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Coen brothers and Bob Dylan went to Zionist summer camp

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Joel (l) and Ethan Coen

Joel (l) and Ethan Coen

Terry Gross interviewed the Coen Brothers the other day for their new film, and there was a lot of Jewish geography, i.e., Jews talking to Jews about what social milieu they’re from in the U.S.

It turns out the Coen brothers went to a Zionist summer camp, Camp Herzl. Growing up in an academic family, I escaped Zionist indoctrination, but I’m always curious about how it worked. American Jews need to take this indoctrination apart to understand who we are as religious supporters of settler colonialism.

And the Coen brothers are plenty sophisticated, but some of the patter here walks the line between insufferable and amusing– judge for yourself. Shegetz is Yiddish for a non-Jewish man, applied to Justin Timberlake. (P.S. Many gentiles consider the words goyim and shiksa offensive.)

GROSS: I read in an article he [Bob Dylan] went to the same summer camp that you did, I presume not at the same time. But…

COEN: No, not at the same time. That might even be urban or Midwestern myth, but yeah, that was the myth.

COEN: No, it’s not myth. I think it’s on – who was it that wrote the book about him, Sean Willentz. I think if you go on his website, or some other website having to do with Dylan, there are very early photographs of him at Herzl Camp.

(LAUGHTER)

COEN: That’s funny.

COEN: Which is the camp in Webster, Wisconsin, that we went to.

COEN: Yeah, where we both went. But yes, no, Bob went before us. He’s older than us. We’re catching up, but he’s still older than us.

GROSS: So I have to know, is this the kind of summer camp where you sing songs with lyrics about how great the camp is, and then there’s team songs with how great the team is?

COEN: No.

GROSS: Aw, shucks. I wanted to think of him as singing those songs.

COEN: No, you sang – it was Zionist summer camp, and you sang Zionist songs in Hebrew.

GROSS: One of the people in your cast is Justin Timberlake, who plays a folk singer who’s…

COEN: Turning from the Jewish theme.

(LAUGHTER)

COEN: We’re pretty sure Justin didn’t go to that camp.

(LAUGHTER)

COEN: No, unless we’re very much mistaken, the man is shegetz….

There’s also a bit about Allan Sherman as informing a generation of young Jews, and this:

GROSS: Because you edit together, you – I don’t know; I shouldn’t say because, because I don’t really know why you do this, but you edit together and you edit under the name Roderick James. Why did you need, like, a pseudonym to edit and does that name refer to anybody? Where does that name come from?

COEN: It doesn’t refer to anyone. It’s just something we grabbed out of the air. I don’t know; we just use the pseudonym cutting because our names are in the credits so many times already that adding one more just seemed like bad taste. Yeah, that’s really the reason.

GROSS: It’s a very un-Jewish sounding name. I’ll say that.

(LAUGHTER)

COEN: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

COEN: Yes. It certainly is. In fact, we sort of invented a whole persona for this guy…

I wonder how non-Jews feel hearing empowered Jews having this kind of inside conversation. Thinking of my own youth, my Jewish friends and I would have felt excluded and resentful if we thought gentiles in good jobs sat around doing gentile shtik. This reminds me of the specifically Jewish complex, per Kafka:

“springing from the confusion that the natives are too alien to one, thus distorting reality, and the Jews too close, distorting reality, and therefore one cannot treat the latter or the former with the proper balance.”

Thanks to Peter Voskamp.

 

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About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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43 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    December 20, 2013, 1:03 pm

    Shegetz is not the only word in Yiddish for non-Jew, isn’t it? What about goy? Goy is so much nicer than shegetz.

    My guess is that most people would react by asking what is shegetz.

    • annie
      annie
      December 20, 2013, 1:53 pm

      i had never heard of it so i looked it up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shegetz

      what’s interesting to me is that it’s almost certain if there was an equivalent by non jews to reference jews a wiki description would most certainly call it anti semitic. but they don’t say anything about it being bigoted, just “detestable,” “abomination”, “loathed”, “blemish”) and literally translates as “rascal”, “scoundrel” or “varmint”

      hmm. wiki (and society’s) double standard.

      • Krauss
        Krauss
        December 20, 2013, 2:34 pm

        Of course it is a racial double standard. Also note that the people you’re allowed to use these racial slurs against are typically Gentile whites. Would they use the same terminology against non-white Gentiles?

        On the other hand, the central irony of people like Coen inside the Jewish community is that when they hire people, they all hire white Gentile actors. Look at their films. Can you find a single black person in a leading role?

