A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 20, 2008
“If you live in New York, you’re Jewish” (Lenny Bruce)

New York comedian Lenny Bruce (1925-1966) was known for his off-color material in the 1960s. In one routine, he explained what “Jewish” was, as opposed to “goyish” (not Jewish). Jewishness, to Bruce, didn’t depend on practicing the actual religion:

“If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesn’t matter even if you’re Catholic; if you live in New York, you’re Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you’re going to be goyish even if you’re Jewish.”

The Lenny Bruce quotation is frequently cited.


Wikipedia: Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce (October 13, 1925 – August 3, 1966), born Leonard Alfred Schneider, was an American stand-up comedian, writer, social critic and satirist of the 1950s and 1960s. His 1964 conviction in an obscenity trial led to the first posthumous pardon in New York history.

Google Books
How to Talk Dirty and Influence People: An Autobiography
By Lenny Bruce
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
1992
Pg. 5:
To me, if you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish.

Google Books
Chutzpah
By Alan M. Dershowitz
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
1992
Pg. 63:
Here is Bruce’s routine:

Dig: I’m Jewish. Count Basie’s Jewish. Ray Charles is Jewish. Eddie Cantor’s goyish. B’nai B’rith is goyish. Hadassah, Jewish.

If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesn’t matter even if you’re Catholic; if you live in New York, you’re Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you’re going to be goyish even if you’re Jewish.

Kool-Aid is goyish. Evaporated milk is goyish even if Jews invented it. Chocolate is Jewish and fudge is goyish. Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime jello is goyish. Lime soda is very goyish.

All Darke’s Cakes are goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish and, as you know, white bread is very goysih. Instant potatoes, goyish. Black cherry soda’s very Jewish, macaroons are very Jewish.

Negroes are all jews. Italians are all Jews. Irishmen who have rejected their religion are Jews. Mouths are very Jewish. And bosoms. Baton-twirling is very goyish.

Underwear is definitely goyish. Balls are goyish. Titties are Jewish.

Celebrate is a goyish word. Observe is a Jewish word. Mr. and Mrs. Walsh are celebrating Christmas with Major Thomas Moreland, USAF (Pg. 64—ed.) (ret.), while Mr. and Mrs. Bromberg observed Hanukkah with Goldie and Arthur Schindler from Kiamesha, New York.

Google Books
Great Jewish Quotations
By Alfred J. Kolatch
Published by Jonathan David Company, Inc.
1996
Pg. 74 (Lenny Bruce):
JEWISH AND “GOYISH”
If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesn’t matter even if you’re Catholic; if you live in New York, you’re Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you’re going to be goyish even if you’re Jewish…

Jewish means pumpernickel bread, black cherry soda and macaroons. Goyish means Koolaid, Drake’s cakes, and lime jello. Trailer parks are so goyish that Jews won’t go near them.
Ibid.
[From one of his classic comedy routines. Quoted in The Essential Lenny Bruce, edited by John Cohen (1967)—ed.]

New York (NY) Times
Cooking
By SAM SIFTON
Published: June 1, 2008
(...)
Lenny Bruce had it right: “If you live in New York, even if you’re Catholic, you’re Jewish.” This is a city of pink-faced WASP lawyers with bagels and lox on their dining-room tables, of black guys eating challah French toast at the diner, of Italians with knishes and chicken soup for everyone. ARTHUR SCHWARTZ’S JEWISH HOME COOKING: Yiddish Recipes Revisited (Ten Speed Press, $35) helps make sense of the beautiful chaos, with a deep and affectionate examination of New York’s Jewish food culture, refracted through the lens of what he calls the Yiddish-American experience. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • (0) Comments • Monday, October 20, 2008 • Permalink