Magic Jewball

all signs point to no

 

Free to be MOT

Filed under : Famous People,Judaism,Music,Travel
On April 29, 2010
At 7:30 am
Comments : 15

If you’ve been reading my Twitter updates these last few days you are probably either wondering who the hell Jaron is or what the hell Jaron and I are talking about. Well, I am here to explain all! Last week, Jane wrote a blog post which was ostensibly a letter to a country artist called Jaron and the Long Road to Love (try saying that ten times fast!) but was really a justifiable complaint about how lots of Christians use Jesus as an excuse to hate. Jaron and the Unwieldy Title of Band played the central role because they have a new record called “Pray For You” which is about wishing lots of bad things on your ex with a sort of churchy motif. You can read the lyrics in that post, I won’t reproduce them.

Now, I’ll get a couple of things out of the way here. While I reeeeally loathe those “Lord, I pray you take Obama in all caps” status messages on Facebook, the ones from my “friends” were all by Jews. Statistically, that’s about right since two thirds or more of my Facebook friends are Jewish. So I didn’t think of that as a particularly Christian thing. And OK, I’ll flat out admit it, as a Yid, people saying they are God-fearing Christians and yet not acting Jesusy has never been a particular concern of mine. I guess I’m just self-policing. I’ll let the Goyim handle that one, because I really couldn’t tell you what’s Jesusy or not.

No, in actuality, the thing that inflamed me most about the post was not hypocritical Christians at all but the fact that Jaron is Jewish. So the stuff about his church and his preacher and his Jesus, well, he doesn’t really have any of those. Or he’s not supposed to, one would think. For me, the issue wasn’t that a Christian wrote a hateful song; it was that he wasn’t a Christian at all! So why should I care that one Jewish guy wrote a song from a Christian point of view? Why was the central question in my mind, “what happened to Jaron????” This is the background.

A long time ago, Jaron and his twin brother had a band called, creatively, Evan and Jaron. If you are a religious Jew, that’s really the end of the explanation. For the rest of the world, they had a hit called “Crazy For This Girl.” But even before they had that hit, they were our band. When I was little, like most music-crazed kids, I wanted to be a rock star. Or marry a rock star. But it never occurred to me that that could ever happen because I was an Orthodox Jew and rock stars played shows on Friday nights and had TV appearances on Saturdays and traveled around to places with no Kosher food. More importantly, there just weren’t any, so you knew it wasn’t possible. Then we had Evan and Jaron who were Kosher and didn’t play shows on Shabbat. And I knew this earlier than most people because I worked at their first label (the one before the hit… but we did try hard).

And here’s the part where I take it really personally. When we were working Evan and Jaron, I think the person most excited about them in the whole entire world was my mother. Although not really a t-shirt person, she loved the “got shabbos?” tee we made to market them. She adored the list I showed her of Kosher restaurants staffers were given so they could take E&J out in any town. She was thrilled that the kids had a role model. I’m sort of glad she never got to hear Pray For You. I don’t think if she were alive I’d even tell her.

So I really, really wanted to know what happened to Jaron. Wikipedia has just a sentence about the new band (which is just Jaron, I think) and skips right from Evan and Jaron to that. I felt like there was a yawning gap there that needed to be addressed. The person who is always in the know about these things is Pious B, so I wrote her. She wasn’t sure but thought it was doubtful that he was no longer Jewish and that it was all just a reinvention. But it still bothered me so I called someone I know at his new label and this person said, “are you sure it’s the same guy?” I guess the Evan & Jaron backstory is not a huge piece of the marketing plan. Intriguing. I reported back to Pi to tell her I was still investigating, and she said, “I will be checking for a Jaron post. He may be a Jewish traitor but he’s still a hot bitch.” Indeed.

Later that day, I received this cryptic message:

From: Pious B
Subject: Add to Twitter

JaronATLRTL

Yee haw!
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

But I did not want to follow Jaron on Twitter. And yet… so I answered, “Oh, I don’t think so. But I’ll ask him if he’s still a yid.” Pi said, “I think he’s a MOT in name only. I always got the impression that the Evan portion of the duo was the religiously committed one, but you would know better than I.”

