Jewhooing the Sixties: American Celebrity and Jewish Identity-Sandy Koufax, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand

By Alexander, Michael Scott | American Jewish History, April 2014 | Go to article overview

Jewhooing the Sixties: American Celebrity and Jewish Identity-Sandy Koufax, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand


Alexander, Michael Scott, American Jewish History


Jewhooing the Sixties: American Celebrity and Jewish Identity--Sandy Koufax, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand. By David E. Kaufman. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2012. iv + 340 pp.

As I review David E. Kaufman's recent book about what he calls "Jewhooing," the Jewish folk practice of identifying which celebrities are Jews, I've also just learned that today pop singer Paula Abdul is receiving her bat mitzvah at the Western Wall. Can this be true? Is Paula Abdul actually a Jew? Despite a certain shame in my celebrity awareness and curiosity, I am simply too intrigued to resist. An internet search brings me to JewOrNotJew.com, and indeed I learn that Abdul's father was a Syrian Jew from Aleppo and her mother an Ashkenazi Jew from Canada.

Who knew? Who cares?

Well in fact a lot of American Jews seem to care. At first glance, one may wonder why Kaufman has chosen to explore this esoteric American custom of Jewhooing. It's just a parlor game, isn't it? Can this casual practice really be significant? The ritual itself feels slightly disreputable, not to be discussed in serious society, let alone in the pages of a Brandeis University publication. Yet after finishing Kaufman's book, I think most readers will be persuaded that the subject is important. Perhaps Jewhooing is even among the most significant folk practices working to hold American Jewry together. Those marginal Jews who have little feeling for the ritual, liturgical, and cultural boundaries which are typically thought to circumscribe Judaism and Jewry may still open the newspaper and say to themselves: "Well, would you look at that ... The new Wonder Woman is a Jew!" And that raw tribal connection to a celebrity is the solid content of their Jewish identity. Judging by Kaufmans evidence that Jewhooing started in earnest in the 1960s, spawning at that time a cottage industry of Jewhooing publications and media, the practice has been going on now for fifty years, passed down over several generations. So it seems that many of the hallmarks of what Edward Shi Is defined in his book Tradition (2006) as signaling a legitimate tradition are present with Jewhooing.

Who knew?

Kaufman focuses on celebrities of the 1960s, members of the third generation of the Ashkenazi migration to America. He has chosen a comedian (Lenny Bruce), two singers (Bob Dylan and Barbra Streisand) and an athlete (Sandy Koufax). According to Kaufman, Jewish celebrities of this generation were the first objects of Jewhooing proper. They were unlike Jewish celebrities of the second generation (say, the comedians and singers Al Jolson and Fanny Brice, or the athletes Andy Cohen and Benny Leonard) who were first and foremost celebrities for Jews, performers who intentionally played to the tastes of their own ethnic group or who were primarily marketed to that group. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Jewhooing the Sixties: American Celebrity and Jewish Identity-Sandy Koufax, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.