A still from The Daily Show’s segment on eruvs, showing an “eruv hat”
If Jack O’Dwyer didn’t exist, Jon Stewart might have invented him.
You might remember The Daily Show’s hilarious 2011 video report on the bitter controversy surrounding a proposed eruv (religious boundary) in Westhampton Beach, New York. Simply by venting to correspondent Wyatt Cenac, both the pro-eruv Jews and the anti-eruv Jews came off a little unhinged.
Here’s a refresher:
In January, the eruv’s supporters prevailed in court. Some locals hoped the furor might finally die down.
Enter Jack O’Dwyer.
The publisher of media-industry magazines, O’Dwyer is taking the eruv decision personally — very personally. A 30-year Westhampton Beach resident, he’s dedicating half of his weekly O’Dwyer’s newsletter, which covers the public-relations business, to what he sees as a kind of conspiracy around the eruv decision. (And blood-sucking mohels. And the salaries of local rabbis.) He’s running headlines like “‘Reasonable Observer’ No Longer Fooled by Eruv,” “Horde of Lawyers Chips Away at American Freedoms,” and “Hampton’s Eruv (Jewish Religious Boundary) May Be A Fake.”
What does the eruv debate have to do with the businesses he covers?
“That’s a stupid question,” he fumed to the Forward in a phone interview from his Manhattan office. “It’s an annoying question. We reporters are here to tell the truth. This has been a hurricane of lies. Lawyers in this case have already made more than a million dollars. And everyone I know out there is disgusted by it.”
People in the Hamptons, O’Dwyer claims, are being “terrorized” by eruv proponents. “The Hasidic black hats and the EEEA [East End Eruv Association] are terrorists. The last time we looked, there were only five Orthodox families around here. This is total interference of church and state.”
Jon Stewart and Bassem Youssef on “The Daily Show” / Youtube
Jon Stewart quitting “The Daily Show” is bad for the Jews. It’s bad for the Muslims. It’s bad for the entire Middle East.
If you want to know why, just watch this clip of the real Jon Stewart joking around with “Egypt’s Jon Stewart,” Bassem Youssef. It aired shortly before Jon announced his decision to leave the show, and it revolves around a simple question: What can America do to fix the Middle East?
Bassem’s answer is simple, too: “How about — nothing!”
Jon plays devil’s advocate, arguing, “If the people choose the wrong government, we’ll help them get it right. Some boots on the ground, some advisers.” Which, of course, sets Bassem up to explain just what’s wrong with America’s interventionist foreign policy.
But then Bassem takes it one step further — by laughing at himself, at his own argument, at his own people. He provides that dash of self-deprecation without which comedy fails to be, you know, comedic (Israel’s totally unfunny “Hakol Shafit” is a good example of this).
“We want you to f—k off and leave us alone,” Bassem says. “But not right away. We could still use the aid money, and a few weapons, and some investments… What I’m saying is, if you could f—k gradually off, that would be better for everybody.”
This is Middle East comedy at its best: an unflinching look at the catch-22s and double standards that plague both — no, all — sides.
And who’s been providing the mechanism for this comedy for over 15 years? Jon, of course. He’s been providing it not only in the U.S., but also in places like Egypt, where he inspired Bassem to start his own wildly popular satire show that began as a Middle Eastern riff on “The Daily Show.”
Every week, Bassem took to TV to wittily eviscerate the top leaders of the Arab world, and endear himself hugely to the Arab public (40 million viewers!). But then Sisi came to power in Egypt — and, sadly, the dissenters went the way of the Pharaohs.
True or not, Eskimos are famed for having 40 words for snow: Jews on the other hand have Yiddish — a whole language for being funny, featuring a vowel combination that is synonymous with hilarity.
That turns out to be handy because Jews — at least American Jews who don’t have to worry about anti-Semitism either violent or genteel or about existential threats to their country — now value humor more highly than observance of Jewish religious law.
Never mind Rabbi Susan Silverman and her quest to pray at the Kotel, let’s embrace the far more authentically Jewish jokes of her cross-wearing sister.
According to the massive Pew survey out today, 42% of American Jews think that having a good sense of humor is what it means to be Jewish.
That’s about the same as the 43% who think you need to care about Israel but more than twice as many as those who think you need to observe Jewish law (19%).
It’s good that those 42% do have a good sense of humor because they can have a chuckle at the 34% of American Jews who think that believing Jesus was the messiah is compatible with being Jewish. Denying the Inquisition and refusing to bow to a millennium of Christian oppression is so passé. Dying for your beliefs is so Old World, so quaintly European.
Levi and Yisroel Pekar have asked thousands of people, “Are you Jewish?” in their years of conducting street outreach for the Chabad movement during Sukkot.
Since the twins mainly operate in New York City, it should come as no surprise that they have shaken the lulav with some famous Jews over the years. Like Natalie Portman and Jon Stewart (or so the Pekars claim).
Levi Pekar’s brush with Natalie Portman dates back to 2009, or so he estimates.
“I was walking on Broadway,” said Levi Pekar. “This woman stopped. She was averagely dressed, nothing special.”
Levi Pekar asked her if she’d like to shake the lulav: “She thought about it and said yes.”
“When she was walking away, a guy I was with, his mouth was agape,” continued Levi. “He said, ‘That was Natalie Portman! The famous Jewish Israeli actress.’”