        And why is this case? My working theory is that the deeper enmeshed you become in the Jewish community – and since it is even more monoracial than even the Mormons! – that becomes your reference for everything in life. If you’ve been very separated from the rest of America, your friend circles are very white. They may be Jewish – but they are very white. So when you’re going to hire non-Jews, your strong natural inclination is to hire a bunch of white Christians. Just as the Coens.

        P.S. And yes, “shiksa” is a racial slur, too. Although there has been a growing concensus that the word is pretty racist. I guess it mirrors the attacks on blonde women in America more generally(“slutty, dumb”).

        Would the Coen brothers enjoy being called “kooks” even if done by people who do so with “affection”? There was a time when some people in America, who were genuine friends of blacks(or so they thought) used terms like “nigger” as an “affectionate” way. Because if we don’t mean no harm, how can people possibly judge us? Right?

      • ziusudra
        ziusudra
        December 21, 2013, 7:19 am

        Greetings Krauss & Tokyobk,
        Don’t feel any Insult in any of these remarks.
        GENTILE = Greek for Genes, meaning those of other Genes, where’s the slight? The Romans used it for anyone not Greek or Roman.
        Goy, Goyim = Hebrew meaning’ One of another Nation’.
        In ancients times, the 12 tribes described eachother as tribesmen of the same Nation. After they dropped Hebrew in 200BC, they forgot the original meaning & they applied the term to mean all People of other nations, hence they are historically using it improperly.
        Yid is simply short for Yiddisch.
        Shvarze is simply yiddisch from German ‘Schwarze’ That’s an Insult?
        Jew is English for original French Giu of the 12th C. The English placed a surcharge on Jews. World Jewry define themselves in English!?
        Heb is simply short for Hebrew.
        Hebrew itself is Greek ‘ One outside of the Hellenic Culture’.
        Israelite, a subject of the Kingdom of Israel. Israel, Hebrew=
        He fight EL (God).
        Hebrew is also the name of their resurrected language of the Afro/Asian dialect of the Canaanite language. Just like Dutch was a dialect of German, but having had so many good writers in the 16thC, it became a language.
        Kike is simply a Suffix of an East Euro Name.
        W.O.P. is simply an acronym for ‘without papers’ The Sicilians arrived at Ellis Island without documents, but not me Grannies.
        Mick is simply short for Michael the common name of Irish Men.
        Niggar is an old Eng. Def. of ‘lowly’ & has nothing to do with Negroid.
        Spic. is simply short for hispanic.
        Kraut short for Sauerkraut for Germans.
        ziusudra
        PS Call me shegetz or shikse anyday.

      • Ecru
        Ecru
        December 21, 2013, 1:42 pm

        @ ziusudra

        Etymology’s an interesting subject but it’s about the origin and development of words not their present meaning. And it’s the present meaning and intent that matters. As I’ve had to say to Zionist bigots here on Mondoweiss before – the word “teapot” if used often enough to disparage people will eventually come to be a disparaging term.

        “N*gger” is from the Latin “niger” meaning dark or black – it’s still highly offensive for white people to use it of black people. The origin of the term isn’t important it’s the use it’s been put to. Likewise these terms bigoted Jews use of non-Jews are offensive and all your attempts to remove context from the terms of abuse through reference to (flawed) etymology* is ultimately merely an attempt to excuse Jewish bigots.

        * Mick is from the prefix Mac/Mc.
        Hebrew is from Hebrew ibhri via Aramaic and Greek.
        And Dutch is not and has never been a dialect of German. It’s a West Germanic Language dating to around the 8th Century when there was no standard German language.

      • LeaNder
        LeaNder
        December 21, 2013, 9:55 am

        So when you’re going to hire non-Jews, your strong natural inclination is to hire a bunch of white Christians. Just as the Coens.

        I’ll try to make this a short comment, Krauss. on the other hand that is one of my favorite topics.

        It may be much more a mainstream media feature than one specific to the Coen brothers. I have Eric Deggan’s Race Baiter in mind in this context. But his outlook is basically positive, it’s changing, he thinks.

        To the extend it is a mainstream media feature it mirrors society, so yes you can find that Jewish directors obey a basic US media law. Audience expectations … Strictly my impression while studying film was that a specific basically conservative authoritarian camp hit behind these type of arguments. But that is me.

        Of course you can find racists easily in the wider Jewish neoconservative or “culture warrior” establishment. Horowitz the good righteous defender of “culture” against the many savages out there not only Arabs or lefties? David Horowitz’ Negro problem, (RIP my friend). Ages ago by now it feels, FrontPageMag had an article about the problem with the lefties and their misguided ideas about the “savages”, so I got interested and stumbled across the late David Mills’ research. Horowitz of course is only the tip of the iceberg in this context. But also no surprise there concerning the larger US conservative elite view, I guess. Before S.A.N.E, Society of Americans for National Existence, closed it’s doors to the public based on some public outcries they defined America as a state founded by “Judeo-Christian” settlers that “were predominantly white” … Apparently after that experience they “closed doors”.

