The Arty Semite

How to Sacrifice a Lamb and Other Important Information

By Netty C. Gross

  • Print
  • Share Share

For many Jews and non-Jews, American Jewish culture is defined by stereotypes such as the pushy mother, the shleppy father, chopped liver swans, too much food (“just in case…”) accountants, doctors, and holidays in the Catskills or Florida. But a new generation of Jews are so hip, Americanized and assimilated that they are not even familiar with those stereotypes. They may think, for example, that Bar Kochba is the name of a nightclub — at least according to Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman in “The Big Jewish Book for Jews.” The authors of “Yiddish With Dick and Jane,” Weiner and Davilman will make you chuckle, cause you to give away that Holocaust memoir, and maybe even teach you something about American-Jewish cultural history in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Jewish continuity” is actually nothing to laugh about, some insist. But humor might be a better (certainly a cheaper) solution than weighty think tanks and free trips to Israel. Written in a somewhat spoofing, self-mocking manner, this type of work has precedent. Think of it as a grandchild of the “First Jewish Catalogue — A Do-It Yourself Kit” by Richard Siegel, Sharon Strassfeld and Michael Strassfeld, which came out in 1965, and “Without Feathers,” the humorous anthology by Woody Allen which was published around a decade later.

Read literally or with a grain of salt, this book is great fun, and the authors know their material well enough to successfully mock it. Sometimes silliness prevails. For example, the authors correctly state that changing one’s name to get rid of ethnicity is no longer de rigueur in Hollywood, but future stars who want to replace their Jewish-sounding monikers are advised to use “sounds of gibberish” such as “Ixnee Jonez” and “Bopp Cragger.” Really? What’s wrong with (also mentioned) Lee J. Cobb (Leon Jacob), Joan Rivers (Joan Molinsky) or Winona Ryder (Winona Laura Horowitz)? But the chapters on how to shop too much and force your guests to overeat, talk like a rabbi circa 1953, and how to sacrifice a lamb in a modern synagogue are hilarious. Admittedly, some information (the last bit about the lamb) we need to know like a hole in the head. Or as the book says (regarding another matter) a glick hot dich getrofen (“big deal”). Better to enjoy the leg of lamb and anchovies recipe at the end of the chapter.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yiddish With Dick And Jane, Winona Ryder, Without Feathers, Woody Allen, Sharon Strassfeld, The Big Jewish Book For Jews, Richard Siegel, Netty C. Gross, Michael Strassfeld, Lee J. Cobb, Joan Rivers, Humor, First jewish Catalogue, Ellis Weiner, Comedy, Books, Barbara Davilman

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.