On Jewish "Wannabes"

I know a lot of Black people.
Okay, let’s be polite: there are many African-Americans in my peer circle, my wife is African-American, and there are African-American congregants at my shul. Heck, Tamara helps lead services most weeks. In the African-American community, there is repeated reference to the ‘wannabe’ – the ubiquitous culture vulture who snacks on Black culture, adopting the superficial aspects, but who NEVER has to deal with the consequences of actually being Black.
Madonna changed her name to ‘Esther’ for $%^&’s sake!
And now this.
Without giving anything away, scroll to the bottom of page one. Johnny Weir – you rock!
Special thanks to Shred Lexicon, a fellow poster here at Jewschool, for bringing this to my attention.
How do we, as a people, feel about the ‘Jew Hags’? Are they allies? Harmless culture bandits? Or do they demean who were are by wearing our Judaism like the lates Prada handbag and gulping it down like Kabbalah water?
I’m curious.

24 thoughts on “On Jewish "Wannabes"

  1. ever since Jesus comrade, supercession is super old skool. i don’t mind. I’m flattered, as long as the mighty youth rise above it and know what’s theirs. mit a sach veel reichern papiern, wir besseh. bwah.

  2. This post may seem incredibly racist, but it’s just a theory. Here in Detroit, the various “Jew Hags” or wannabees my sis and I have encountered through the years have one thing in common: they’ve all been Asian. My sister’s theory is that our wannabee friends who came to this country from China and Hong Kong were treated pretty crappily by the white Christian kids in school, so they gravitated to the Jewish kids, who treated them better. Yes, it’s kinda annoying that our friend from Hong Kong talks about Jewish stuff ALL THE TIME, and that he only thinks of us as Jews, not as just people. But, I guess we should take it as a compliment. I think wannabees are harmless. And, if they want to become Jewish, the more the merrier!

  3. I think there’s a difference between “Jew wannabes,” such as Madonna/Esther and people who adopt elements of Judaism or Jewish culture, and “Jew Hags,” as in people who support or hang out with Jews but don’t superficially take on Judaism. Overall, there’s been a big philo-Semitic shift in American society, and maybe some other countries — that is, there’s a “Judaization” of a lot of secular or Christian cultural elements. It explains why there’s been a big overhaul in Jewish-Christian relations, a big growth in “Messianic Judaism,” and everything from Jew Wannabes to Jew Hags, etc, etc.
    That’s my sociological perspective, anyway. 😀 I think a lot of these things are harmless, or potentially even positive if they make people genuinely interested in Judaism. Although based on the white obsession with black culture, my guess is it’ll all stay superficial. Other things including Messianic Judaism and “Jew wannabes” like Madonna, are glib to the point of being demeaning and crass to actual Jews, in my opinion. And are any of them our allies? Definitely not.
    I’m willing to be tolerant and patiently ride this thing out like a tidal wave, because unless it turns into a backlash of Judaism, it’s mostly harmless. Just people buying into (no pun intended) the consumer approach to religion in America. Maybe it robs them of a genuine experience of religion/spirituality, but other than that, no harm, no foul.

  4. Philo-semitism and anti-semitism tend to occur in waves, close to each other. This is a premonition; Jews will be objects of hatred in a larger scale, on the heels of this nonsense. Beware.

  5. Evrbody secretely wants to be the underdog. For example, I like to dress like a Native American chief when I go root for the good guys in the WWF at Nassau Colloseum..

  6. I dunno, I was made an honorary cultural Jew my second year as a Brandeis affirmative action special. Wannabe never really happened to me…I make a great kugel tho. Does that count?

  7. It’s not that Johnny Weir is a wannabe, it’s that he actually WAS a Jew. In a past life. A recent past life. Can’t you people please read the article?!
    We can’t help who we used to be in a past life. Where do you think I get my Napoleon Complex from? I used to be Napoleon.
    (It appears from the rest of his behavior that Weir also used to be Richard Simmons in his past life. Which is really weird, because I don’t think Richard Simmons is dead yet. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

  8. Poor Johnny Weir. He is just screaming for help. Would somebody give that kid a hug? And a second helping of biscuit?

  9. Judaism is a fascinating and diverse religion, so it’s always encouraging when people are genuinely interesting in understanding who we are and why we do what we do.
    it’s frustrating and tokenistic when we take on black culture or attempt to emulate it rather than embracing and developing our own knowledge of our own heritage.
    The ‘New Jew’ culture which is embraced in ‘Heeb’ magazine and ‘the hebrew hammer’ film is all style to compensate for a lack of content. That’s not to say it isn’t worthwhile, it is certainly fun and makes Judaism sexy; but it shouldn’t just be about image.
    Shabbat shalom Hebrew Brothers and Sisters.

