Rosh Hashana, 5781

Barry Dredze
4 min readSep 17, 2020
Dizzy Gillespie blowing shofar in Jerusalem in 1985. (Photo: NPR, via Charles Fishman)

Once upon a time, the martyred and legendary comic Lenny Bruce (z”l) explained the difference between Jewish and goyish on stage and in the first chapter of his autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. He said like this: “Count Basie is Jewish. Ray Charles is very Jewish. Eddie Cantor is goyish.”

We need to update this classic exercise in comparison-contrast between mainstream and counter culture.

Seth Rogen is Jewish. Joe Rogan is goyish.

George Soros is Jewish. Bernie Sanders is so Jewish it hurts. Mort Klein is goyish. Jay Sekulow is gospely goyish.

Antifa is Jewish. The Likud Party is goyish. Blue Lives Matter is scary goyish.

Bikes are Jewish. Cabs are Jewish. Uber is goyish. Boats are goyish. Pickup trucks are super goyish.

Lenny Bruce after a set (Photo: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images)

The Forward used to be very Jewish, now it’s like a Reform prayer book that’s all in English, embarrassingly scrubbed of all the Hebrew letters that were once arranged in all its former Yiddish glory. Medium is goyish but in a multiculturally healthy way.

But seriously, while this exercise is all in good fun, the sad and sorry truth is that there really isn’t much left of Lenny Bruce’s Jewish America in this world anymore. Even the state of Israel has become just another Middle East regime led by a tin-pot dictatorship but with its civic faith invested in a trite and hollow notion of Judeo-Christian values. You can say “Merry Christmas” there now, free from any liberal PC thuggery.

“Pumpernickel is Jewish,” Lenny Bruce said back then, “and, as you know, white bread is very goyish.” And this remains emis, truth. And to the extent they still exist, Jewish delis remain a flashpoint for comparison. Here’s an old deli joke: What do you call a corned beef sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise? The Christian Order.

During my senior year of high school, I worked for a time at a neighborhood deli in the greater Chicagoland metropolitan area. I would not turn 18 until the end of that summer, so I could not legally operate the slicer that was an integral piece of equipment at any deli…

Barry Dredze

Just another mortal, tweaking my cognitive map on the fly.