February 22, 2019

For Your Consideration: The Jewish Oscars

Photo from Flickr.

This year, for the first time in three decades, the Academy Awards will have no host. And frankly, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should have seen a situation like this coming, because hosting is a thankless job. No matter what you do, people hate you. They’ll say you’re not edgy enough, not talented enough, too tame, too political, too unfunny. They’ll call you sexist, homophobic, bigoted or racist.

Does this hostless situation provide an opportunity to make the Oscars more Jewish than ever? For several years, the Jewish Journal ran a hashtag game charging readers to “#MakeMoviesJewish” by contributing Jewy movie puns: “Jewrassic Park,” “American Snipper” (a prospective bris-related film, of course) and “An Anti-Defamation League of Their Own.” So how would we continue this momentum, in a hostless year, to #MakeOscarsJewish?

Hit up the Hollywood havurah: Contemporary Judaism has no monarch, no acknowledged leader (Steven Spielberg doesn’t count). Many communities have havurot or lay-led independent minyanim. As havurah members will tell you, not having a rabbi/host is fine: identify a few core “Hollywood lay leaders” to take turns (“toranut!”) running parts of the service — er, the awards show. For example, Gwyneth Paltrow, descendant of the Paltrovich Rebbe, is also an Oscar winner, as is Israeli-born, occasionally Hebrew-speaking Natalie Portman. Plus, we hear that Harrison Ford’s one-quarter Jewish — not too shabby. (Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song can be a helpful resource.) 

The host: If you are a bit more “Awards Show Orthodox” and insist on a single Oscars host, consider Tiffany Haddish. She is so ready that her brand’s slogan is “She Ready.” She famously re-wears a white Alexander McQueen dress that’s ready for Tu b’Av at a moment’s notice. And she’s Jewish on her father’s side: Tsihaye Reda Haddish was a refugee from Eritrea from an Ethiopian Jewish family. So instead of saying there’s nothing new (“ayn hadash”) under the sun, say, “yesh Haddish,” because there is a Haddish and “she ready.” 

The writers: some Oscars writers are probably already Jewish; let’s add a rabbi or educator from every Jewish denomination to better balance the content, and a rabbi with independent semikhah (rabbinic ordination), who will write intros for — what else? — independent films.

Red carpet fashion and activism: honestly, we’re always a bit worried about actresses who probably haven’t eaten in a few weeks, and are now in sleeveless dresses, possibly suffering from the early stages of hypothermia in the 70-degree weather of February in Los Angeles. On the red carpet, we’ll ask them who they are wearing, are they cold and have they eaten anything; and regardless of their answers, we’ll give them each a sweater and a vegan, non-GMO granola bar, just in case. The press will also be instructed to ask which charities they support.

The music: when you win an Oscar, you take to the stage to thank everyone who got you there, including your agent, manager, spouse and deity; and when you run too long, a gentle swell of music rises to warn you to wrap it up. At the Jewish Oscars, winners must thank their mothers in the first 30 seconds or the musical cue — the opening violin solo from the “Fiddler on the Roof” overture — will start to play and an offstage chorus will sing, “The Mamas! The Mamas! … Be grateful!” If a speech goes on too long, a frenetic “Havah Nagilah” will begin until the winner leaves the stage or the audience starts a hora.

A shame montage instead of “In Memoriam”: this will be a safe space to hang our heads and whisper the names of the Hollywood (and non-Hollywood) Jews who have embarrassed us in the last year. We can end the segment with a misheberach prayer for the healing of those who have suffered as a result of deeds perpetrated by the people in the shame montage. 

For your consideration, Oscars team. Now what about you? Are you hungry? Cold? Here’s a sweater and a granola bar.