking that I’m fairly influential in Israeli politics. But I didn’t want to deny that I was Jewish or anything, because that didn’t feel right. I just happen to not be. Yet. Fortunately I can talk myself out of even the most tense of conflicts, or maybe he got distracted by these nearby crows, but either way I was able to escape.
Because of the ubiquitous assured ignorance in America, centred around the inability but mostly unwillingness to learn how to spell or pronounce them, most Jews in show business change their last names. Jon Stewart’s real name is actually Jonathan Leibowitz, and Woody Allen’s last name used to be Konigsberg. I want to go the other way, and change my name to Ian Mandelbaum, and see how that goes. I might even be able to get the .com for that one, which the surname Smith doesn’t afford.
We used to do this thing – it might be stupid now – where we’d replace “you” with “Jews” in different songs. “Jews can’t touch this!” “And I will always love Jews”. You get the point.
Now I’ll admit I’ve always felt a close connection to the Jewish faith, based mainly on my dad’s personality and my dependence on comedy. After visiting my local Jewish Community Centre recently, I basically decided I was going to convert. When I heard that Judaism is the only religion that actively prevents newcomers, it made me want to join even more. You know, because of Groucho Marx and club members and such.
So I picked up a book of Classic Jewish Humour, expecting some lighthearted jokes about overbearing mothers and overpriced bagels. But there were some that were awful enough to stop me in my eye scanning. One of the “jokes” actually starts with the line, “It is the year 2001, and of course the blacks have taken over.” And there’s another one about Israel getting invaded and all of its women getting raped, which made one of the grandmothers go, “Mazel tov. Twenty years from now you’ll have a great army.” Truly bonkers. I’d still like to join, if they’ll have me, but not if I ever have to repeat those particular jokes, which realistically I don’t see why I would.
Oy, drek. I should’ve picked up the Torah instead.
[Editor’s note: The author doesn’t even know if you are definitely Jewish. He heard someone mention you were born in Israel so he did some extrapolation, and now he wants you to help him get in good with the rabbis or mohels or whoever else can help with his conversion.]