jewin' the fat


Girls who like boys, who like girls, who like other boys
March 14, 2010, 4:43 PM
Filed under: Comment, Jewish Community | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As someone who never really ‘got’ the relationship game, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to find out that I am the only singleton in my group of girlfriends. Not that I mind in the slightest. In the community where being attached to a significant other is to be ‘figured out’, it has definitely ruffled a few feathers, and everyone from my Lubavitch uncle, to my friends, to my employer has tried (and failed, thankfully) to get me right, and fix me up with someone who is (always) perfect for me! And thankfully, I always dodged that bullet.

But what has got me writing this time is not so much about the single-relationship-marriage cycle that has defined the expectations of the majority of young Jews (those who take it seriously, of course). It is the unexpected conversation I had with a girlfriend of mine, who happens to be the official girlfriend of her parter.

After a whirlwind romance that broke all the rules (no professions of interest, guy must always been older, no sex on the first date, wait two to three days before calling, wait until she calls), a year later this remarkably odd couple are still going strong. She is the consummate lady, he is the ragamuffin, and surprising both their friends and themselves, they have it down. At least, I thought so.

It’s worth mentioning that the reason I find myself single is not for lack of opportunity, but more for lack of accessibility – I’ve never subscribed to the belief that there is one person for me. Rather, there are many people who float in and out of your life to make your world a little brighter for the time they are destined to be there. My Grandfather, for example, found love a second time after the death of his first wife, my Grandmother, and married again on his 80th Birthday. Mazal Tov! Unfortunately there seems to be a firm belief that, like fondue, once you dip there is no going back for seconds, regardless of how tasty that cheese may be.

So, believing myself to be the only person in my circle who followed this kind of thinking, I was surprised to find out, over the phone, that this ladyfriend of mine had done the unthinkable – and cheated on her partner.

Well, kissed another bloke, but let’s assume any and all exchange of bodily fluids constitutes betrayal. And let’s also ignore the fact that he was H.O.T.

In a community where we are prepared to neglect the Orthodoxy of our faith, the geographic togetherness of our families, the traditional gender roles, the traditional professional roles and even the expectations of our parents to seek our own destiny – what about cheating, seemingly betraying those closest to us? What about it makes it so morally reprehensible, when everything else is ok, and ours for the taking? Why are we so intent on sleeping with/kissing/seeing films with only one other person. It’s definitely a risk, and one that doesn’t seem to have a pay off big enough to warrant it. Sure, companionship is one thing, but why limit yourself to one significant other? Seems a significant waste of investment.

There is no doubt a high premium paid to enter into a relationship these days, and far too many of us are paying the excess to get rid of our exes.

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Jew is as Jew does

We knew it would happen eventually, and you know what they say – when the shit hits the fan, everyone gets covered in it.

I’m talking of course about the imminent ruling of the Supreme Court in Britain, regarding the case of a Jewish boy who was born to an Orthodox Jewish father, and Progressive Jewish mother (a Convert). This boy, whom the courts have dubbed ‘M’, was denied enrolment to the Jewish Free School (JFS) in London, on account of the fact that the school adheres to a strict Orthodox-only enrolment policy. ‘M”s parents decided to sue on the grounds of racial discrimination, and so we find ourselves waiting with bated breath for the ruling that could change the very way we define ourselves, and our community as Jewish, right here in Australia.

Jewish

Up until now this has been protected by the laws in the UK governing religious freedoms, especially in running educational institutions. Now whatever you believe about the validity of a school operating for the youth of a particular religion, this case is basically proposing that rather than a religion, being Jewish is purely a blood-line – a ‘race’.  

In fact, this case goes to the very fibre of what a ‘Jew’ is in our contemporary society – a race, ethnicity, culture, nation, religion – and whether it is possible to have our cake and eat it too. 

I’ll begin with a story. As with most great stories, this is a tale follows a simple and popular narrative structure.

There is a boy. He meets a girl. At a summer camp for young (Jewish) people. Needless to say, by the end of the camp, they are smitten, and they begin to date. He is a good Jewish boy, from a nice family in Sydney’s north, and she is a sweet, funny Jewess from the south-East of the city. The relationship barrels along, sparks fly, plans are made and before you know it, he is on one knee on a beach proposing they spend forever together.

Except that Mother didn’t tell her daughter that when she married the girl’s father, she was impatient, in love and ill prepared for the tumult of Orthodox conversion. So she converted as a Reform Jew. And that her Orthodox-educated, raised and believing daughter, according to Halacha, is one too.

