YidLife Crisis does…anti-Semitism!?

Eli Batalion, left, and Jamie Elman of 'YidLife Crisis'
Eli Batalion, left, and Jamie Elman of 'YidLife Crisis'

Hi again, Canadian Jews and to all our friends reading around the world – it’s us, the Yids of YidLife Crisis – vos hertzikh? If you’ve been following along (and if not, nu, why not?), you may know that for the last five years, we’ve been using “comedy” and “the arts” (what? we’re arts-ish) to wade through our Yid-entity crisis – the part that’s kosher-ish (see: McDonald’s Filet-O-F-ish), superstitious-ish, boyish, goyish, girlish, Yiddish, kiddish, skittish, nebbish. 

The Jew-ish journey continues to deepen for us through this project, but lately feels increasingly…tense-ish. 

Here at Crisis HQ, we’ve always been against extremes (despite, as some of you have pointed out, eating six meals in a day to ‘explore history’ in our documentary film CHEWDAISM: A Taste of Jewish Montreal, which admittedly was not exactly ‘moderation.’). We aren’t judgmental, but we ‘judge the judgmentalists.” We laugh at our collective hypocrisies (and cry because we have yet to lose the weight gained for “our art”), and perhaps that objective distance and the ability to mock ourselves is what we really stand behind when the day’s done and we lay our shtick to rest. 

What concerns us these days is the polarization, the extremes, the rigid seriousness. If you’ve been reading this very periodical, you’ve probably found yourself homogenized between various milkhig and fleishig extremes lately that put you on shpilkes at night. Ya, us, too.

There’s anti-Semitism on the right, in the form of white supremacist tropes we’re too well acquainted with, often in the form of graffiti and defacement of private and public property – yes, even here in Canada – and more recently, actual acts of criminal violence. 

Aaaaand, there’s anti-Semitism on the left, framing Jews as masterminding various forms of exploitation of the worker, marginalizing minorities, occupying things they shouldn’t be occupying, yada yada.

On the bright side, it turns out that Jews control the world either way! So, we guess we’re doing well? Further, Jews are helping bring the left and right together. YOU’RE WELCOME. 

Some of you are offended already. But we’re battling some of our hardest battles within our own community. The level of Jew-on-Jew wrath in current social media is reminiscent of such classic hits as the Haskalah vs. Hasidim, Pharisees vs. Sadducees and Kingdom of Israel vs. Kingdom of Judea. It’s all fun and games until someone gets TRIGGERED (gasp) and then we’re off to the races. 

As self-ordained Canadian Comedian Peacekeepers, who have had the great joy of visiting Jewish communities all over North America and beyond, we can’t help but find the mishigas in everyone who takes themselves too seriously, from the self-right-eous right to the non-laughing linker who forgot how to take a joke. 

How farkakt are things when we are the voice of reason? Holy Yoshke, Batman!

With all this drek escalating daily, we decided to insert ourselves into the conversation with our season three finale. We know, bad idea, right? But we couldn’t help ourselves, and as recently named Ambassadors for Peace Days in Montreal, we hope maybe we could weigh in with something a little sobering, help find some common ground, and give you something to chew on.

To speak in the parlance of Montreal cuisine, perhaps we have focused so hard on the left and the right sides of the cheese bagel that we have forgotten to relax and enjoy the cheese bagel (for those of you unacquainted with the cheese bagel, it is a sweet cheese knish-like horseshoe baked in Côte-St-Luc, radiating outwards to other parts of the city, so powerful in its geshmake nature that it may make peace occur bimheyre beyameynu). 

Our epes-sode, about the humble cheese bagel and the polarity of left and right, is our attempt – albeit a little flaky, in more ways than one – to address the Eliyahu in the room, namely, escalating anti-Semitism and the role that political forces play in it. Some of you will say none of this is ripe for humour. We, unfortunately, eat anything, whether ripe or raw. Maybe we’ll end up offending people; it’s certainly not our intention, but maybe to a certain extent it’s worth it. Maybe taking no risks is the biggest risk of all. Maybe peacekeeping needs the occasional dose of chutzpah for best results. (As they say in the Pesach business, no chrein, no gain.) 

As we begin a new election cycle here in Canada, where rhetoric will no doubt be flung to see what will shtick, we hold strong to our a pro-laughter platform and shmaltz-leaning agenda. We don’t want to be the voice of reason somewhere in the nuanced-but-unpopular middle, but in the words of great Yiddish pacifists – Zol Zayn


Chaimie & Leizer