First, I wanted to register a short piece I wrote on the Newseum flap for Open Zion, entitled “Can You Bomb Hamas Propagandists?”
Second, in the back of my mind, ever since writing a long piece about Modern Orthodox parody of Lady Gaga, I’ve been wondering what to do with this video, in which a Haredi wedding band introduces newlyweds at their party to the tune of various Lady Gaga songs, then transitioning into standard Hasidic “simcha” (celebration) music. It’s significantly less semantically dense than the parody I wrote about above, but I found it oddly draws me, and I’ve never understood why.
Here’s a quick thought. I think part of the video’s draw, especially compared to the layered ironies of the Modern Orthodox parody video (many of which play on the power and gender hierarchies of both the Orthodox and secular worlds), is that of Haredi naivete. We commonly assume that Haredi naivete is valuable largely insofar as it allows Haredim to appreciate their Jewish rituals, text, and traditions more simply, directly, etc. (I’ll bracket for the moment all the manifold ways it’s harmful.) But here, what’s poignant about Haredi naivete is that it allows them to experience our music simply and directly. These men are dancing to Lady Gaga without a second thought about what they’re hearing. That is, they’re actually participating in a cultural ideal surrounding American popular music (an ideal which we could call, borrowing a title from one of the Lady Gaga songs they’re quoting, “Just Dance”). Further, it’s an naivete inaccessible many of us who are supposedly closer to the secular lifeworld that produces Lady Gaga, because of our heightened attention to the various messages, problematics, etc. of popular music.
I’m not sure if others found that video as entrancing as I did. But I suspect I did because, hidden between the charm of Haredi innocence and cluelessness is the irony that they seem to have found a shortcut into mass American culture, a culture which, because of my Jewishness or intellectualism, I find elusive.