An Open Letter to Jerry Seinfeld About Existential Angst

angst

Hi Jerry-

My husband and I recently saw your show at Foxwoods. I knew you’d be funny, but you surprised me with how serious you got at one point. It was the joke about how people always complain that there’s not enough time in life, when in fact, there’s too much time.

Life, you noted, is really just about filling up a whole lot of time until it’s over. People laughed when you said it, but it seemed to me that there was actually a lot of pain behind those words. I was reminded of my childhood existential crisis when I realized the same thing. Life is not much more than trying to stay busy enough to not have time to consider what you’re staying busy for in the first place.

When I made this realization (at eight years old) I had a very nice life – close family, good friends, everything I needed, and many things that I wanted. But I under- stood that none of it was going to last beyond this world and that nothing I did would ultimately matter.

You’ve made a career out of noticing the things that most people don’t pick up on. The pointlessness of life is something probably everyone realizes at some point or another but then tries to forget just as quickly. Forgetting is one form of coping; humor is another. My strategy was on and off insomnia and mild panic attacks for eight years. (Didn’t say it was a good strategy!)

As long as I was distracted, from the ages of eight to sixteen, I was a regular, happy kid. But it was usually late at night, when all the distractions were gone, that a voice inside my head would scream “Why did anything you do today matter? Why bother getting up tomorrow to do it all over again?”

Jerry, I’m writing you this letter because I saw online that you’ve always been a soul searcher. In interviews you’ve talked about how you’ve dabbled in Scientology and have spent years in transcendental meditation and other sorts of self-help methods. I found an answer to my years of searching in a place that I believe you’ve never checked and is one of the last places on earth you’d ever think to check – observant Judaism.

Now I know it’s not considered polite to discuss religion in mixed company, but I’m doing it anyway because I wish that someone had shared this information with me sooner. I’m sure like the rest of the world you see religious Jews as backwards, closed-minded, extreme people who you’d never want to have anything to do with, much less learn anything from. Woody Allen summed up the feeling in that famous hasid scene in “Annie Hall.”

But here’s the thing – a lot of us are much more normal than you realize, and your Torah, your heritage, your traditions are so much deeper than you ever imagined. We Jews are an educated bunch, but we’re also an arrogant bunch. The majority of us know next to nothing about Torah wisdom and observant living, yet we are certain that it’s not for us. We’d rather look anywhere else (the Far East, transcendental meditation, Scientology, the latest self-help fad) than in our own backyards.

Jerry – you have it all. The wife and kids, a career you love, fame, adoration, more money than you even know what to do with. But you keep searching. Something inside of you is never settled, and I believe that it’s the pintele yid – the spark of Jewishness in your soul – that senses that there must be some point to this all, even as it continues to elude you.

You mentioned during the show how you came to marriage, kids, and coffee late in life. I’d like to suggest that you come to Torah exploration later in life too. I don’t know who your ancestors were, but I’m certain that there were people in your family who were willing to give up their lives in order to hold on to our traditions. I implore you to take some time to try and understand why.

The likelihood of you ever seeing this letter is obviously quite low, but then again, the likelihood of my wanting to connect with Mayim Bialik in the same way and ending up as her spiritual mentor, was also quite low, but it happened. If you do see this and want to be in touch, shoot me an email on the JewintheCity.com.

Sincerely yours,

Allison (aka Jew in the City)

 

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Allison About Allison

Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.

Comments

  1. Fashion-isha says:

    You are amazing. Shoot for the stars, you never know where it will take you. But seriously, I hope you are sending a link to this to his pr people…right??
    Have a great Shabbos!
    xo
    Sharon

  2. Hi Allison. Interesting post.

    Wondering when you discovered the world of orthodox? Several of our relatives practice it. The reason …. it was ingrained from an early age …. 2, 3 and 4 years old.

    For most of us to believe in these extreme “laws.” Just way too much in a person’s daily/weekly/monthly/yearly existence. There’s barely enough time to breathe.

    Personally, I think “mother nature” (or whom ever one believes) isn’t too pleased with praying every 5 minutes on the clock. Too weird. Too time consuming. After awhile, it just becomes habitual.

    As a jew myself, not sure what all the hoopla is about re it all. One cannot pray just to pray. It’s silly. You cannot keep asking for “things.” Praying for “things” …. etc. Thanking the heavens above over and over and over again. Duh. Doesn’t work that way.

