Recently, Mendy Pellin got in touch with JN Magazine about my article, “Sidekick Stupidity”. He wanted to speak with me about how I felt regarding two characters in his “Jewbellish” Youtube videos, Big Dave and Jennifer Gentile, and what I find stereotypical and out of line regarding them.
Unfortunately, I’ve been dealing with personal difficulties and haven’t been able to speak with Pellin, but our editor-at-large MaNishtana was.I was told that the conversation regarding what Big Dave said in the video went incredibly well and that knowledge was exchanged in a way that wasn’t hokey or condescending. I’m, needless to say, over the moon about that and very grateful to MaNishtana for fielding things for me. I wish I could say that I’m in a place that allows me to finally speak with Pellin now about Jennifer Gentile, but I’m honestly still not able to yet. G-d willing, things will be better soon. I just have a lot of health concerns, as do people close to me, along with other drama happening at the moment.
It may be just as well, though.
I’ve done a lot of personal reflection on just what upset me so much about Jennifer. Is Pellin really that sexist or anti-gentile? I actually went back and watched his videos, talked with my boyfriend (who is a stand-up comedian), and did some examination of my own thought processes. Truth be told – and I did say this last time – I do think the Jewbellish videos are funny. I didn’t even mention last time that the “Turn Down For What” parody about shidduch drama cracks me up every time I see it. And, the women in that video are not portrayed in a sexist fashion. There are times when I think Pellin does portray gentiles favorably, but at other times looks at the differences between Jews and non-Jews in ways that irk me. But, as my boyfriend pointed out, sometimes jokes just don’t do well in the world of comedy with some individuals for really personal reasons, and that’s easily forgotten sometimes. Pellin doesn’t portray non-Jews in a harmful light 100% of the time. He can’t – and shouldn’t – change things around just for little ol’ me.
I need to give the guy a break.
So, what do my feelings say about me?
After really reflecting on the matter, it became clear that my initial reaction to Jennifer Gentile has to do with my experiences with how a few of my fellow Jews treat non-Jews. As a convert, it hurts me deeply, because, well, it’s a family thing. The worst of it was displayed in a foul incident at my synagogue a year or so ago, and I’m still working very hard on forgiving the person for what he said.
At kiddush one Shabbat, a fellow congregant forced me into one of the worst conversations I’ve ever had post-mikvah. First of all, he brought up my having converted – specifically, some details about it that I don’t care to discuss much with people and certainly did not want to discuss with him. It was bad enough that this congregant brought up my conversion in conversation before I did. My being a giyoret is nobody’s business unless I choose to make it their business, but more importantly, once a person converts, they’re Jewish as much as any other Jew, period. I’m supposed to be treated like everyone else – that is Jewish law, straight from the Torah, and mentioned dozens of times.
What made things worse, though, was that this guy mentioned my family and stated that he’d read in the Tanya, a Lubavitch mystical text, that a convert’s family of origin ceases to be their family. My skin began crawling. I just knew where things were headed and gritted my teeth. He said that the Tanya also stated that “goyim” — with a tone like he’d just said “hookers” — were on the same spiritual plane as “barnyard animals”. I quickly got up and walked off and did all I could to calm down. Where did this guy get off bringing up my family like that and then quoting something so controversial and cruel?! (For the record, I should state that I’ve heard this is a misinterpretation of the Tanya, but that’s a discussion for elsewhere and a different time.)
It’s as simple as this. Yes, spiritually speaking, my parents are now Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu. However, my mom is still my mom, my sisters are still my sisters, my family is still my family, and I still love them and honor them as such and always will. In fact, every rabbi I know has told me that I must (not that I need to be told to!) Even if that guy was just bringing all that garbage up to see what my opinion was (which he had a lousy way of doing, if that was his intention), what did he think I was going to answer, that I thought that stuff was jolly good and let’s knock back a l’chaim to whoever wrote it? My family notwithstanding, it was vile to do, especially on Shabbat (shalom bayit, hello!) We are all G-d’s children, and if we all have the ability to merit a place in the World To Come, how dare even one of us even say something so filthy. And how dare someone even bring that filth up with me, knowing that my family of origin isn’t Jewish. (I won’t get started on the spiritual value of other living creatures, being as I am involved in animal rescue. Also for another time and another publication, perhaps.)
When I converted, I knew I’d face a lot of painful treatment from others. I just never thought it’d be from any of my fellow Jews. And I didn’t realize I’d have to do so much introspection to be sure who I really have issues with at the end of the day.
Gavriela hails originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but now resides in Forest Hills, New York. She has a Masters degree in clinical social work from Temple University and is a dedicated volunteer in the animal rescue community. Gavriela is a major science geek and finds that her love of science strengthens her belief in G-d and vice versa, contrary to what others might expect.
Header image courtesy of Pixabay.