Arts & Culture

Yiddishkayt in the Vernacular

Nowhere has the struggle between the perception of the vernacular artist and of the "high" artist been more intense than in the Jewish world, and for interesting and important reasons. The craving of educated and sometimes wealthy outsiders to be … Read More

By / September 10, 2008

Nowhere has the struggle between the perception of the vernacular artist and of the "high" artist been more intense than in the Jewish world, and for interesting and important reasons. The craving of educated and sometimes wealthy outsiders to be accepted by authorities was a significant trope throughout Diaspora Judaism. Even in the United States, Jewish immigrants, particularly from Germany, strove to enter upper-class social circles by buying their way into important cultural institutions.

 

For these Jews, popular culture not only cheapened the artist but held back progress towards assimilation. Insofar as popular culture was associated with the lower classes, wealthy Jews also were concerned that vernacular art confirmed anti-Semitic stereotypes.

 

Given the urge to assimilate so evident from Jewish contributions to high culture, what do we make of the fact that Jewish immigrants supplied more talent in virtually every corner of popular entertainment than any other single immigrant group?