  10. Oooh- culture vultures, my favorite subject! And by favorite subject, I mean totally skin crawly and weird. Spend five minutes in the yiddish/jewish music world and you will meet any number of non-jewish europeans (generally germans) just in love with jewish culture. None of them have any interest in *being* jewish, I dunno, they just want some of the semitic sexy to rub off on them. go fig…

  11. i want to preface by saying that i’m in the process of conversion. which i guess makes me a very devoted wannabee, but i’m sure it colors my view on this.
    the first and most salient time i ever heard a complaint about “everybody wanting to be jewish” it was from a catholic, and it was the crux of an extremely antisemitic argument related to crypto-jews, ethiopian jews, jews during the middle ages, etc. now this person is a great guy, and i would not call him an antisemite. but this argument was really offensive and it was all based on an idea he had gotten that most examples of jewish persecution are actually overrepresented because most of the people who were supposedly repressed were really just wannabees.
    next, i’d like to say that i spent many years before i decided to formally convert being a wanabee. and i’m not ashamed- it took me a long time to recognize that in my heart and soul i have always felt jewishness, and decide to do something about it. so perhaps some (though by no means am i suggesting all) of the wannabees are exploring and trying to connect with the jewishness of their souls, and perhaps we should honor and foster that. maybe if we did, these “waves” of philosemitism mentioned by a previous commenter wouldn’t be followed by waves of antisemitism.

  12. If you have an appreciation for someone else’s culture, even if you aren’t a part of it, there’s nothing wrong with that. Even if you do things that are a part of that culture, like music, food and clothes. It’s only wrong, but kinda funny, when you actually say you are black or jewish or asian etc. but you aren’t. but you CAN say you are an honorary black or jewish or asian person.

  13. from
    Torah Whorah
    Pronounced: tore-ah whore-ah
    A term for anyone who wishes that he/she were Jewish. A hanger-on at predominantly Jewish functions, like the Matzoh Ball events around the holidays; a gentile on J-Date.
    Another term for Jewwish.
    Dave came up with this, not me.Dude, I was at the Matzoh Ball and a group of Asians came in.
    Really? Were they Jewish?
    Nah….they were Torah Whorahs.

  14. Everytime i say to my siblings….’Don’t take drugs! This will make you ill and maye you will end in the nuthouse!’- Which is really like don quijotes fight against windmills in a liberal society like Germany.
    But what#s happened to poor Johnny? Is he permanently stoned? Whatever, i have to go so i don’t pass my self-founding cleopatra session..bye bye honeys….

  15. Before it became “cool” to be a Jew wannabe… And it was unthinkable for anyone to want to convert was the quip that after immersion the rabbi declares: “OK welcome to the tribe…now, you are entitled to 5000 years of persecution” Let the buyer beware.

  16. Despite whether or not these people have respect for Judaism we are not addressing an important topic or two. as diverse and multifasited (that is soooo the wrong spelling) as Judaism is, it is not an excuse for doing whatever we want. we cannot afford to let just anyone in because they have a passing interest with wearing a t-shirt that says Jewcy on it.
    to put it lightly, there have to be boundaries. when there aren’t any rules left, then all you need to be jewish is a couple of necklaces and a palm reading. Judaism is a beautiful, logical, true religion. it sure as hell isn’t a fad that can be put on a t-shirt and sold. I wonder how much Torah these trendy-follower-son-of-a-bitches study? I wonder if pogroms started the world over how “Jewish” this guy would feel… Oh, and don’t start me on the whole Ch’lul Hashem thing.

  17. Well, burn my britches Aaron, what on H”M’s earth brings you to this board? Sir-prise, Sir-prise you didn’t take kindly to the joke y’all bein’ messaniac, well I guess that if you can’t stand the heat…

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