Words: Leah Solomon
Sometimes it takes a trip to Israel with your entire extended family to realise how Seinfeld-Jewish you are.
I am a young Jewish woman from a small city in South Africa where the only Synagogue was sold to a private school and the number of Jews living there can be counted on both hands. Yet that has not taken away from my stereotypical Jewish life.
One television show that makes me think of my family is Seinfeld. My parents introduced me to it when I was eight and my dad has the same jet-black ‘Jew-fro’ as Jerry Seinfeld. This may contribute to me identifying with the show, but I think that I was experiencing the prelude to what I would soon call my family.
I recently went to Israel for my cousin’s wedding, my extended family’s homeland. After not seeing them for five years, I thought that things would have changed but I was wrong.
We were greeted at the airport by my aunt. She reminds me of Elaine Benes, Jerry Seinfeld’s ex-girlfriend. Imagine your standard Jo’burg Jewish woman; pedantic, perfect nails and completely lovely – that’s my aunt.
She stood at the terminal doors trying to photograph us whilst simultaneously trying to wave an Israeli flag. And, despite the hellish heat, her hair was still perfectly feathered. She wasted no time planning, even planning to not have plans. “We should all go home and have a schloff. Those who don’t want to can eat some hummus, maybe read, whatever, no plans today,” she would say.
Then there are my Ouma and Oupa, names far from Jewish but somehow suits them. In my Seinfeld world I see them as George Costanza’s parents. My Oupa is a sweet man who loves to tell and re-tell his stories with a whiskey in hand. He is also proudly up to date with technology. I have overheard countless Skype sessions about the technological obstacles he has overcome. I see him as a calmer, taller version of Woody Allen.
My Ouma on the other hand is a vivacious woman who likes to make her opinion heard. Her loves in life consist of having a good “schloff”, Humphrey Bogart, perogen (a small pastry that goes with traditional Jewish chicken soup), haddock and mash (her favourite and only meal she can make) and family. The aches and pains in her aged body trigger some scintillating statements. Lending her an arm to get around is often accompanied by “I’m getting too old for this moving around shit”. But despite her age, she is a keen observer. At a Shabbat dinner we were sitting together when she suddenly, and blatantly, points at one of my many cousins sitting opposite us. “You see that one?” she asks. “He’s a little arsehole up to shit.” Nothing more was said. All I know is that I apparently have an arsehole for a cousin.
I know that it may be difficult to envision my description of my family as your stereotypical Jewish family, but you need to add the quirks too. If you watch Seinfeld you will pick up on the boisterous gestures, the inflections on emphasised words, the loud laughter, way of arguing and extremely dry humour. These are traits that I have only come across in Jewish families, traits that add colour and craziness to each personality. That’s why I take “you’re so Jewish” as a compliment because I like to think that they make my life more interesting, funny and lively. On that note, oy vey, mazel tov and l’chime!