Now at this point, the story shifts focus, and for many, it becomes a crash course in choose-your-own-adventure – something that many are not prepared for at all. I mean, she was from the right side of the tracks – hell, she could even be more observant than he is, but it changes little in terms of the strict Halacha that governs these situations. And again, agree or not with the Jewish law, this is a purely religious standard, for those who wish to abide by it.

But what about civil liberties? Where is the space in this paradigm for human rights? The ability of a citizen of a country to choose his or her own destiny, regardless of their race, religion, class, sex or sexual orientations? Recent calls by prominent Muslim community spokesperson, Keysar Trad to integrate Shariah Law into the Victorian legal system were met with anger and condemned as being an affront to the very independence and multilateralism of justice. For all. Imagine if the laws governing Jewish marriage, death, divorce – were all suddenly absorbed into a secular, national system, and overruled by it. It will destroy a system that thrives in its separation of church and state.

Australians are beholden to a justice system steeped in British traditions, as according to our history as a former British colony. Our government system, our past times, eating habits – even the Jewish community in Australia looks to the London Beth Din to dictate the terms of Orthodoxy, and rule of matters of Jewish life and law.

So what happens if the British Supreme Court rules in ‘M”s favour?

Well, no doubt it’s decision would need to be accepted by the London Beth Din, and changes made to the JFS accordingly. It means that the right to define who is a Jew is taken away from the community, and given to the courts, in direct contradiction to the human rights of the individual to practise their religion freely and without prejudice.

It means for Australian Jewish schools, clubs and organisations, precedents are being set removing the autonomy of the institution, and the religious structure of the Australian community may begin to erode. It means that while our claim as a nation may be upheld, our religious rights as Jews may not be.

It means that the rights of the individual are protected in law, above and beyond the rights of the community. Unlike other peoples, Jews have ensured their survival over millenia through the power of tzdaka, the importance of tikkun olam and the power of the many, over the self-interest of the few. It would be a shame to start now.

It also means that for Australians, we may have to accept that being a Jew is no longer just an ethno-culture or religion, but strictly defined by the word ‘race’, a concept created by those groups who would have seen Jews eradicated – and almost did.

And that is something I, and you, and even those still perched on the fence,  should not be forced to abide.



John Safran – Blacking up, and getting down

Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew.     

                                                                        — Guillaume Apollinaire

John Safran is arguably the King of Satire. After the “Make a realistic wish” debacle of the Chasers War on Everything backfired, and the Gruen Transfer going MIA, it was a personal pleasure of mine to hear Safran, of John Safran’s Music Jamboree, and John Safran Vs. God is back on the ABC. This time, he is diving head first into the messy world of Race Relations, asking the hard questions about racism, religious prejudice and whether we should stay with our tribe, or leave it.

In an ABC Unleashed article, Kim Dalton, ABC‘s Director of Television laid down the gauntlet, daring audiences to build and bridge and get over what they think the ABC is about. Tackling holy cows, and pushing the boundaries of good taste, Dalton applauded his intelligent audiences and suggested, “If you think you are going to be offended or outraged (or want to be offended or outraged) then don’t tune in.”

But tune in we did. In a circumnavigation attempt to rival that of Jessica Watson, Safran takes his peculiar brand of squirm producing, power-subverting humour on the road, crossing state lines, continents, ideologies and even races, in an attempt to push the audience to discover what really keeps them apart.

Is it skin colour? Is it guilt – in Safran’s case, of the ‘Jewish Mother’ variety? Is it simply tribalism? Are we able to leave our prejudices behind, and bring all nations together to become a truly global community, living in peace and harmony? Should we get funky, set some mood lighting and make rainbow babies with people we have nothing in common with?

Safran bravely goes where no man has gone before. And he is crucified along the way.

John Safran is crucified in the Phillipines for Race Relations

John Safran is crucified in the Phillipines for Race Relations

This 8 part series premiered on Wednesday night, as with most of John Safran’s work, amidst a mire of controversy, drummed up by the PC police and their minions. Headlines screaming racist, immoral, offensive only drove the puclic interest in the series higher, and the masses were not left so unsatisfied.

In the series opener, Safran takes gene-based dating to a whole new level, consulting a scientist to determine if his penchant for Eurasians is justifiably a genetic preference. Turns out, a panty-sniff test is just what the doctor ordered, and after stealing a dozen pairs of under wear belonging to childhood friends, the Thai Princess, Nicole from the Pussycat Dolls, and . Though obscene (“Ooh, good … Oooh, less good”) is part scientific-fascination and another part creepy. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Throwing in his school-yard Rabbi, a few ex-girlfriends and even some racially-charged pixelation, we are off and running. Oh yes – we head over to Israel and Palestine, land of political (in)correctness, in Safran’s efforts to create the ultimate mixed-race – the Jalestinian.

