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In solo show, comic Alex Edelman says life not black and white for US Ashkenazi Jews

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New York Jewish Week via JTA — If you click through Twitter, you may come upon a list of some 250 accounts called “Jewish Nat’l Fund Donors.”

But it is safe to say that no one on the list has ever given any money to the actual Jewish National Fund, an organization best known for acquiring land and planting trees in Israel.

That’s because the list is made up exclusively of antisemites and was created by Alex Edelman, a Jewish comedian. He chose that name, he said, “just because it annoys people when they’re added to the list.”

“It’s actually a pretty diverse group of people,” Edelman, 32, told the New York Jewish Week. “The sad thing is this list used to be several hundred people longer, but Twitter has actually done a good job for the last couple years.”

Edelman, a comedian who has appeared on late-night TV and recently opened for the musician Beck, is also an amateur tracker of online antisemites in his spare time. That hobby led him to attend a meeting of white nationalists in New York City in 2017 — a story that forms the core of his latest solo show, “Just For Us,” which opens off-Broadway on December 8. But even as the show tells the story of that meeting, Edelman emphasized that “Just For Us” is not about antisemitism — it’s about what it’s like for Ashkenazi Jews to navigate whiteness in America.

“Broadly, it’s about, What does it mean to be a Jew in a space that’s not Jewish?” he said. He added later, “Everyone focuses on the white identity people at the center of the meeting, these racists. Maybe this is revealing, but the show’s about me. They [the white nationalists] are entirely secondary to me talking about how I feel about myself.”

Negotiating the boundary between Jews and non-Jews has always been an undercurrent of life for Edelman, who was raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish home, attended Jewish day school in the Boston area, and studied for a year in an Israeli yeshiva. Appearing on the late-night show “Conan” in 2018, Edelman told the crowd, “I’ve never had bacon. I’m that kind of Jew… I’ve tried cocaine, but I’ve never tried bacon.”

(“Jews either love that joke, or they’re upset by it,” he told me. On a video of the performance, you can hear an Israeli in the crowd yell “Good for you!” in Hebrew.)


© The Times of Israel

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