        I think, and in the larger “feeding the rage” context Jerome’s Slater’s review of Shavit was one of the most important articles here lately. Reminded me of the democrats’ Fear Inc Study. Apparently there is no problem to feed Arabo-Islamophobia, for the apparent reason. As I expected it already reaches alarming levels in Europe. What I ask myself is, what happens if you open the resentment valves?

        Security indeed seens to be an avaricious God, once you designate a specific group (Arabs, Islam) you seem to give people a chance to add their own enemies more freely. Thus I wasn’t really surprised when I noticed that Dershowitz immediately assumed there was no problem with Trayvon Martin as a “burglar suspect” turning into a “killer machine” in exactly 1 minute and 12 seconds. The time he survived after his phone call with a friend ended and the shot was heard on a 911 call.

        Here a self-declared sociopath and Mormon, since that is on your mind, on the Trayvon Martin case. See how easy it is reduce the case to a cost benefit calculation “culture wise”. Winners and Losers?

        So George Zimmerman. I get that some people think that he is a soulless sociopath who stalked Trayvon Martin like a predator might stalk his prey (especially since he didn’t show the proper remorse?). … but let’s think about why. First we have to think about how to value someone’s life.

        Maybe it’s their net benefit to society minus their net cost in terms of raw production/consumption. Several years ago one of my friend’s mother died after a lengthy illness. I could not help but notice what I thought were efficiencies in this situation, with all of her stuff being divided up amongst her children.

        Maybe we are more generous and we just look at production, so lifetime earning potential. For someone like Trayvon Martin, who was on his third suspension from school of the academic year at the time of the killing, maybe $1M and change? And I don’t know much about Zimmerman, but he was living in a gated community, so maybe twice that (although he was 12 years older than Trayvon)?

        Interesting, isn’t it?

        Concerning “nigger” I remember it was initially used by black Americans. in the same positive way my generation used the term “freak”. So, you do not need to differentiate between friends and not friends, although, yes, that is a standard: The “exception versus the rule”? I could imagine that black rapper usage of the term may well complicate the general usage among kids or juveniles nowadays, so we are back to intention behind usage. The real foggy area beyond easy assumptions.

        GROSS: It’s a very un-Jewish sounding name. I’ll say that.

        I can see that Coen, could be some type of variant of Cohen. But does Gross honestly think that Gross is a Jewish name? In Cologne alone there are 334 hits for the name with two variant spellings: Gross and Groß. Would he assume that Weiss is Jewish, since he is aware Phil is Jewish? Well it is simply white in German and a rather frequent name too.

        Now it got much longer than I intended. No surprise there.

      • tokyobk
        tokyobk
        December 20, 2013, 7:19 pm

        It is a despicable word, “shegetz.” Just like “shikse.” It was also used to describe a rowdy Jewish boy, but the intent here is still slander of non-Jews.

        Goy is a Hebrew word meaning nation. It is like, though not as extreme a case as “shvarze,” (Yiddish; black) kushi (Hebrew; Ethiopian) in the sense that it had a literal meaning at one time and continues to have a neutral meaning in Hebrew texts but in every day speech (where Gentile might be used) is effectively a slur. imo.

      • LeaNder
        LeaNder
        December 21, 2013, 12:29 pm

        No doubt, tokyobk, but if you listen to the passage in context, one of the brother’s uses the term when Terry Gross abruptly changes the subject, no more about Jewish summer camps, as she cannot support her own prejudice about what goes on there, and that whatever went one there must have shaped their outlook even concerning “non-Jewish” characters in their movies. Or at the moment she hears “Hebrew songs”, if you like.

        GROSS: So I have to know, is this the kind of summer camp where you sing songs with lyrics about how great the camp is, and then there’s team songs with how great the team is?

        COEN: No.

        GROSS: Aw, shucks. I wanted to think of him as singing those songs.

        COEN: No, you sang – it was Zionist summer camp, and you sang Zionist songs in Hebrew.

        GROSS: One of the people in your cast is Justin Timberlake, who plays a folk singer who’s…

        At this point one of them mirrors back to her the prejudice that may well have been on her mind in an oblique way, strictly what better way than using such a term would there be? She would have loved to paint that special musical looser in a very specific way. So although she clearly is obsessed with it this is about more than about a looser in the music business, which is also mirrored in the fact that she keeps returning to Bob Dylan. And it registers:

        COEN: Turning from the Jewish theme.