Probably an image I will have imprinted on my brain forever is a smothered-giggle from Safran, as his Palestinian boom-operator masturbates about two feet away from him. Crass? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely. And that is just the beginning of this irreverent, devil-may-care series, which takes public propriety and shoves it back in its box. Of course, ripping through the PC shield we have all been covered with for so long, requires some grunt (Thanks boom-operator guy), and no doubt as the series progresses, we will be compelled to take a look at our own prejudices, forced or imbibed, and evaluate their legitimacy.

Not a bad idea, especially considering the trigger for such self-reflection is mostly sexual innuendo, awkward situation comedy and simple laugh-out-loud-can’t-look-away-oh-no-he-didn’t-did-he funny.

Safran hits the G-spot of satire Gold with this one. He is bold, unafraid, and blissfully unpretentious in his geek-makes-good style. After Hey Hey It’s Saturday beamed stupidity and crass across the world, Australia gets a chance to redeem itself, with a man who is not afraid to push the limits of good taste, as long as he makes his point.

And it is a point excellently made.

John Safran’s Race Relations airs Wednesday nights on ABC1 at 9.30pm, AEDST.



Akon, Acorn, A douche
October 12, 2009, 4:17 PM
Filed under: Comment, media | Tags: , , , ,

I drive a lot. It’s part of living away from home, and the people I love, I suppose. But it means that in the wee small hours of the morning, when sensible people are asleep, I am tearing down the Hume Highway (within the speed limit of course), listening to the radio. And really, I mean listening. Because when it is 4.30am, and you are four shots of coffee down with two to go, there ain’t nothing to do but absorb the melody and lilting lyricism of  –

AKON?

Yep, the latest from the Senegalese-US hybrid of auto-tuned hip-hop gold (check out Arab Money Remix) is a feature on a David Guetta track, which has enough thump n groove to keep even over-caffienated me drumming my thumbs on the steering wheel. Yep, it’s a great tune – even after several rounds – it’s on every station – it’s still  good listening. Simple, driving beat, sweet hook, and voila!  Pop chart gold.

Except for one small thing. The title is, aptly considering it mimics the repetitive chorus – “Sexy Bitch”. But it’s the bridge that provides the kicker.

“I’m trying to find a word to describe this girl without being disrespectful …”

It then goes on to repeat the line “Damn you is a sexy bitch.”

Uh huh. And Julia Gillard is worried about Literacy in skools schools. If radio advertising has the effect that the advert says it does, and kids are treated to the likes of Hamish and Andy et al. every afternoon, how soon will it be before they start singing along. Or worse yet – using the same grammar. But that’s just the beginning of the slippery slope down into the quagmire of poor punctuation and verb parsing.

Regarding the “B” word, I’m no prude (that Mumford & Sons song at least has a little gravitas or substance to it) but something is not quite right. No wonder our little kids are confused about how they should treat the opposite sex, or be treated themselves. Apparently being called a ‘sexy bitch’ is just about the best you are gonna get, girls – and that’s from a guy who has enough money to buy himself and his “sexy bitch” a gold plated thesaurus. Each. Go figure.

A word to the (not-so) wise: If, like Akon, you are trying to find a word to describe a girl without being disrespectful, and all you can come up with is “Sexy Bitch” … you probably aren’t trying hard enough.



Israel: A Retrospective
August 13, 2009, 10:18 AM
Filed under: Comment, Israel, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you recognize a mistake when you make it again. — F. P. Jones

Going through the list of things-to-do when you are overseas, the top of the list for this traveler is always experiencing the local produce. The food, the music, and of course, the men that make your travel experiences memorable. My girlfriends were always open when talking about their sexual exploits. From giving and receiving advice on how to give or receive, whenever, where ever; we could always rely on each other for a little pillow talk. So when I sent a message home detailing my own exploits, it was met with a mixture of applause, horror, and genuine ignorance.

See, when your mates are engaged/married/otherwise, the general assumption is that all talk of sex, sexual habits and experiences becomes a dull slice of 10-minute missionary.

