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Re: stereotypical Jewish performers?

Blacks have a name for this kind of performer - Uncle Tom.  I've never 
heard of a similar name for Jewish performers who took on the streeotypical 

Back in Europe, Yiddish musicians who succumbed to Gentile demands that they 
act the part of stereotypical Jews were sometimes refered to as "Ma 
Yofusnikes" an allusion to the ubiquitous melody "Ma Yofus" (the Hava Negila 
of its day,) and the best known Jewish melody among Gentiles.
In America, there was a name given to performers who trod the vaudeville 
boards in grotesque depiction of Jews: they were called "Hebe" or "Jew" 
comics. Wearing clothing either too big or small and a derby hat mashed down 
over their ears, these characters held sway on mainstream stages from the 
1890s until the Depression. Though a good number of the performers who 
depicted the hunched shouldered, hand wringing, cringing, whining abrasive 
conniving Yids on turn-of-the century vaudeville stages were Gentiles,  a 
great number were Jews such as Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor and George Jessel 
who, by being Jewish themselves, gave legitimacy to these demeaning 
Though Black performers such as pioneering comic Bert Williams unwillingly 
donned blackface to darken his lighter West Indian complexion to live up to 
the public's conception of what a "coon" looked like, his Ziegfeld Follies 
co-star Fanny Brice (ne: Borach) happily smeared on blackface or, when doing 
her popular "Jew" roles,  exaggerated her delivery to mock every kind of 
Jewish woman. Though Jews portrayed Blacks in a myriad different comic 
venues, the converse does not seem to have happened in any meaningful way at 
the same time....
Even though many of the same type of character Jewish types were found in the 
 Yiddish theater, there they were surrounded by a bevy of other characters 
thus eliminating the harshness and stereotypicality of the role. This would 
not occur on the legitimate stage for quite a time to come.
Sadly, this kind of depiction was common and in show business at the time, 
the only way to move up that ladder of success was to portray someone farther 
down that same ladder. 

Henry Sapoznik
"Klezmer! Jewish Music
>From Old World to Our World"
(Schirmer Books) 

P.S. After Boris Thomashevsky's ill-advised 1903-04 Yiddish production of 
"Uncle Tom's Cabin", papers like "Di Groyse Kundes" began refering to him as 
"Uncle Thom" and "Uncle Thomashevsky"...

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