        (LAUGHTER)

        COEN: We’re pretty sure Justin didn’t go to that camp.

        (LAUGHTER)

        COEN: No, unless we’re very much mistaken, the man is shegetz….

        So, my overall impression is that Terri Gross celebrates Jewishness, while whoever brother used the politically incorrect term, may have used it ironically to tell her something about herself. She clearly outed herself as a prejudiced person at that point via her interpretation or expectations about both the “non-Jewish character” and the “Jewish film maker duo”- This is of course much more evident if you listen to the passage, and not simply read it.

  2. marc b.
    marc b.
    December 20, 2013, 1:21 pm

    yeah. shegetz. haha. shiksa. haha. what a pair of insufferable pricks.

    I had hoped that the coens had moved beyond their earlier insulting, condescending misanthropy (unlike aronofsky who’s irredeemably frozen there apparently), the ‘westerns’ a seemingly mature improvement. guess not.

    ‘this American Life’, I believe, did a summer camp show a while back with a segment featuring one of these Zionist youth camps. as I remember an interviewee was describing the Nazi ‘boogey man’ trauma inflicted on young campers gathered one night around the campfire, complete with feigned mayhem and kidnapping. no joke. a life lesson of sorts. for us non-campers that is.

    • just
      just
      December 20, 2013, 8:36 pm

      It’s a trio of insufferables… terry gross is, well, gross when it comes to her slavering over members of her inner circle…..or tribe.

  3. bilal a
    bilal a
    December 20, 2013, 1:58 pm

    Laying with a Shiksa/Shegetz is like laying with a creepign thing, a lizard, a beast:

    shegetz, like its feminine counterpart shiksa, comes from the Hebrew sheketz (“detestable,” “abomination”, “loathed”, “blemish”)

    shiksa is etymologically partly derived from the Hebrew term שקץ shekets, meaning “abomination”, “impure,” or “object of loathing”,

    sheygets originally had no connection with gentiles or young people. It began as the Hebrew shekets [שקץ], a reptile or amphibian, an abominable or detestable creature, the sort of cold-blooded treyf forbidden to Jews in the eleventh chapter of Leviticus. Indeed, Jews became impure if they so much as touched the carcass of a shekets. This touch-me-not aspect of the shekets is expanded from food to family in the Talmud, where the word is used in a well-known passage about the types of family to avoid in marriage:

    Let [a scholar] not marry the daughter of an unlearned and unobservant man, for they are an abomination [shekets] and their wives a creeping thing, and of their daughters it is said: Cursed be he who lieth with any manner of beast. [Deut. 27:21]
    http://myrightword.blogspot.com/2010/04/to-all-my-shikse-friends.html
    ….
    But Alex baldwin could not call Anderson Cooper a “…”.. That would be hate speech.

  4. annie
    annie
    December 20, 2013, 2:07 pm

    i think it’s interesting they chose the name Roderick James as their joint name as editors. and when they say they ” invented a whole persona for this guy…” i find this very interesting, psychologically, and wonder what that joint persona might be.

    and here’s why. they live in a world where everything is not jewish and it’s likely, probable, as with most jews, that there are parts of their being and personalities and lives that they don’t relate to per se as jewish. like for example when you look at a cloud, it’s just a cloud or an apple. and as such ones identity as a jew may not impact ones experience of the apple/cloud. no different than most people’s concepts of their identity. and as americans they’re going to share many identifiers just like me, aside from any other ethnic identifiers.

    so this persona or this eye towards editing is a non jew persona, sort of or in part. and it is part of ‘who they are’. now editing is an important job although to a non editor or a layman or a director or writer it may seem tedious or boring. my son is an editor and that’s all he ever wanted to be, but for most people going into film it’s not the grand tamale, but it’s completely essential in the making of movies. but it was this task they chose a non jewish identity. so this is interesting. and it’s a nod to the non jew in them, in their identities. interesting.

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      December 20, 2013, 7:42 pm

      “they live in a world where everything is not jewish”

      Such a world is one in which nothing is Jewish. That is not this world, so which world do they inhabit?

      (Or do you mean “a world where not everything is Jewish”?)

      • annie
        annie
        December 20, 2013, 10:53 pm

        yes,i meant “a world where not everything is Jewish”

  5. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    December 20, 2013, 2:25 pm

    Shegetz and shikse are unacceptable words. People who know their meaning should not use them and people who don’t know their meaning should learn their meaning and stop using them. Sometimes people want to vent their anger or artistic bent with the use of verboten words. But I think Coen (which one?) is probably ignorant of its etymology. He should be taught and consider changing his behavior.

