This week, on the “(Is It) Good for the Jews?” podcast…
Larry Rosen: Here’s something I’ve been thinking about, in terms of how it applies to Jews.
Eric Goldbrener: OK.
LR: Did you see where a kid in Utah got in trouble for wearing a, I don’t know what it’s called so I’d better be careful, a traditional Chinese gown to her prom?
EG: You mean a cheongsam?
LR: No. Maybe.
EG: What’s wrong with wearing a cheongsam to your prom?
LR: She was not Chinese. She got slammed for “cultural appropriation.”
EG: In Utah they care about such things?
LR: It was on Twitter. She got eviscerated. Meanwhile, I also saw a prominent African American comedian tweet that she was “kvelling.” The irony did not go unnoticed.
EG: See, we Jews don’t care about that stuff. Without cultural appropriation, there would be no Christianity. What if we got all bent out of shape over that one? Huh? That’s a pretty big appropriation!
LR: Stay in your own lane! Get outta mine! So here’s what’s happening, sort of a positive spin to this — non-white teens are beginning to wear prom outfits that reflect their own cultures.
EG: Like, uh…
LR: Like a sari, a dashiki…
EG: Beautiful! Wonderful!
LR: It’s for “da culture.”
EG: “Da culture.”
LR: Permission to misspell granted, Sir.
EG: That’s all right.
LR: It got me thinking. We, the Jews, we’re a culture, we talk about that on this show often. So if we are going to encourage Jewish teens to wear traditional Jewish garb to their proms, how would that look?
EG: I’d wear a dashiki.
LR: That’s cultural appropriation, my friend. I’m talking about wearing stuff that reflects your own culture.
EG: Oh, you mean like wearing tallit to your prom.
LR: I can’t think of what Jews would wear that would be a proud expression of Jewish culture. Khakis? What could we wear?
EG: You know, if I want to show my culture accurately I’ve got to go out and grow a beard and payes and guess what? Now I can’t get a job!
LR: These are kids. They’re not worried about that yet, but I’ll tell you what; you show up in the beard and payes, they’re not letting you into that prom.
EG: They’re not letting me in under any circumstances. I’m 53 years old, for God’s sake.
LR: The last time I was at a prom, I was a chaperone.
EG: Did you wear traditional Jewish clothing?
LR: I wore a suit, so sort of. What does the Jewish kid wear?
EG: Traditional Jewish clothes. If you were an Eastern Jew, you’d wear a caftan, slippers, perhaps a turban and a beard. If you were a Western Jew, you’d have the long black coat and knickerbockers…
LR: So festive. Really screams, “Hey! It’s time to party!”
EG: I don’t make the rules.
LR: What if you were a Beastie Boys Jew? That’s a little closer to home for me. A Beastie Boys Jew.
EG: That’s what I would do.
LR: You can go with the T-shirt and Levis, the backwards baseball cap…
EG: But here’s the problem: Didn’t the Beastie Boys also wear big gold chains?
LR: (horrified) Cultural appropriation. Scratch that.
EG: I’ll tell you what I’d do; I’d go as one of the Ramones.
LR: I love it.
EG: I wear the ripped jeans, the T-shirt, the black leather jacket. I can wear this every day.
LR: “Hi, I’m Jeffrey Hyman. Can you help me out? I’m having trouble pinning my corsage onto my leather jacket.”
EG: I think the idea that you’re not permitted to wear the styles of another culture is ridiculous.
LR: You’re preaching to the choir here.
EG: You start that, you’re heading down a slippery slope, my friend. You go to India, people are wearing Western dress. That’s how it works. One culture inspires the other. You mean to tell me you don’t want to share your culture? You want to keep it as your own private property? How would we have rock and roll? How would we have tacos?
LR: Go ahead. Kvell all you want. Watch “Seinfeld.” Get shpilkes. We don’t mind.
EG: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.