Photo Credit: Uriel Heilman/JTA
John Kerry’s brother Cameron Kerry (R) sitting and schmoozing in a Lower East Side kosher restaurant (the now defunct Noah's Ark) with NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, during Kerry's failed 2004 presidential bid. Kerry has been using his brother, a Jewish convert (Reform, nebech), as his messengers to the Hebrews. Kinda' sad.

Cameron Kerry, a convert to Judaism (in Reform Movement style, which may be disputed by competing denominations) noted that his brother John, a Catholic, “often joined his family for Shabbat dinner, though the senator from Massachusetts had never come to a family Passover Seder.”

A quick Republican spinner could have used this no-show to suggest that, as the Seder is a celebration of freedom, John Kerry may be harboring pro-slavery sentiments. But the JTA story just continued to seek its own Anatevka roots with lines like: “As the lunch wound down, one or two of the diners slipped some of the warm rugelach that had been put out for dessert into their purses and briefcases. One asked for a brown paper bag and emptied a plateful.”

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There was, apparently, a Q & A segment, when brother Kerry was asked about his favorite Jewish food. “Lox,” he said.

The phenomenon of catering (literally) to large blocks of ethnic voters through cheap gastronomical gestures is not limited to this campaign, and certainly not to Jewish voters. Why, former President Bush bar-b-cued so many ribs for the down-home folks, he could qualify as a franchise. So why did the scene on “Grand Avenue” bother me so much this time around?

It probably has to do with the fact that the Lower East Side in which Cameron Kerry imagined he was gnawing on his semi-sour pickles has been gone for at least fifty years, and its disappearance has been accelerated in the last five. The Eastern European Jewish character of the neighborhood is a cherished memory, but in reality the centers of vibrant traditional Jewish life have long since moved to Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau County, Westchester County, Riverdale and New Jersey.

The slow decline of traditional Jewish life on the Lower East Side is a serious concern, born by economic changes and the changing needs of Jewish families in the city. Frankly, I think these changes are inevitable. I also trust that the local Jewish community will find adequate ways to preserve its way of life down there. Jews do the survival thing better than any other known human group.

So why did the visit end up as a poster for any one of Shalom Aleichem’s more colorful creations? I suspect it’s because JTA is serving a constituency of national Jewish newspapers, and those are much more interested in the pickle and lox angle than they are in learned discussions of the state of Jewish communities in America.

I’ve no idea how to connect the two parts of this story, and it’s Friday, so things must be cut and posted in a hurry. The common theme is Cameron Kerry, otherwise these are two disparate commentaries. Sorry.

You’re going to eat this pickle?

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Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

24 COMMENTS

  1. you are 100% wrong and you know it! You hate him because he is a democrat and you do not like his policies. To say he is anti-semitic is like saying that it is rabbis like you who cause people to hate Jews.

  2. I love this, Yori. Thanks.
    ‘The majority of the criticism against your brother had nothing to do with his religiosity or his love of Jews, but with the fact that he’s a privileged buffoon seeking to aggrandize himself at a very heavy cost to the United States and to hundreds of thousands of Jews and Arabs.

    We don’t think John Kerry is an evil antisemite, we think he’s an idiot.’

  3. I love this, Yori. Thanks.
    'The majority of the criticism against your brother had nothing to do with his religiosity or his love of Jews, but with the fact that he’s a privileged buffoon seeking to aggrandize himself at a very heavy cost to the United States and to hundreds of thousands of Jews and Arabs.

    We don’t think John Kerry is an evil antisemite, we think he’s an idiot.'

  4. How Jewish is Kerry’s brother? They are from a family of meshumadim who abandoned their Judaism. Is his mother Jewish or did he have an orthodox conversion? Kerry is an anti-Semite and an opportunist who will sell Israel down the drain for his own political gains in the Jew hating DemocRAT party.
    My neighbor who served in the Navy in Vietnam told me that he heard of a rich boy connected to the Kennedys who brought a movie camera to make a name for himself. That was John Kerry in the Navy using his service to launch his political career. The Jewish people of Israel will swift boat that chazir (pig) out of that career.

  5. Uzi Kattan you simply do not know what you are talking about!
    John Kerry was not wealthy when he was in the navy in Vietnam, if he was, he would not have been there. As for his Jewishness, his grandparents on both sides were Jewish. His brother had a orthodox conversion and is a practicing Jew.
    You show your absolute ignorance by saying Kerry is a member of the DemocRAT party. You do now that the vast majority of Jew is the United States are Democrats and if you keep trying to insult them they may eventually decide to stop supporting idiots like you.
    You neighbor did not know John Kerry in the navy and is just making up stories to feel your mania. You do not know John Kerry and hate him because he disagrees with you. Just because he disagrees with you does not make you correct as a matter of fact you are an ignorant idiot!

  6. How Jewish is Kerry's brother? They are from a family of meshumadim who abandoned their Judaism. Is his mother Jewish or did he have an orthodox conversion? Kerry is an anti-Semite and an opportunist who will sell Israel down the drain for his own political gains in the Jew hating DemocRAT party.
    My neighbor who served in the Navy in Vietnam told me that he heard of a rich boy connected to the Kennedys who brought a movie camera to make a name for himself. That was John Kerry in the Navy using his service to launch his political career. The Jewish people of Israel will swift boat that chazir (pig) out of that career.

  7. Uzi Kattan you simply do not know what you are talking about!
    John Kerry was not wealthy when he was in the navy in Vietnam, if he was, he would not have been there. As for his Jewishness, his grandparents on both sides were Jewish. His brother had a orthodox conversion and is a practicing Jew.
    You show your absolute ignorance by saying Kerry is a member of the DemocRAT party. You do now that the vast majority of Jew is the United States are Democrats and if you keep trying to insult them they may eventually decide to stop supporting idiots like you.
    You neighbor did not know John Kerry in the navy and is just making up stories to feel your mania. You do not know John Kerry and hate him because he disagrees with you. Just because he disagrees with you does not make you correct as a matter of fact you are an ignorant idiot!

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