    Not all of their movies are great. But some: Fargo, No Country for old men and raising arizona and maybe even a serious man are excellent.

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      December 20, 2013, 4:16 pm

      The big lebowski .

    • annie
      annie
      December 20, 2013, 10:55 pm

      don’t forget blood simple. i’ve thoroughly enjoyed every movie of theirs i ever saw.

  6. LanceThruster
    LanceThruster
    December 20, 2013, 2:29 pm

    Larry Gopnick: “What happened to the Goy?”
    Rabbi Nachtner: “The Goy? Who Cares?”

  7. Krauss
    Krauss
    December 20, 2013, 2:36 pm

    By the way, if they went to Zionist summer camp and casually throw around racist terms like this, what does that say about the indoctrination at Zionist summer camps?
    But yes, I know it goes deeper than just Zionism. There is a still-too accepted standard of racism against non-Jews in the Jewish community. This is what happens when everyone has accepted a mythology that what happened in the Holocaust and how we acted in the civil rights movement has absolved us forever from racism.

    It’s a dangerous myth.

    • Rusty Pipes
      Rusty Pipes
      December 20, 2013, 9:46 pm

      My takeaway from hearing the interview was very different. Both Coen brothers are married to non-Jewish women. Their depiction of Jewish American and non-Jewish American characters and monocultures are all a bit wacky. If their parents sent them to Zionist summer camp, they may well have been ready to tell Gross about all the quirky characters and crazy activities they survived. When she realized the can of worms she had just opened up, Gross abruptly shifted gears … to Justin Timberlake.

      • Kathleen
        Kathleen
        December 20, 2013, 10:10 pm

        I have not listened just read what Phillip put up. I was taken by that “abrupt shifting” I think you make a solid point

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        December 20, 2013, 11:27 pm

        Thanks Rusty.

  8. yrn
    yrn
    December 20, 2013, 2:44 pm

    “Thinking of my own youth, me and my Jewish friends would have felt excluded and resentful if we thought gentiles in good jobs sat around doing gentile shtik. ”

    Philip Weiss, wonder why I never ever thought about this issue in my youth ?

    Is it because I live in the “Jewish State”.
    “gentile shtik” what is it.
    Shiksa/Shegetz ….. that’s Jewish life in the diaspora, you asked for it, you got it.

  9. Kathleen
    Kathleen
    December 20, 2013, 2:53 pm

    “I wonder how non-Jews feel hearing empowered Jews in the media have this kind of inside conversation. Thinking of my own youth, me and my Jewish friends would have felt excluded and resentful if we thought gentiles in good jobs sat around doing gentile shtik. Reminds me of the specifically Jewish complex, per Kafka:

    “springing from the confusion that the natives are too alien to one, thus distorting reality, and the Jews too close, distorting reality, and therefore one cannot treat the latter or the former with the proper balance.”

    I know plenty of folks who have taken notice of NPR’s “pervasive cronyism” for a very log time. Gross especially leans this way. Promoting her tribe over others artist, musicians etc. This is nothing new on NPR but always great when folks from inside the tribe take note

  10. dbroncos
    dbroncos
    December 20, 2013, 7:09 pm

    @Kathleen

    Gross, among others, has done her part through the years in helping NPR earn the snide moniker “jewish national radio”. There’s some of Kafka’s critique at work here with both Jews and non-Jews seeing the other as more “other” than they really are – the seeds of resentment and paranoia.

  11. Denis
    Denis
    December 20, 2013, 7:24 pm

    Well, if truth be told, I have never been offended by shegetz, b/c it’s one I’ve never heard before. Now that I know, I’ll have the good manners to be offended, already.

    Or maybe not. I am not offended by cracker, honk, mick, stud, slurpy-doll, white boy, anti-semite, expat, or half-wit. No problemo. But call me goy and you’ll piss me off b/c to me it stands for Government of Yisrael.

    I used to to love the Coen boys, and have spent hours memorizing large parts of the Lebowski script, including the entire opening and closing soliloquies.

    And then they went to Yisrael to collect a $1M racist prize for being top Jews, and I haven’t seen one of their flicks since. Probably won’t.

    One morning a couple years ago I woke up realizing what TBL was really all about. The joke is not for us, it’s on us. It was these two Zionists’ way to use the caricature of Walter to call Saddam a “camel-f&*ker” in public and get away with it. Hate speech dressed up as comedy is not hate speech if it’s Islamophobic and packaged as a Hollywood product that is written/directed/produced by Jews.

