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Yes, But Is It Good for the Jews?
By Jonny Geller
208 pages; $15.95
Yes, But Is It Good for the Jews? is the first offering from leading London literary agent Jonny Geller. This A-Z guide to world history and popular culture - as seen through a Jewish lens - opens with a quote from David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister: "Anyone meshugge enough to call himself a Jew is a Jew."
For his purposes, Geller defines a Jew as anyone who has a Jewish parent or grandparent. It may not be halachically correct, but as Geller states: "If it was good enough for Hitler, it's good enough for us." His logical conclusion, therefore, is that celebrities such as Boris Becker, Neve Campbell and even David Beckham, count among the chosen people.
Written as a beginner's guide to the fictional science of Judology, the book applies a mathematical formula to everything from ice cream to Pope Benedict XVI to ascertain whether or not they are good for the Jews.
Geller, the self-appointed director of the Judological Institute of Spiritual Mathematics, sends up our obsession with finding the Jewish connection in just about everything. As he explains in his introduction: "No longer will you need to think twice about which product to boycott, which film to avoid or which celebrity to disparage."
At times, the calculations result in some startling conclusions. Cheesecake is apparently no good for the Jews. Delicious though it may be, this dessert has a high potential for tzures - particularly for those with heart conditions and the lactose intolerant. Then there's Ebay - the Internet's biggest contribution to the free market economy. This on-line forum for wheeler-dealers is, according to the book, not good for the Jews. Copies of Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are available for sale, plus what do you do if your auction ends on Shabbat or Rosh Hashana?
On the flip side, the Jewish people can be grateful for the positive influences of marijuana, Guyana, Christmas and The Godfather trilogy, which deflected attention away from Jewish mobsters.
The book provides an entertaining take on the world and our vision of it. But a darker undercurrent ripples through it. While Geller pokes fun at the siege mentality, he acknowledges that in some quarters anti-Jewish sentiments are still thriving. Pointing the finger at former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, he concludes that Malaysia is not good for the Jews. In 2003 Mohamad addressed the 10th Islamic Summit Conference, propagating the Jewish conspiracy theory.
Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, caused a storm of controversy last year when he compared a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard. It was, however, his point-blank refusal to apologize that lost him friends within the Jewish community. (He has since apologized.) Geller allows Livingstone to speak for himself with a transcript of the original encounter, before concluding that - you guessed it - Mayor Livingstone is not good for the Jews.
Nugget-sized entries make for an amusing and easy read. The problem, though, is that it whets the appetite. As you flick from subject to subject, you find yourself debating with the author, as well as offering up further potential topics such as Uri Geller or Roman Abramovich.
Do not attempt to borrow this book from the library or a friend. As Geller says: "Borrowing is not good for the Jews. Buying is."