Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rue the Rueben?

This video is a marvelous bit of fun, one that speaks to some issues that exist within the Jewish community.  

In one sense, it serves as a parable of the conflict between orthodox and reform, literal and liberal, fundamentalist and metaphorical approaches.  

In another sense, it reflects the conflict between east and west coasts Jewish communities, specifically between New York as an old world, elitist center where Jews remain relatively traditional and Jewish identity is very strong and overt, and Los Angeles as the new world where people feel free to leave their old identities behind, and disguise who they are.  Someone once said that in New York, everyone is Jewish, even the non-Jews, and in LA, no one is Jewish, not even the Jews (I suppose it was a New Yorker who said that, though).

But go ahead, take a look, it's worth your while:

Over on YouTube, the write-up for A Reuben By Any Other Name is as follows:

Noble Savage Productions and Sonny Boy Studios are thrilled to announce that we have completed our short comedy "A Reuben By Any Other Name." The film takes a humorous look at the differences between Orthodox and Reform Judaism played out in terms of the differences between the New York and Los Angeles versions of the Reuben sandwich. Brilliant performances are provided by an ensemble cast of familiar faces from film and television - Jasmine Anthony (Stephen King's 1408, Commander in Chief), Anita Barone (The War at Home, Daddio), Paul Ben-Victor (In Plain Sight, Entourage), Larry Cedar (The Crazies, Deadwood), Pamela Cedar, Alanna Ubach (Hung, Legally Blonde), and Matt Winston (John from Cincinnati, Little Miss Sunshine). Are you an Orthodox or Reform Reubenite? Watch the film and find out!

As Reform Jews, we are not obligated to keep kosher, although we are free to choose to do so, as strictly as we would like, or to pick and choose which of the kosher laws to observe and which to disregard.  For many of us, keeping kosher is not a religious obligation, but we may still have certain cultural and aesthetic tendencies towards not mixing meat and dairy, or not eating trafe.  

For me, as far as the Reuben is concerned, I'm pretty much with the little girl.   The delis I remember from when I was growing up, including the Pastrami King in Kew Gardens, Queens, which was often referred to in the columns of famous New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin, were kosher, and something like the Reuben sandwich was never on the menu.  My first encounter with it was in Greek diners in New York City, although I later saw that some Manhattan delis served it as well.  But I really don't see how the Reuben could be a Jewish sandwich, no more than the Philly cheesesteak, or your basic, run-of-the-mill cheeseburger.  It's just not kosher!

If you have a similar encounter with the Reuben, or a different one, well, feel free to share in the comment section, we'd love to hear about it! 
And so, the lesson is, both sides are right, both sides are wrong, and no one knows where the truth lies, so why don't we all just get along?  And have a good laugh at ourselves in the process?

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