That is, of course, unless you are half a world away, single and getting some

***
As I was packing up my house in Jerusalem, I stumbled upon an old bank statement envelope, bulging inappropriately with scores of names. Ehud, Yaniv, Ori, Mike, Tal, even Constantine (and one Ronit). I’m actually too nervous to count them up exactly and see just how many shy, obnoxious or deluded men slipped me torn up tissues, old receipts, or demanded a piece of paper from me, just to hand it back awkwardly a few minutes later. But, in the interests of disclosure, and remembering the good, the bad and the unexpected, here’s a little run down.

There was the Security Consultant who taught me martial arts … The Ex-Marine who was 6″2 and had a knack for dancing … The Bartender, who’s girlfriend knew the whole time and said nothing … The Two month relationship, which fizzled out, ending, to my horror, quite amicably … The Secret Service agent with a body like a rock, who asked for my number, and surprised me by calling … The (Oh yes.) Bartender-Turned-Yeshiva-Student, who turned up at work and wound up at my place … The Broken Guy, who’s life story broke my heart wide open, and the Jewish Swahili Prince whose religious philosophy inspired me, and whose drunken behaviour terrified me … French guy, who offered to take me home and share me with his two French mates … The Lone Soldier, whose religious lifestyle threatened to put a swift end to any potential, until, well, he did … The 21-year-old who couldn’t take no for an answer, forcing my workmates to take turns escorting me home, and of course, the arrogant Suit who did the unthinkable and got hitched two weeks after we hooked up, to his pregnant ex-fiance …
 
It was a veritable smorgasbord of blonds, brunettes, dark skins and light, blue, green, but mostly brown eyes. In their late-teens, twenties and thirties, orthdox, reform and born-again Jews, Irish Catholics and Russian Atheists. Hard bodied, and often hard-headed, troubled and trouble-making, the best days and nights I had was being entertained by the local, and international wildlife.

For this traveler, they are the most vivid memory, the biggest, hottest and least regrettable mistakes I made, and the finest tour guides of a country’s highlights I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

And of course, the novelty of my return home did even result in a couple of Australians offering to take me on their own personal tour of my home town. And who was I to deny them?



The Great Debate: Man Drought or Mere Doubt?
July 26, 2009, 9:45 AM
Filed under: Comment, Jewish Community | Tags: , , ,

Is it a truth universally acknowledged, that if you are a single girl on a train in Melbourne during Friday afternoon peak hour traffic, you will look at the men around you, in their tortoise shell reading glasses, distressed denim, daringly coloured shirt and stylishly muted cardigan, reading “The Sorrows of Young Werther” or “Wuthering Heights”, with a hand jauntily in-pocket, and have one of two reactions:

a) Laugh at the coincidence of metros on the metro, and return to your copy of max, because you see them everyday on your way home from work.

or

b) Drool. Stare. Wipe. Repeat.

Welcome to choose your own (dating) adventure. If you went with a) you are probably from Melbourne, and well used to seeing groomed, intellectual, conservationist, styling gentlemen cruising around on Connex. If you took b) you are definitely from Sydney and steadily realising that maybe it was the book, or the public transport, or even the way he pushed his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose – but whatever caught your fancy, you fancy gettin’ caught.

For a lot of Jewish twenty-somethings, who feel like their home city has been drained of all potential, the man drought has hit Sydney, and hit it hard. Dating services, blind dates, and the one night stand have left a significant proportion of single women in Sydney floundering in the shallows, as the tides ebbs further and further out.

Which is not to say there are zero single men in Sydney – there are heaps. But eligibility? Well that’s the kicker isn’t it? Whether they are living at home, or out of their car, it would appear blokes from NSW just don’t have it together. And we all know the type – boys who can’t cook, can’t jump start an engine (of a car, of course), and have never even seen the inside of a laundry.  

Melbourne Vs. Sydney

While the chorus of male voices rings with “what’s a laundry”, it becomes clear – In this version of  State of Origin, Victorians are on the up and up. Tourism Victoria kicked it off with their version of holiday dating  demography, and it got me thinking about why the grass is greener in Melbourne, and not just for Sydney-siders. Young West and South Coast Jews are flocking to Melbourne in great numbers, migrating East for work and play in the most livable city in Australia, and certainly the most cohesive yet varied Jewish community in the country.

Ask any Melbourne-local, as I did over the weekend, and there is no shortage to the praises waiting to be sung – the bars, the sport, the food, the coffee, the fashion, the music, the theatre, the unpretentious lifestyle, the atmosphere, the “rain hail or shine” attitude  – it’s all there, ready and waiting.

