I used to watch the entire Oscars ceremony religiously. I now watch for a half hour, because they have inconveniently timed it to coincide with Downton Abbey, and then go to bed, because I have five kids/am pregnant with my sixth/am exhausted by my life.
So it wasn’t until yesterday that I saw the amazing performance of “Glory,” the winner of Best Song.
Called “the most powerful moment of the Oscars,” John Legend and Common performed the song from the movie “Selma” with a gospel choir of extras marching over a replica of the Edmund Pettus bridge, as footage from the actual march from Selma to Montgomery flashed on a screen in the background.
The song has been described as an anthem about racial injustice, and its lyrics range from the 1960s civil rights movement to modern-day Ferguson:
One son died, his spirit is revisitin’ us
Truant livin’ livin’ in us, resistance is us
That’s why Rosa sat on the bus
That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up
When it go down we woman and man up
They say, “Stay down” and we stand up
Shots, we on the ground, the camera panned up
King pointed to the mountain top and we ran up.
The audience full of stars gave a standing ovation, and tears were seen on the famous cheeks of David Oyelowo, Chris Pine, and, of course, Oprah.
The song is beautiful, the performance was heart-rending, and the substance was deep: “Glory” is a winner, and John Legend and Common deservedly won the Oscar.
It got me thinking: what about us?
Can you imagine a powerful and positive depiction of the Jewish American experience? Not one like in “The Last Five Years,” where Jewish women are nothing more than marriage-bent shrews to be avoided. Not one like Larry David or Seinfeld, where Jews are neurotic messes who complain in highly amusing ways. And not one like “Yentl” or “Fiddler on the Roof,” where Jews are only “legit” if they are living in European or Russian shtetls and sending their sons to cheder (Jewish school).
Jews came to this country fleeing persecution of all kinds. Some were exiled from their native lands. Others were nothing more than children, sent alone across the Atlantic as lone representatives of their families, fleeing pogroms. Some escaped Hitler’s Holocaust.
But what is the Jewish American experience now? Is there one? Do you genuinely believe that your son or daughter might stand on a stage one day and find a creative way to express his or her pride in and solidarity with the Jewish people that would bring an audience of non-Jews to their feet, tears in their eyes?
Do your children feel that solidarity with the Jewish people? Will they ever?
And if not now, when?