Freedom! (from pants)
For hundreds of years, Jewish people have been living in Scotland, completely nude. Well, nude of their own tartan, anyway. They may as well have been completely naked by Scottish standards.
In Scotland, every tribe has its own tartan, a cloth woven with various colors and stripes that shows which clan you’re from. “Clan” is a Scottish term for “tribe,” and if there is one people that consider themselves tribal, it’s the Scottish. (Well, also the Jews. And also … Africans, Native Americans … come to think of it, there are a lot of people who consider themselves tribal. But the Jews of Scotland — they’ve got to be the most tribal tribe of all.)
It was only this past March that the Scottish Register of Tartans officially recognized the first kosher Jewish tartan. (There was a previous tartan but it wasn’t registered and it’s not made anymore.)
Developed by Glasgow’s Rabbi Mendel Jacobs, the tartan is pure wool and blue and white, like the Scottish and Israeli flags. It has a gold line through it to commemorate the ark, silver for the Torah and red for Kiddush wine. Most importantly, it doesn’t violate sha’atnez, the law in the Torah forbidding mixture of wool and linen. The tartan design can be ordered on kippot, prayer shawls, kilts, kilt pins and neckties.
Danny Lobell. Photo courtesy of Danny Lobell
This is big news for people like me. I’m fully Jewish and half Scottish, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the country of about 6,000 Jews. Most people know it only from “Braveheart,” which, I have to admit, I’m torn about. As a Scotsman, it makes me proud to watch it. As a Jew, though, it’s hard to take scene after scene of Mel Gibson.
My mom was born in Glasgow, Scotland, as were my grandfather and great-grandfather before her. My family dates all the way back to the times of national hero William Wallace. We were the ones in his tent with him doing his taxes: “Mr. Wallace, a quick word? You have listed under dependents, ‘The entire Scottish people.’ I just think that’s a wee bit much. Just trying to avoid an audit here, sir.”
Overall, the Scottish and Jewish aspects of my heritage mesh quite well. Even the food is the same! Kishka is just Jewish haggis. From lochs to lox — invented by Scottish Jews — to whiskey — created by Scots for Jews (Don’t believe me? Go to any Chabad house), we have a lot in common.
Take moms from the two cultures, for example: Scottish moms are critical; Jewish moms are critical. So can you imagine just how critical Scottish Jewish moms are?
My mom, a Scottish Jew, will say things like, “Oh, you’re writing a column for the Jewish Journal? Well, you should own the Jewish Journal! In fact, you should own the Wall Street Journal! Actually, you should work on Wall Street! No, you should run Wall Street … as a doctor!”
I don’t think in the entire history of Scotland there has ever been one mom who felt that what her son was doing was good enough. The Scottish people have accomplished some very big things. Take Scottish-born Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. I imagine when he told his mom that he invented it, she probably complained and said, “Great. Now I have another monthly bill. Thanks a lot.”
So now Scottish Jews have their own tartan to wear. It’s about time that the Jews took to the Scottish battlefields, hurling logs in the caber toss and then burning them for Lag b’Omer services. We are proud that we can use either restroom according to the symbols on the door. (Scottish people were ahead of the curve on the transgender bathroom laws. They just put a symbol of a guy in a kilt on one door and a gal in a skirt on the other. Nobody knows which is which and boom! Suddenly you have restroom equality.)
And next, we will start using the bagpipes instead of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Actually, better yet, we’ll combine the instruments to make the most unappealing sound any culture has ever heard. It’ll be called Celtic klezmer. Or Celzmer.
So, guys, next time you’re in Scotland and you’re looking for a breeze where you had your bris, don’t settle for just any Scottish shmatte. You can finally enjoy a tartan all your own and, as Wallace would say, freedom (from pants)!
Danny Lobell is an L.A.-based stand-up comedian who runs the podcasts “Modern Day Philosophers” and “The Mostly Bull Market,” as well as a monthly improvised storytelling show at the Hollywood Improv called “Bookshelf.”