For some reason, Jews, even most assimilated ones, look to well known Jews as some kind of barometer of how we’re doing.
When Sandy Kofax was pitching baseball, things were good.
When Bernie Madoff and Lloyd Blankfein and the other Wall-Streeters drove the economy off the cliff … things were not good.
The Strauss-Kahn affair was bad – until it was good.
I admit to even taking special interest in the tragic death of Amy Winehouse. Yes, I am a fan …. But I also wondered, “How will this play out for the Jews?”
Sometimes it seems that a Jew can’t do well (or poorly) without it somehow reflecting on us. In our own minds, if not others.
When my mother moved into an assisted living facility a couple of years ago, one of her subscriptions was forwarded to me for a time. The Jewish Standard had the occasional interested article. But the best part is the “boldface” column, Knoshes (Yiddish for "nibbles"). In it, any celebrity with a drop of Jewish blood is extolled from the highest tower, no matter how tenuous the connection. [My parody:] “It seems Scarlett Johansen may appear in another Woody Allen film. Perhaps she will be joined by Ashton Kutcher.” They even had one issue in the author detailed each of the very few Jewish professional hockey players.
It’s a vestige of another time, and it absolutely makes no sense in today’s world. As far as I can tell, the average Jewish shopkeeper was not blamed for the credit crunch of 2008. And I haven’t recently gotten any slaps on the back because Scarlett Johansen’s mother is a Jewess.
Then there is the Joe Lieberman question. Liberman, an Independent, who ran for vice president in 2000 as a Democrat, became more and more conservative and nearly ran for vice president again as a Republican. He is also an orthodox Jew. He even came out with a book recently in which he extols the virtues of the Sabbath, including the fact that the rabbis through the ages have encouraged Jews to have sex with their spouses then. What an image!
So are we kveling for Joe Lieberman’s success, or is it a “shondah for the goyim”?
Or does it matter that he is Jewish at all? Can we just take him or leave him as politician who moved to the right for purposes that suited him?