So I sent my own letter to Jaron, via Twitter. I asked him if he was still a practicing Jew. Now, I don’t for one minute think that account is actually Jaron. I assume it’s one of Jaron’s marketing people as it’s mostly retweets of people saying they like the song. And, in fact, after waiting a day and remarking that I still had no answer to my question, I finally got, “what question? Thanks for loving the song.” Well, I never said I loved the song and in fact I’ve never actually heard the song and don’t expect to. But I asked again. I said, “what’s a nice Jewish guy doing singing about church & preachers? Are you still a practicing Jew?” That was about as deep as I could get in 140 characters.

Finally, he answered.






I’d like to state, first and foremost, that Pi nailed it, as usual. Also, that whatever I think about Jaron’s decision to reinvent himself for the Country market, I respect this answer and the fact that he even answered at all. I’m not as religious as I was in 1998 either and would find it hard to respond to that in public, in fewer than 140 characters, and with a sense of humor. With regards to that reinvention, when I worked in the record store, for seven Christmases I had to listen to weeks of holiday music and a good portion of it was Jews singing Christmas songs. A Jew, as we all know, wrote White Christmas. I used to joke that I was going to put together a collection of these numbers and call it, “Shalom, it’s Christmas!” Let’s face it, it’s hard to make a living just marketing to MOT’s. But as I told Pi, I just wanted to know whether Jaron was doing a “Barbara Streisand sings Silent Night” thing or if it was a “Bob Dylan plays for Jesus’ team now” deal. Because it deeply matters to me and, I suspect, to a lot of girls who used to go to Evan and Jaron concerts in modest outfits.

The interesting thing, though, is that, as I said, I couldn’t tell you whether “Pray For You” is in the spirit of Jesus or not; that’s not my department. What I can say is that it’s actually a Jewish theme to wish these sorts of things on your enemies. Things like, “may you grow like an onion with your head in the ground.” Here it is on a cross stitch on Etsy. And here’s a list of some other traditional Yiddish curses. So it’s actually sort of a Mosesey thing. I once saw a documentary where someone said, “Christians never dreamed of white Christmases until Irving Berlin told them they should.” I’m truly happy to hear that Jaron still identifies as a Jew but maybe the Yiddish curses don’t translate as well. Still, I wish him well and much success on the new venture. And don’t forget, shuls rhymes with lulz. You can keep that one.



For those on Jesus’ team, MOT = member of the tribe = Jewish

Evan And Jaron – Crazy For This Girl

 

15 Comments for this post

 
Cathy says

Thanks for this post, Bec. I thought Jane’ post was disturbing. I don’t normally encounter country music voluntarily, so I hadn’t heard it.

Oh, and thanks for not making me google MOT.

 
Pi says

Honored to be your authority on mainstream pop culture. And I still stand by my statement: he’s a hot piece, frum or not.

 
Jane says

“I just wanted to know whether Jaron was doing a “Barbara Streisand sings Silent Night” thing or if it was a “Bob Dylan plays for Jesus’ team now” deal. Because it deeply matters to me and, I suspect, to a lot of girls who used to go to Evan and Jaron concerts in modest outfits.”

I get this. I knew this would be the message from this post, ultimately. Thanks for sharing!

Cathy, I encounter country music intentionally, usually for comedy. I don’t often end up disturbed or ranty in my Letters to Country Folk.

 
Becca says

Cathy, I was disturbed by those Obama status messages for sure, and I said so at the time on Facebook. But the other thing I’m trying to get across (and this is for Jane too because there’s another message from this post) is that the lyrics aren’t as disturbing as you might think. They seem to me to be a Jewish guy getting Christianity wrong, overlaying a Jewish motif onto it in a way that doesn’t fit. And while that’s certainly disrespectful, I think in this case it’s more ham-fisted than anything else, and hopefully less troubling than a Christian subverting the tenets of Christianity.

Pi, indeed.

 
Jane says

Yeah, I picked up on that from our convos elsewhere. It makes sense in retrospect in a way that didn’t make sense when I was all like “Oh, you big fake Christian jerk!” The concept of no “turn the other cheek” never crossed my mind until you pointed it out.

But try as I might, I am still having trouble seeing what people find so *funny* about it, because the more I google, the more LOLz I find over it, and I guess I’m just humorless about it.

Did we (and by that, I mean you, because I put no work into it) find out if he actually wrote the song?

 
monnik says

While I don’t really find the comments that wish death or injury upon people funny or tasteful, I don’t find them offensive either. I don’t care for the song, or the Obama FB status but there are lots of stupid songs and statuses out there.

