Culture, Mishegas

2011, what's that?

As the new year begins, here at Jewschool we put together an entirely unscientific, completely biased view of some of the best and worst of 2011.
2011 was simultaneously one of the most inspiring and dispiriting years I can think of. From the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords way back at the beginning of the year, to the passing of important greats like Debbie Friedman, to Occupy Judaism’s prominent place in the Occupy Everything movement. Israel has been a roller coaster, between the hopefulness of the J-14 protests to their quiet whimpering away, new settler attacks, undemocratic legislation, and fights over gender segregation. However, it was a mostly great year for the arts, despite JDub Records’ closing. Here’s to a new year with more distillants, and less despirits.

We’ll Miss You

JDub Records stops spinning. JDUB was a groundbreaking, Jewish-artist-supporting, amazing organization that was a victim of the Jewish community’s short-sighted policy of supporting start-ups without providing continuing support. But it anchored its place as a new type of organization that creates connection and meaning in Jewish life. That plenty of nonsensical orgs continue out of inertia  without half the ovaries of groundbreaking work that Aaron Bisman did. Good-bye JDub, we’ll miss you. And Aaron, we look forward to your next project.
Debbie Friedman. Brevity will suffice for the hole in our hearts she left, filled with her beautiful music. And in her passing, we set off a debate over what her legacy was.
Adrienne Cooper. Yiddish singer, musician, teacher and archivist.
Juliano Mer Khamis. Killed in Jenin.

Worst of Politics

The tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Jewschool pointed out her patrilineal Jewish roots didn’t stop Jews from claiming her fully as their own.
American (Jewish) political scandal: Anthony Weiner. Seriously, this is a grown man. Can this be the year we convince all those male politicians to keep it in their pants?
Rabbi Danny Gordis on “anti-Israel” rabbinical students. Rabbi Gordis helped open the rabbinical ordination program at American Jewish University, which has produced some seriously cutting-edge rabbis, several of whom write for Jewschool. But his single-handed poisoning of Israel discourse within rabbinical circles was devastating. Already infamous for attacking peace-minded individual rabbis, like now-head of Rabbis for Human Rights Jill Jacobs, this year he accused all American rabbinical students of not loving Israel enough. Jewschool responded here.
Worst moment of Chutzpah:Michele Bachmann’s pronunciation of chutzpah

Best of Politics

Occupy! This fall, Occupy Wall Street kicked off a world-wide revolution. It isn’t a specifically Jewish movement, but like many social justice movements in the US, it has a noticeable presence of Jews. Thus, we’re allowing it in our end-of-year Jewish round up. And that brings us to…
Best example of Jew-It-Yourself: Yom Kippur services at Occupy Wall Street. Jewschool founder Dan Sieradski together with a lot of other tireless Jews put together – in under a week- Yom Kippur services at Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Judaism now is nearly its own movement, with branches across the US and Canada, bringing Jews to the Occupy as well as Occupy to the Jews. Occupy Judaism has had sukkot in at least a dozen major cities, provided shabbat services -some places regularly, and others sporadically, done teach-ins and events on Jewish and multi-faith social justice, and continues to work for economic justice across the US, with especially active branches including, but not exhausted by, DC, New York, Boston and LA and coordination between cities by a national working group.
Gilad Shalit returned home.
Jews sweep Nobel Prize awards
The movement we wish we could claim is Jewish, but totally isn’t: Wisconsin protests against Gov in Feb 2011
The movement we’re glad isn’t Jewish at all: Egypt topples Hosni Mubarak.
Best hope the world is moving past anti-semitic mores: The Jewish head of the most powerful international finance body, the IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is indicted on sexual harassment, no one mentions he’s Jewish.

Best of Reads

Zackary Sholem Berger’s Not in the Same Breath (in Yiddish: זאג כאטש להבדיל)
Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up
Deborah E. Lipstadt’s The Eichmann Trial
Lucette Lagnado’s The Arrogant Years. A special mention for this biography that opens up a window on a totally different immigrant story than most American Jews: life in, and immigration to the US from, Egypt in the 1940s and onward).