A year later, Yisroel supposedly encountered Jon Stewart in Midtown at Chabad’s “mitzvah truck,” which is billed as the largest mobile sukkah in the world. Stewart walked into the sukkah, Levi recounted, and his brother administered the blessing.
When Yisroel said he recognized Stewart from somewhere, Stewart looked uncomfortable and quickly left, Levi said. A Daily Show fan who happened to be in the truck as well told the brothers whom they had just encountered.
These celebrity run-ins didn’t make much of a difference to the brothers, Levi said. “I don’t care what a person’s financial statement or PR statement is. It’s about sharing the mitzvot.”
Burgers, Bibles, Bernie Madoff: There is little news that this week’s quiz doesn’t touch on, except, perhaps, for brisket.
Oh wait! That’s here, too, courtesy of Rick Moranis. Go forth!
Here’s Jon Stewart Leibowitz doing his best Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev: Ribono Shel Olom, what the @!*#! are you doing?
Jon Stewart calls “Most of the Confederacy went for Mitt Romney.”
And Florida continues to be “a huge clusterf*** - Florida, of course, being the place where Cubans go to live and Jews go to die.”
Despite the widespread system failures that deprived thousands of viewers live streaming footage of the Bill O’Reilly vs Jon Stewart smackdown your Forward live blogger was here glued to a computer that was working and plugged in and was live blogging it.
7:45 Tension is mounting as the first entertaining debate of the presidential election beckons. Tall Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly, against small Comedy Central funny man, Jon Stewart. Stewart has promised to have O’Reilly saying Stewart’s “Haftarah” by the end of the event, O’Reilly thinks he’ll be fine without Stewart’s 18 writers helping him out in the background.
7:50 Not to spoil you with too regular updates but, assuming that the internet holds up its end of the bargain, the tedium, mendacity, obfuscation and poor moderation of Wednesday’s debate can be left behind. No altitude sickness, no Big Bird and no votes at stake.
7:55 The debaters are in the auditorium. Repeat, people who care passionately about their positions, who have significant followings and who can speak articulately and entertainingly about the issues that matter in Election 2012 are about to engage in infotainment. They are currently quipping about air conditioning.
Jon Stewart skewered Mitt Romney for his “culture” comments that suggested that Israelis are somehow superior to Palestinians.
With frequent references to Romney’s gaffe-prone ways, Stewart reported on Romney’s controversial comments during his visit to Israel that attempted to pay homage to Israeli know-how and ingenuity.
The late-night comic pointed out that there must be more than culture that left Palestinians less prosperous than Israelis (how ‘bout the occupation, Mitt?).
“Romney seems to be saying that the Palestinians are purely the architects of their own poverty,” Stewart said, giving his trademark dead-pan stare into the camera.
Then, he cut to the punchline, that Romney may have inadvertently spouted a nasty stereotype about Jews, too.
“Or, if you prefer to look at the converse: that Jews are just culturally some money-making m—– f—-ers.”
Jon Stewart delivered an inspired rant last night comparing the charms of Easter vs. Passover. The key line: “As a father of mixed-faith children who are exposed to both holidays, I can’t help but feel that we Jews are getting our asses kicked out here.”
Some other key lines:
Hey, five-year-olds: A basket filled with candy and jelly beans — or horseradish, still in root form? Would you like the treats a magical bunny brought you — or a bone from a dead baby lamb? Don’t worry — we used its blood to mark the door…
Mishpoche, we gotta take it up a notch. They’re crushing us. I’m not saying we lose our traditions. We gotta adapt it, with a slight nod towards recruitment. I’m not saying we gotta go Jehovah’s Witnesses on this thing. But what’s wrong with a little zazz? Thinking outside the box? We’ve got a great story here. Moses parting the Red Sea? How have we not turned that into a water park?
Jon Stewart treads where others don’t dare: skewering America’s decision to defund UNESCO for recognizing Palestine. And this was no mere tweak: Stewart skipped his interview segment last night to air a special, two-part “investigation” by John Oliver on the UNESCO flap. Oliver actually traveled to Gabon in West Africa (not a fake blue-screen standup), which apparently donated an extra $1 million to the UN agency toward making up the U.S. shortfall. And he visited schoolchildren in Gabon who benefit from UNESCO’s programs – and suffer from the defunding. More innuendo than fact – it’s the Daily Show after all – but pretty harsh.
Note that they barely mention Israel, much less the, um, U.S. domestic influences that pushed for the defunding-UN-over-Palestine policy. Even Stewart isn’t that suicidal. Nonetheless, it’s very pointed. Here’s Part One:
Part Two (after the jump):
If you haven’t seen Jon Stewart’s hilarious Wednesday night report on the aftermath of the Norway massacre, you’re only hurting yourself. He brilliantly skewers the protests of Fox News and the right over the bigotry of the media’s identifying the accused shooter as a “Christian extremist.” There are numerous layers of hypocrisy to peel away, and each one is funnier than the last: It’s bigoted to call Breivik a Christian just because he calls himself one, but the Fort Hood shooter is definitely a Muslim terrorist because he called himself one. Christians in this country are the victims of relentless bigotry by the left, but anyone else who complains of bigotry is playing the victim card. Et cetera and so forth.