Take the Dixie Chicks song where they killed the guy… I realize it doesn’t have the religious theme to it, and is therefore not an apples to apples comparison, but still. It’s a tongue in cheek way of saying to an abusive or controlling or cheating or lying ex “you suck and I wish I’d never wasted years of my life with you.”

And isn’t there a teeny bit of schadenfreude in every one of us?

It’s an interesting thought that he might be taking a Jewish theme and overlaying it into a Christian themed song. I too, am interested to know if he wrote it himself.

 
Irishelena says

I have to say I’ve never heard of Jaron, and never heard that song. But reading the lyrics, I sure don’t see it as using religion to justify hate. I think someone is looking for way more depth that was meant. It’s just a novelty song using pseudo-curses like, as Becca says, are Jewish tradition– and Irish tradition and probably every culture has similar joking curses. Like the old Irish saying, “May those who love us, love us. And for those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts. And if he can not turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles, so we may know them by their limping.” It’s joking, people, not using God or Jesus or Whomever to justify being mean. There’s plenty of that for real out there without putting it into songs. Lighten up, folks!
Becca–loved your history of Jaron and Evan being the Jewish hearthrobs for Orthodox tweens. You have been writing some brilliant stuff lately.

 
Tami says

“Synagogue” rhymes with “don’t be a hog” Jaron! That was a lame excuse!

 
Becca says

Jane, just for you, I contacted someone at Billboard to find out (it’s not listed in either database I use) and the writers are Jaron Lowenstein and Joel Brentlinger. The latter sounds Jewish but who knows. Honestly, lines like “Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn, let the good Lord do His job and you just pray for them” are not especially Jewish thoughts at all, so I feel like at least someone Christian must have been involved somewhere down the line.

And re: what Monnik said, I also find humor in songs like that. I think “I Used to Love Her But I Had To Kill Her” is hilarious and I’ve applauded the humor in the revenge piece of the song “Date Rape” right on this blog. I suppose, yes, the difference is, no one’s claiming any association with religion or inspiration by God in those songs. And again, I’m treading delicately around this one, because I have no idea whether this is offensive in Christianity and to Christians or not. If the song had been done completely secularly, no, I wouldn’t have found it offensive at all. But with this present incarnation, I’m bowing out of that aspect of the discussion.

Irish, I forgot about those sorts of curses! Maybe it’s cultural? I think at the very least it’s subjective. But I think the larger point still stands, that people do twist religion to justify some really heinous things. And thanks, much appreciated. :)

Tami, good point! And if he really wants to go back to his roots, it could be “don’t eat a hog.”

 
Irishelena says

People of all religions do twist things to justify heinous things. Not just Christians, by any means [and I know you weren't restricting it to Christians, Becca]. I don’t like it when people lump all Christians in with the right wing sects. Most of them don’t mix religion and politics. Not that I’ve set foot in a church more than a half dozen times since Vacation Bible School days [I only went for the popsicles and rousing games of Drop the Handerchief. And the crafts--spray-painted pasta glued on plaques that our poor mothers had to pretend to like and hang in place of honor in the laundry room].

 
Becca says

No, correct, I wasn’t referring to just Christians. There are Jews who want to kick the Arabs out of Israel because the Bible says the land is theirs, there are people who blow up buildings in the name of Islam, there are those crazy Godhatesfags people, etc.

But most importantly, what is Drop the Handkerchief?

 
Irishelena says

You never played Drop the Handkerchief? What a deprived childhood! Kids stand around in a circle. One walks around behind them, and drops a handkerchief behind one. The one who dropped it has to run around the circle and take the empty spot, before the droppee can catch them. And then the one left out walks around and drops the handkerchief… ad infinitem. Google says some sang a song or chanted a rhyme as they went around [see, I forgot the rules and had to look them up!], but I don’t remember that we did. And you had the old ‘popular kids pick their friends, others get left out’ thing. Except it being at a church, we were encouraged to be equal opportunity handkerchief droppers.

 
Becca says

Never! But that sounds like Duck Duck Goose except with less bird and more handkerchief.

 
sarpon says

Do I have to actually listen to the song to find out if it’s intended to be subtly sarcastic? Because that would make it a very traditional work in the genre of “Jewish comedy.”

And: “shul” rhymes with “fool.”

(cool, duel, ghoul, jewel, pool, tool & you’ll. Also)

 
Becca says

I don’t know; I haven’t tried. Let me know if you do.

Yes, but lulz seemed to fit so much better. However, if he uses one of those, you get the credit.