This post will attest to the benefit of bloggers checking their referral log to see who is reading and linking to them. Had I not done this I wouldn’t have come across one of the most interesting web sites I’d seen in months. It is Jewdas: Radical Voices for the Alternative Diaspora. The website name conceals multiple meanings: first, there is the reference to Judas, by which the site mocks the notion that radical Jews are somehow betraying their faith and also attacking the prevailing Christian culture; second, the ‘das’ in the title refers to the Hebrew word for “religion” and when yoked to the notion of Judas as Jesus’ enemy, also conveys an a certain animus toward the religious aspect of Jewish identity.
This just one helluva funny website and I hope a few quotations will illuminate some of the wit that is there. Here’s the About page (warning: there is a bit of inside Brit Yid references and humor):
Probably you’ve clicked here because you’re rather baffled by the rest of the site. Probably this is because you’re not Jewish. Or American. Or (g-d forbid) both!
…A few years ago we came across a great find. Amidst a large pile of rubble, in a dark corner of East London, we found the book of Jewdas. And lo, it was very good.
It had been written in Jerusalem thousands of years ago, by a cabal of radical scribes, and yet we discovered it by the back of a kebab shop in Dalston.
Written in Yiddish (which turned out to be a far older, more authentic language than Hebrew), it teaches of the great radicalism of Jewish tradition, a tradition of dreamers, subversives, cosmopolitans and counter-culturalists. It waxes lyrical on the virtues of cosmopolitanism, putting loyalty to ideas of international justice over tribalism and parochialism, and attacks the oppressiveness of the ‘natural’ in favour of ethics designed to meet the face of the other. It preaches of the need to widen Judaism beyond the boundaries of those born Jewish, towards an ethic of wider concern, a Judaism that might at times stand in critique of the Jews. It prophesied a rise of ‘international subversives’ who would undermine power wherever they found themselves, who would preach veganism, pacifism and pickled cucumbers.
The book also made very clear that man would rise up, known as Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and that he would not be the messiah, but rather a very naughty boy.
The book was not only passive, it also made active demands. A quick bible code style analysis determined that the book was instructing us to mercilessly satirize Anglo Jewry, suggest new and more radical ways of being Jewish, and also throw excellent parties. Who were we to disobey?
So here we are. Hope that made some sense. If not lets just say this- whatever your background if you: prefer stirring things up to keeping the peace, prefer dreaming of the utopian rather than settling for the prosaic, and think that culture and ethnicity should be springboards for overthrowing the state, then you’re a Jewdaser at heart. Lets storm the barricades together.
There is much at this site which reminds me of my own days as a radical Jewish college student in the 1970s: the heroes are almost identical (they’ve added Naomi Klein as a latter-day saint); there is merciless satirizing of the tradition; the courage in the face of a massive, alienating Jewish communal consensus. This is a perfect example of plus ca change, plus la meme chose (or whatever is the Yiddish equivalent).
Jewdas brings to mind the wonderful blurb Donald Barthelme wrote for his friend, Grace Paley’s astonishing Enormous Changes at the Last Minute:
Grace Paley is a wonderful writer and troublemaker. We are fortunate to have her in our country.
That is the spirit of Jewdas and mirrors perfectly my embrace of their contrarian Jewish ethos. What can I say? I love Jews like these.