Controversially or not, Melbourne seems to have their JC all stitched up too. It’s a smorgasbord of Jewish denominations, each with their own synagogue, school, youth movement, Kosher-certified restaurants, and more Glicks than you can poke a stick at. Comparatively speaking, Sydney is like the dishevelled gawky younger sister, full of energy, but at a loss as to where to channel it – St Ives? Vaucluse? Parramatta? Maroubra?

Melbourne has found the golden egg, and it goes by a few different names. Thanks to the power of urban planning, Caulfield has become a kind of Jewish Mecca. Don’t believe me? Google “Caulfield Jewish Ghetto”, and check out the first entry. It’s a neat little square of Judaism on the city map that makes Sydney’s JC look like a Jackson Pollock.

Maybe we are too picky, maybe the guys who used to swallow ten-cent coins to impress us in pre-school are 20 years later the guys who are looking for a partner who’ll swallow just about anything, including their bullshit. Are we just sick of the same old same old? But then again, maybe the grass isn’t so much greener on the other side, but mowed more often. I mean, it’s not about looking for a man-scaper, but someone who knows how to, er, trim the hedges.

In my social circle, plenty of my friends are in serious relationships or already preparing to waltz down the aisle and a lot of them have gone south of the border to meet their match. Of those who are dating interstate Jews, 7 out of 12 are still going strong, no thanks to cheap interstate flights and social media like Skype and Facebook, which keep us connected over thousands of miles.

But you don’t need to be hunting for a Shidduch either. If it’s casual dating or even just a holiday hook up with someone who wants to send their kids to Hebrew school, Melbourne has the upper hand. So perhaps its true – absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Jewish Sydney singles are starting to recognize that when it comes to long distance dating, a little distance goes a long way.



Ink politics
June 29, 2009, 3:34 PM
Filed under: Jewish Community | Tags: , ,

I probably brought this whole scenario on my self. If only I had been content to work at some backwater regional paper, as resident shitkicker/sometime cadet journalist, rather than sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong and accepting a job working for Jews.

(Now, now, don’t get all hyper-sensitive on me. They are Jewish, and this particular problem is completely exclusive to our nefarious breed, with the consequences only wreaking their hellish results on their stupid, stupid Jewish employees. But read on, I get less pseudo-racist and a little more feminist as I go on.)

Not only are my employers Jews, but they are also Israeli, and this is where the meddling Jewish senior combines with the aggresive Israel and the two combine to produce the most diabolical workplace situation EVER.

The “all-i-care-about-is-your-happiness-what-would-your-mother-say-if-i-didn’t-don’t-you-want-to-get-married-it’s-only-for-your-own-good” set up.

Yep! If it wasn’t bad enough getting the poke n’ prod from family and friends, now I am obliged (by my pay packet) to endure it from my employer – who really is laying on the guilt thick n’ fast, much to the amusement of my married/non-Jewish/unemployed friends, who think I could do alot worse than an Jewish basketball player who is single and what-a-looker! And did I mention he is single?! Ugh. It is exhausting.

Sure, the traditional knowledge leans towards avoiding dipping any writing utensils in company inkpots – but what happens when the refusal makes more of a splash than a tentative dip itself? So what is a single girl to do?

Particularly considering her options in such a small community leave a LOT to be desired. Sure, there are options like Melbourne Match (the brainchild of a destitute Sydney Single who saw another state’s trash as New South Wales’ treasure) – but who can afford those airfares? And that’s assuming you are available to jet off at a moments notice for a hot date, south of the border.  And of course there is always rekindling that high school romance of yesteryear. But homewrecker I am not, and I don’t think a handful of years qualifies me to consider high school yesteryear. More like yesterday.

So it’s a wicked web, this JC dating business. And I certainly don’t need to get tangled up in some contrived office romance (and DEFINITELY not the kind of romance in an office where a boss takes it upon himself to vett the potential suitor on your behalf.

Did I mention he is starting work next month, that I am being bribed with confectionary and that my colleagues keep asking when my ‘husband’ is coming to stay? It’s hardly office-gossip anymore – it’s front page news.

What happened to the good old days of clock in, clock out, ‘goodmorning’ niceties and a civil pat on the back at the end of year cocktail party?

These days it’s more like offers of a bed in a colleagues kid’s room, babysitting requests on your days off, couriering food, documents and security guards back and forth on your trips back to your parents place,  and food drops (“Just in case you were hungry”). Not to mention the dating services.

It’s a wonder I get any work done at all. Now where did I put that confectionery …