    The Coens, Goodman, and all of the Jewish backers must have laughed until they choked back Zionist tears at that line. Imagine anyone in 1998 referring to Sharon as a “camel-f&*ker” in a movie script. Not only would it not get a dollar of funding, the writers, directors, and producers would have all been run out of America . . . and I’m thinkin’ Mel Gibson here. Miley Cyrus. Helen Thomas. A small myriad of other shiksa/shegetz who dared to say what was on their minds and paid the price for free speech.

    Wal, uh hope you folks enjoyed yourselves. Catch ya further on down the trail. . . Say friend, ya got any more a that good sarsaparilla?

    • jon s
      jon s
      December 21, 2013, 9:46 am

      Yeah, well, Walter also says that he’s “shomer-fucking-shabbes”, a formulation which might seem a bit offensive to some.

      • Denis
        Denis
        December 21, 2013, 3:34 pm

        @jon: Walter also says that he’s “shomer-fucking-shabbes”

        I don’t know, dude. I mean I hate to get in a pissin’ match with you over the BL script, but you gotta’ understand, this is, like, scripture to some of us. We don’t want people messin’ with it.

        So in spite of it being shabbas today, I dug this out for you. I’m goy anyway, so it’s no big deal. Here’s the verbatim script passage, which is Acts 7:27 in my BibLe.

        WALTER
        I told that kraut a fucking thousand times I don’t roll on shabbas.

        DONNY
        It’s already posted.

        WALTER
        WELL THEY CAN FUCKING UN-POST IT!

        DUDE
        Who gives a shit, Walter? What about that poor woman? What do we tell–

        WALTER
        C’mon Dude, eventually she’ll get sick of her little game and, you know, wander back–

        DONNY
        How come you don’t roll on Saturday, Walter?

        WALTER
        I’m shomer shabbas.

        DONNY
        What’s that, Walter?

        DUDE
        Yeah, and in the meantime what do I tell Lebowski?

        WALTER
        Saturday is shabbas. Jewish day of rest. Means I don’t work, I don’t drive a car, I don’t fucking ride in a car, I don’t handle money, I don’t turn on the oven, and I sure as shit don’t fucking roll!

        DONNY
        Sheesh.

        DUDE
        Walter, how–

        WALTER
        Shomer shabbas.

        Later the Coens pick up this line of “thought”:

        WALTER
        What’s your point, Dude?

        DUDE
        His million bucks was never in it, man! There was no money in that briefcase! He was hoping they’d kill her! You throw out a ringer for a ringer!

        WALTER
        Yeah?

        DUDE
        Shit yeah!

        WALTER
        Okay, but how does all this add up to an emergency?

        DUDE
        Huh?

        WALTER
        I’m saying, I see what you’re getting at, Dude, he kept the money, but my point is, here we are, it’s shabbas, the sabbath, which I’m allowed to break only if it’s a matter of life and death–

        DUDE
        Walter, come off it. You’re not even fucking Jewish, you’re–

        WALTER
        What the fuck are you talking about?

        DUDE
        You’re fucking Polish Catholic–

        This would not be 1/10th as funny if the Coens weren’t Jewish. This is the Richard Pryor approach of getting us to laugh at our differences, and maybe appreciate them more.

        Maybe Goodman threw an extemporaneous f-bomb in there between shomer and shabbas, but the Coens have a wicked reputation for enforcing every single word and punctuation mark in their scripts.

        But even if so, it it was “shomer-fucking-shabbas,” that is not an insult to shomer, shabbas, or Jews. It’s a means of adding internal emphasis, like “big fucking deal,” a phrase immortalized by our esteemed vice-president, whose mouth is as foul as Joel and Ethan’s.

  12. Jill St. Cu
    Jill St. Cu
    December 20, 2013, 7:55 pm

    When you grow up in small towns with small Jewish populations, it’s not uncommon to go to religious Jewish camps, Zionist or otherwise. It’s mostly to meet other Jews and in some cases, meet future spouses.
    By the way, with intermarriage between Jews and Christians at an all time high, it’s not unusal to see Jews name Callahan and Fitzgerald.

  13. rplatkin
    rplatkin
    December 20, 2013, 9:49 pm

    As someone who has been active in left-zionist, non-zionist, and now anti-zionist organizations for many decades, I know Herzl Camp very well. I was a camper there, as were many people from the Jewish communities in the upper midwest. Parents who sent their kids there, and kids who went there, were oblivious to its zionist orientation, which consisted of Hebrew words on buildings and Israeli songs after meals. Most of the camp’s programming, like swimming or softball, as well as religious services and prayers at meals, had no connection to Israel, Jewish nationalism, or zionist ideology.

