Songstress Regina Spektor says she is Jewish because of antisemitism

According to Spektor, in Soviet Russia, "the only thing that made Jewish people marry other Jews is that they didn’t want to be called ‘kikes’."

November 13, 2016 14:42
2 minute read.
Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor sings at a reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month in the East Room at the White House in Washington, May 27, 2010.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

American singer-songwriter Regina Spektor is known for her colorful performances and soulful lyrics, but also as a prominent Jewish cultural icon. It may be a surprise, then, that Spektor said antisemitism is curiously to thank for her Judaism, The Guardian reported on Sunday.

On Jewish oppression, Spektor spoke of the every day reality of her brother, an Orthodox Jew who wears a black hat and is frequently harassed for his faith. “They get on him, shouting ‘Shalom’, that kind of thing. But I see antisemitism everywhere. It’s built into the fabric of our lives."

She went on to say, however, that it is because of antisemitism that she was a Jew at all. Having been born in Russia, “The only reason I’m Jewish is probably antisemitism. Think about Soviet Russia – religion is illegal. So there’s no cultural Judaism, no tradition. The only thing that made Jewish people marry other Jews is that they didn’t want to be called ‘kikes’. They knew they wouldn’t hear the word ‘zhid’ come out of their husband’s face when they had their first marital fight. So it’s the only reason a lot of us exist.”

Before coming to the United States, she often faced discrimination herself. “Non-Jewish friends would say: ‘You’re not like other Jews,’ or ‘You’re smart for a Jew.’ It was institutionalized," she said.

However, though the US offered Jewish cultural opportunities, as a new American, she still felt 'other;' "Instead of being the Jewish girl in a Russian school I became a Russian girl in a Jewish school. I knew I’d stay the different girl forever. I had dumb teenagers telling me to go back to my f***ing country. Telling me we were taking their jobs. I got so pissed off I was like, ‘You’d better believe I’m going to take your job, I’m going to take your job and three other jobs, too’. You grow up with that. I came with refugee status – I was a legal alien."

Education, Spektor told The Guardian, is the key to ending prejudice. "People who live next door to Jews in black hats, who see them playing with their kids, they’re not the ones going, ‘Shalom, motherf***er.’

Spektor last performed in Israel in 2013, but has long defended the Jewish State on social media. In 2009, in the midst of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, launched in response to Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza, Spektor penned a post on her MySpace page defending Israel and criticizing what she saw as unfair media coverage of its actions.

“Israel has been shelled,” she wrote. “It has been hit with rockets for years… There is no government in the world that would not protect its citizens from attack. That’s unlawful... And it’s not sticks and stones, as many of my friends and relatives who live in Israel know. It’s rockets,” Spektor posted.

Lauren Izso contributed to this report.

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