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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Fiddler on the Radio

I must confess that one of my guilty little pleasures is listening to the Dave and Carole morning show on my radio on the way to work each morning. It's a typical drive-to-work show on a Classic Rock station: very little music, lots of news, weather, sports, but also comedians, Hollywood Trash, weird stories from the internet, etc. The rapport between the hosts is funny in a kind of "why is the guy in the car next to me laughing" but also "keep the kids away from the radio" kind of way.

The show is also VERY Goyish. Not in an offensive way, but like most Midwesterners, they don't consider Jews to be their main target audience, and have probably never encountered an Orthodox Jew. So from about Halloween to well after New Years it gets increasingly more difficult to listen to the show. There are whole weeks devoted to Christmas, Christmas fundraisers, and of course, Christmas. But otherwise the show is pretty bawdy.

So imagine my shock when, after listening to some gossip about celebrities, I hear this cheesy shtetl violin music come on, and a baritone, sonorous voice start in, proclaiming the rich heritage of our people, and the solemn nature of the High Holy Days. The voice delivering this message is the stereotypical, deliberate, slightly musical voice one normally associates with pulpit sermons, and he implores all those listeners not currently affiliated with a congregation to join his Conservative Temple for services. And if it's not Jewish enough for you yet, he offers a discount.

Even though I'm alone in my car, and no one can hear what I'm listening to, I can't help but cringe in embarrassment. I want to turn it down. I want to change the station. But I can't. It's like staring at an accident on the side of the road. I keep thinking, "what is this doing HERE?" What will the Goyim think? Are the hosts laughing off-air? I get visions of old ladies at Borsht-belt hotels asking for more fish.

I don't think it's just the fact that they used music and atmosphere that evoked a 1940's era style of Judaism. A stale, dying type of religion that needs the violin to draw people in by visceral means, like a mouse following the smell of cheese. I can't imagine any form of advertisement that wouldn't have upset me. If someone had gotten on in a matter-of-fact kind of voice and said, "Hey, if you've got nowhere to go, check out our Shul," it wouldn't have been that offensive, but I still would have thought it doesn't belong.

Maybe I just don't want Judaism in my Hollywood Trash. I've got Madonna for that, I guess.


Adam Ragil said...

In NY, the American Jewish Committee and Chabad run ads that are marginally better. Both have hired spoksemen with horrible accents, but the AJC, at least, doesn't use klezmer music to introduce the segment.

NY of course if a different sort of town. Imus was riffing on Rosh Hashana this morning, and the local TV stations have their silly apple and honey graphics up at the station breaks.

Bobby Coll said...

There are different opinions on this subject.