    Furthermore, there was no use of Yiddish (German dialect widely spoken by Jews in Easter Europe through 1920’s and 1030’s) or Yiddish expressions at the camp, such as derogatory slang terms for non-Jewish men and women. But, these expressions were/are common in the Jewish community, at least for people in their late 50’s and older who still have lingering connections to their grandparent’s immigrant origins in Eastern Europe. This would include people like the Terri Gross or the Coen brothers, but they would not have learned the expressions at places like Herzl Camp. For that matter Yiddish is antithetical to zionist culture and was frowned on Israel, where it was seen as as language of wimpy diaspora Jews.

    For those who think that a summer camping experience at Herzl Camp many decades ago somehow framed the artistic vision of the Coen brothers, I suggest the watch A Serious Man. It is a total lampoon of the organized Jewish community of the Twin Cities, where they grew up. And then they should look at Oh Brother, Where are Thou, an anti-racist film.

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      December 21, 2013, 2:22 am

      I’m not sure about the anti-racism of the Coens considering their throwaway use of derogatory terms for non-Jews. As for the “defence” that,

      …these expressions were/are common in the Jewish community…

      Imagine for a second a white person from Mississippi using that type of argument when they’re caught using the word “n*gger” when referring to black people. Not very convincing to say the least.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        December 21, 2013, 9:04 pm

        “But, these expressions were/are common in the Jewish community”

        Does not give a good impression of the Jewish community.

      • Ecru
        Ecru
        December 22, 2013, 2:01 pm

        @ RoHa

        No, it doesn’t really does it.

    • jon s
      jon s
      December 21, 2013, 3:52 pm

      Incidentally, can anyone explain the meaning of the prologue in “A Serious Man” ( the “dybbuk” story)?

    • Denis
      Denis
      December 21, 2013, 4:07 pm

      “Most of the [Camp Herzl]’s programming, like swimming or softball . . .”

      Brings to mind the greatest Jewish kid-camp ever, which was not explicitly identified as Jewish:
      Hello, muddah. Hello, faddah. Here I am a Camp Grenada . . .”

      Alan Sherman introduced a whole generation of us baby-boomer, non-Jewish Americans to the plight of our Jewish contemporaries struggling with their own cultural straight-jackets, the same way Cosby helped us white kids identify with the black ones.

  14. mcohen
    mcohen
    December 20, 2013, 10:53 pm

    Philip Weiss on December 20, 2013 says

    “I wonder how non-Jews feel hearing empowered Jews in the media have this kind of inside conversation.”

    from the movie the Big Lebowski

    The Dude: Would you come off it Walter? You’re not even f.cking Jewish, man.

    Walter Sobchak: What the f.ck are you talking about Dude?

    The Dude: You’re f.cking Polish-Catholic!

    Walter Sobchak: What the f.ck are you talking about? I converted when I married Cynthia, Dude.

    The Dude: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…

    Walter Sobchak: And you know this!

    The Dude: …And five f.cking years ago you were divorced man!

    Walter Sobchak: When you get a divorce you get a new license? You turn in your library card? You *stop* being Jewish?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118715/quotes

  15. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    December 21, 2013, 2:30 pm

    RE: “Coen brothers and Bob Dylan went to Zionist summer camp”

    MY COMMENT: What the hell were they teaching those kids?* Were they trying to make them just another brick in the wall?
    Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!

    * SEE: “Bob Dylan turns 70; still hasn’t Recanted Praise for Rabbi Meir Kahane”, by Amago, SpencerWatch.com, 5/24/11
    LINK – http://spencerwatch.com/2011/05/24/bob-dylan-turns-70-still-hasnt-recanted-praise-for-rabbi-meir-kahane/

  16. rplatkin
    rplatkin
    December 23, 2013, 2:12 am

    Let’s return to reality and stop trying to reverse engineer the development of apartheid in Israel-Palestine by alleging long-lasting and perverse racist ideologies resulting from Bob Dylan’s and the Coen’s brother’s several weeks at Herzl Camp in Webster, Wisconsin during a summer vacation in the 1950’s.

    As to the question of “What the Hell were they teaching those kids?” there were no teachers at the camp, just counselors, like myself, who were college undergraduates. This was long before the 1967 Six Day war and even before such hasbarah epics as Leon Uris’s Exodus. It was also before the holocaust industry that Norman Finkelstein wrote about, even existed.