Best of Music

Best Jewish liturgical releases: Joey Weisenberg’s cd and book.
Foundation for Jewish Culture’s commissioning and touring of Galeet Dardashti’s Monajat
Basya Schechter’s beautiful musical setting (and singing) of A.J. Heschel’s poetry on Songs of Wonder (Tzadik).
Yair Dalal’s 2011 album, Azazme
Best Jewish-by-name only hip-hop artists: Adam Levine and Mike Posner.
Best actually-Jewish hip-hop artist: Drake.
Best Jewish family in jazz music: The Cohens, Anat (Tenor Sax and Clarinet), Yuval (Soprano Sax), and Avishai (trumpet). Here’s Tiger Rag off their new album, Family.

The wonderfully fun klezmer licks on Socalled’s Sleepover

The timely “March of the Jobless Corps” by Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird

Best (yid) MC you ain’t heard and need to listen to right now: Soul Khan. There’s a short interview on Soul Khan in New Voices (bundist mom? what up!).

Best klezmer flavored second line– the Panorama Brass Band.They actually have a lot of klezmer in their list, as original member of the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars Ben Schenk leads the group. More klemzer than most “punk circus marching bands” out there, and can hang with big boys at mardi gras.

Best Jewish Rebecca Black parody.

Worst of Music

Least consequential development in the Jewish arts world: Matisyahu shaving.
Ugh, the Maccabeats. We particularly dislike the Maccabeats for their inability to depict women in their videos. Ok, yeah, they’re a male A Capella group, but really, what’s wrong with having a woman around the table with you? Another trend that we dislike — it’s worse in Israel, but that doesn’t make it okay in this milder form, guys.
Also 20 other similar new a capella groups.

Best of the Media

Best new Israeli blog: +972 Magazine, for the  front-lines citizen-journalist coverage of activists in Israel and the territories. Much love from your sibling blog in America.
Best TV coverage of Israeli-Palestinian conflict: J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami on The Colbert Report.
Best image of young chabadnik putting tefillin on fellow Jews.
Most terrifying Israeli television (thanks to +972 for the translation).
Best Jewish meme: Ryan Gosling’s Hey Girl, Shabbat Shalom.
Best coverage of a local eruv imbroglio: The Daily show’s episode of “the-thin-jew-line”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Thin Jew Line
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

2011 was quite a year. Here’s to a new (secular) year of progress, peace, and justice. With your help, we’ll achieve it! In the meantime, good bye to 2011 – we’ll be here in the new year, prying Judaism from the lifeless fingers of the Jewish establishment and serving it up to the public with the insistence, “This belongs to you!”

2 thoughts on “2011, what's that?

  1. Wow, it really has been quite an eventful year in the Jewish realm. My favorites: Gilad Shalit coming home, and Jews taking a majority of the nobel prizes (I didnt actually know that until now).
    I disagree with your statement that Jeremy Ben-Ami on the colbert report was the best tv coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict though. Did you watch Netanyahu and Abbas’ speech to the UN? In my opinion, there is no better coverage than watching events unfold and making your own decisions about them. Rather than watching somebody else speak their opinion on what is happening. But of course, the colbert report gets a lot more attention than CNN, or any news channel that would cover a UN meeting.
    What I am looking forward to most in 2012 is the work I will be doing for LionOps. LionOps is an adventure tourism company that brings folks to Israel for an experience of a lifetime. You can shoot many different Israeli firearms, go skydiving, offroading, and learn Israeli military tactics. Taking a trip with LionOps will give you a much better understanding of the political situation that Israel is in, and how difficult it is for Israelis. We have a facebook (, youtube (, and webpage (, it is an amazing, once in a lifetime, trip.

  2. Some additional suggestions:
    Worst of the Media:
    Deborah Orr of The Guardian who insinuated that Israel conducted the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange because of a racist ideology
    The Los Angeles Times, which described the slaughter of the Fogel family (murdered parents, slit the throats of 2 children and decapitated a 3-month old baby) as “part of the cycle of violence.”
    My nominations may not be as “politically correct” or “progressive” as the rest of the list, but it’s appalling journalism and should be noted.

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