Jewhooing The Sixties: American Celebrity and Jewish Identity — Sandy Koufax, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand

101813_mishmash_bookWhen Boston returned to normal after the marathon bombings, Neil Diamond pulled off a classy act. Knowing that the Red Sox played his “Sweet Caroline” during the seventh-inning stretch, he flew into Boston unannounced and uninvited and arrived at the first game played after Bostonians again were free to move about the city. He sang his classic song before an emotional crowd. I have watched the video of
his performance several times, and each time I get goose pimples.

There is only one problem with this story. It took place on Shabbos, and Neil Diamond is Jewish. My American pride is mitigated by my sense of Jewish propriety.

This dichotomy lies at the center of “Jewhooing The Sixties.” Diamond could have easily been one of the celebrities chosen to be featured in this book, as he came to stardom in the same decade as Sandy Koufax, Lenny Bruce, Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan, about whom the book is written.

The author painstakingly examines the lives and careers of each of these performers — athlete, comedian, actress and musical genius — to understand their personal and career development and impact through the lens of their being Jewish. Did Koufax’s Jewish identity affect how he has been perceived as an athlete? How did his demurring to play on Yom Kippur impact religious observance in America? How did their careers impact the Jewish identity of countless American Jews?

Overall, the book is a thought-provoking examination of how we balance our joint American Jewish identity.

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