    There are so many different belief systems with jews …. it runs the whole gamit. Regardless, my view has always been that jews are a group …. however serious, a jew is a jew. We should “stick” together in our so-called faith.

    On another level, anything of the extreme is not doable or correct in my book of wisdom.

    To each their own. This is how our parents taught us.

    I think the commandments are fine and good. However, most are never respected. In today’s world, you certainly have to doubt some of them.

    My fav saying = “do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” This I believe.

  3. TorontoPearl says:

    Brava! Judaism stares Jerry straight in the face and for not to have had him look at it is simply…sad.
    I hope he answers and takes you up on your suggestions…one baby step at a time.

  4. Rachel Stern says:

    Jerry’s mother, Betty, is a Syrian Jew, born in the strong and very tight knit Syrian enclave in Brooklyn. The community is mostly religious,and extremely wealthy. There is an Edict in force among that community forbidding its members to marry either non-Jews or converts. Betty married what they call a “J-Dub” – a non Syrian Jew, an Ashkenazi. The lived in Massapequa. However, it is unlikely that Jerry has not had any connection or interaction with Orthodox Judaism, albeit in the Sephardic Syrian tradition. And even though they did not live within the Syrian community and even though his mother married a “J-Dub”, the strength of the Edict has persevered — Jerry knew to marry a Jewish woman — Jessica Sklar (aka Nina Danielle Sklar). I would not assume he has not taken a look at his own religion — but I would assume that the force of the Edict would have been extremely distasteful to him. The Edict was issued not only to keep Jewish youth within the fold, but also to keep their WEALTH within the fold and intact. There is not as much emphasis placed on learning and Torah as on accumulation of wealth and materialism. If I were an idealistic youth, imbued with the values of personal freedoms, anti-prejudicial, I too would be turned off by this crass version of Judaism!

  5. Marcee-

    I believe what Allison was trying to get across is that Orthodox Judaism and its practice is far less extreme and far more relevant to the modern day than most Jews today realize. I also embraced full Torah observance later in life and can attest that all these existential questions start falling into place the moment a Jewish soul finds itself fulfilling commandments.

    I fully agree with you that, as you say, us Jews need to stick together, and indeed, loving a fellow Jew is the basis of our Torah. Please understand that as such it is not at all my intention to condescend or disrespect your beliefs. However, as Allison recommends to Jerry, I would recommend that you take a second look at your own heritage. You will find it to be an incredibly rich treasure. Jew in the City is a great place to start!

  6. Perfectly put, and somehow I will not be too surprised if he contacts you!

  7. debbie says:

    THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO THE E-MAIL POSTED BY RACHEL STERN,ON FEB.12, 2012, WHO PORTRAYS THE BROOKLYN SYRIAN COMMUNITY IN A VERY NEGATIVE LIGHT! I AM A VERY PROUD SYRIAN JEW WHO LIVES IN THIS COMMUNITY, WHERE THERE IS AN ABUNDANCE OF CHESED, CHARITY, FANTASTIC TORAH CLASSES AVAILABLE EVERY DAY AND NIGHT, IN ABUNDANCE. YES, BARUCH HASHEM THERE ARE VERY MANY WEALTHY SYRIANS, BUT THERE ARE ALSO VERY MANY MORE WHO HAVE THERE STRUGGLES TOO! THE AMOUNT OF GOODNESS, AND CHARITY EVENTS AND CLASSES THAT ARE AVAILABE, AND WORK WITH SENIOR CITIZENS, AND VISITING THE SICK, AND THOSE SPECIAL SHABBATS THAT YOU SPOKE ABOUT, AND REVERENCE FOR THE TORAH AND RABBI’S IS ASTOUNDING! BUT, ABOVE ALL, TO SPEAK ABOUT A JEWISH COMMUNITY WITH SUCH NEGATIVITY, TO ME, IS NOTHING LESS THAN LASHON HARA, AND DOES NOTHING MORE THAN DIVIDE JEWS, AND CONTINUES THE HATRED OF WHY THE BET HAMIKDASH WAS DESTROYED IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND NEVER REBUILT!

  8. Each community promotes and supports the needs and opinions of their people. It may look like something unwell from an outsider or even from the next generation of children within, but most communities are encouraging of their people, not discouraging. So I would be very cautious of judging other communities unless I’d been inside.

    From that, I can understand this feeling of alienation. When you are raised in a fashion or community that does not correspond to your own drive and beliefs. It can be very hard. I still haven’t found my place. But I’m sure we all do in time as long as we keep looking.

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