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Jewhooing the Sixties

American Celebrity and Jewish Identity—Sandy Koufax, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand

David E. Kaufman

Publication Year: 2012

A lively look at four major Jewish celebrities of early 1960s America, who together made their mark on both American culture and Jewish identity Sandy Koufax, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand first came to public attention in the early 1960s, a period Kaufman identifies as historically ripe for American Jews to reexamine their (Jewish) identities. All four achieved extraordinary success in their respective fields and became celebrities within an American context, while at the same time they were clearly identifiable as Jews—although they were perceived to be Jewish in very different ways. Kaufman investigates these celebrities’ rise to fame, the specific brand of Jewishness each one represented, and how their fans and the public at large perceived their ethnic identity as Jews. Situating Koufax, Bruce, Dylan, and Streisand within the larger history of American Jewish celebrity, Kaufman argues that the four early 1960s figures represent a turning point between celebrity Jews of the past—such as Hank Greenberg, Groucho Marx, Irving Berlin, and Fanny Brice—and those of the present, such as Jon Stewart, Matisyahu, and Natalie Portman. Providing an entry into Jewish celebrity studies, this lively narrative explores the intersection between popular celebrity and Jewish identity and thereby examines the cultural construction of Jewishness in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Published by: Brandeis University Press

Series: Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. vii


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pp. xi-xiv

Some of my colleagues in the field of American Jewish history will no doubt be surprised by the subject of this, my second book. My first (Shul with a Pool: The “Synagogue-Center” in American Jewish History, 1999) was a history of American synagogues, Jewish schools, and community...

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1. Introduction: Jews, Celebrity, and the Early 1960s

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pp. 1-48

This is a book full of lists, and at the most basic level is itself a list—of four famous Jews. It thus exemplifies the very phenomenon it describes: our constant inventorying of, and enduring fascination with, Jewish celebrity. The naming and claiming of famous...

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2. Sandy Koufax: Super Jew

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pp. 49-98

It was a terrific line, garnering both laughter and applause—as did the joke the president then added: “Sandy and I actually have something in common—we are both lefties. He can’t pitch on Yom Kippur; I can’t pitch.” Without doubt, all assembled understood the reference to...

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3. Lenny Bruce: Dirty Jew

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pp. 99-154

To the best of our knowledge, Lenny Bruce never once skipped a club date to observe Yom Kippur. Yet much like Sandy Koufax, the comedian is remembered by fellow Jews for a particular aspect of his storied career: one of his standup routines, “Jewish and Goyish,” is cited...

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4. Bob Dylan: Wandering Jew

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pp. 155-211

Bob Dylan, like Lenny Bruce before him, is an icon of Jewish iconoclasm. Both were pathbreaking artists of the early 1960s who had the chutzpah to perform their own words and express their innermost thoughts—until then a rarity in American entertainment—and both...

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5. Barbara Streisand: Hollywood Jew

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pp. 213-264

Barbra Streisand’s meteoric rise to fame during the early 1960s directly paralleled Dylan’s and took place in the very same setting—New York City’s Greenwich Village. Just one year younger than Dylan, the eighteen-year-old Streisand had been living in the city for well over a year...

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6. Epilogue: Jewhooing into the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 265-295

Jewish celebrity begets Jewhooing. Hence each of the preceding chapters began with a brief history of the early 1960s rise of our four famous American Jews—Sandy Koufax, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand—and then concluded by surveying the Jewhooing of their celebrity...


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pp. 297-331


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pp. 333-340

E-ISBN-13: 9781611683158
E-ISBN-10: 1611683157
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611683134
Print-ISBN-10: 1611683130

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 24 illus.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life
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OCLC Number: 816562983
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Jewhooing the Sixties

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Jews in the performing arts -- United States.
  • Jewish athletes -- United States.
  • Jewish entertainers -- United States.
  • Jews in popular culture -- United States.
  • Popular culture -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Nineteen sixties.
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