    As I wrote previously, at Herzl Camp the kids played softball, learned basic swimming strokes (I was one of their teachers!), about a dozen words in Hebrew for such camp buildings as a “dining hall,” Hebrew songs that were never translated into English, several dance steps, and lots of Jewish religious prayers that had no connection to Israel. The closest thing to Middle East politics was a capture-the-flag game in which the “enemy” was British soldiers from the pre-1948 mandate period.

    Unlike the present, which Max Blumenthal points out in Goliath (p. 276) is a golden age for American Jews, the 1950’s were qualitatively different. In that period most American Jews still had living connections to Europe, some Jews still Anglicized their names to avoid discrimination, public portrayal of Jewish home life (other than the radio and TV show The Goldbergs) was unheard of, and anti-Jewish stereotypes were still common. In contrast, at present anti-Semitic attitudes and incidents are at all time low, and discrimination in employment, housing, academia, and private clubs is barely remembered. These multiple changes are why Terri Gross can talk to the Coen brothers about Jewish topics on National Public Radio and use a few Yiddish (not Hebrew) expressions.

    Furthermore, as Max Blumenthal points out, these developments in the United States — including shows on NPR — are the antithesis of Zionist ideology, whose premise is that diaspora Jewish life can never escape anti-Semitism. It also explains why the number of Israelis who have moved to the United States is ten times the number of American Jews who have moved to Israel. It also means that, by their practices, most American Jews are objectively anti-Zionist, a development documented in the recent Pew poll of American Jewish attitudes. A large majority don’t have any intention of moving to Israel, and other than a one-time free propaganda trip through Birthright, few would ever visit. In terms of political concerns, Israel ranks low compared to such issues as the economy or health care. Other trends are equally revealing of the golden age described by Blumenthal, such as an out-marriage rate of 60 percent and a recent finding that about half of American Jews cannot even read the Hebrew alphabet.

  17. santasa
    santasa
    January 10, 2015, 2:07 pm

    Philip you are one amazing man !

    How can anyone explain that two exceptionally smart man, genius in their jobs, true artists and visionaries, absolute creatives, with such sensibilities for human affairs and drama, are both unable to see obvious wrongs and see through indoctrination – since they are not stupid, are they evil, bad men without character, rotten to their core – it’s incomprehensible ?

    I come from Bosnia, one of the ex-Yugoslavian republics, a state (both of them) ravaged by nationalism which was dormant for more then a half century, or couple of generations. Nationalists who destroyed these countries had to rely on strong and effective indoctrinations, and eventually they succeeded, which resulted in numerous and unspeakable war crimes. The incredible thing is that many, and I mean many, intellectuals absorbed indoctrination and propagated it. Serbian nationalism was and still is prevalent force of hate and destruction, but it’s worth noting that Serbian Academy of Science & Art (famous for their “Memorandum” which was blueprint for Serbian national awakening, war, land-grab, ethnic cleansing, and guide with various methods recommendations and suggestions) was main culprit not only in awakening Serbian nationalism, but also in designing and inciting most horrific war crimes, like ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs from territory they deemed it belongs to them, mass killings, concentration camps, and systematic rape of non-Serbian women. (Of course they often used different language, sometimes even scientific – a number of researches were done on the subject by prominent western academician).
    These are all intellectuals, scientists, artists, some of which were there from the beginning, conceiving entire “project”, and others joined in along the way, as they fell to the various processes of indoctrination, with media and education system absolutely pivotal in it. But still, it’s hard to comprehend how and why they allowed this process of indoctrination to shape their lives in such a tragic way – on top of that, resulting destruction was unleashed upon their own, closest neighbors, sometimes even cousins or family, something they called for 50 years “Brotherhood & Unity”.

    At the end my own impression, and maybe only rational explanation, is that those people who are able to resist such a powerful phenomenon must have their brains weired a bit differently – besides all possible strong convictions, morality and common sense, as well as cultural, and other conditioning.

    Whatever it is, and with regard of my own tragic experience, I admire everyone who is able to resist indoctrination, especially when it comes to nationalism, and Zionism is most aggressive and destructive nationalism since WWII. Although, Serbian nationalism at its peak during 90’s had many, and some of it truly amazing, similarities with Zionism, in terms of methods and manifestations, it’s still “little brother” to Zionism at best (interestingly enough Likud supported Serbian nationalism with its icons Milosevic, Karadzic & Mladic, while Israel exported ammunition and shells braking UN sanctions, and after the war Avigdor Lieberman made a visit to Serb entity in Bosnia lead by pretty nationalistic government, and in capacity of Israeli minster, while avoiding Bosnian government, which was obvious massage to Bosnians but probably to nationalists in Serbia and Israel too).

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    SusanMGardner
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