One of my favorite Twitter follows is Golden Age porn legend turned eco-activist, Annie Sprinkle. I follow her for the same reason so many people follow Lin-Manuel Miranda: She combines earnestness and high level whimsy (in her case, usually boob-related) with impassioned activism. Annie’s Twitter feed is extremely upbeat, not in denial of our crazy, despairing time, but in spite of it. So when she kvelled over a new “Yiddish porno” called Matzo Maidels, you better believe I clicked immediately. It’s 2018 — we need to take our pleasures where we can.

American Jews love “discovering” Jews in porn. Queen of Alterna-porn Joanna Angel was a staple of Heeb magazine. Annie Sprinkle ended up on the cover of Davka magazine in the late 1990s for a feature called “Jews in Heat.” Uncovering Jews in porn is a kind of “Jew-spotting,” an activity whose popularity reminds us that, despite what official narratives might say, the story of American Jews is not just one of civic-minded, weak-bodied doctors and lawyers. Jews have indeed made their mark in the adult industry. While Annie and Joanna (and of course, Ron Jeremy) are famous on the screen, behind the scenes, there were folks like Al Goldstein, who revolutionized the dirty magazine, and Marty Hodas, who transformed Times Square with the introduction of peep show machines, to name just a few.

The Jews in porn thing gets a little complicated because it happens to dovetail with a popular anti-Semitic trope of pornography being a Jewish plot to destroy upstanding, white, Christian America. Not that it matters to anti-Semites, but Jews are over-represented in porn just like they’re over-represented in show business in general, and in law, medicine, and any number of fields. Over-representation doesn’t mean domination, of course, it just means presence at a slightly higher rate than our ~1% share of the population might suggest.

Jews may be over-represented in porn, especially on the business and production side, but actual Jewish content in porn? Not so much. Even less with anything Yiddish. Until now.

As far as I know, 2018 was the first time an adult film was released with Yiddish content. The first was Montreal klezmer hip-hop genius Socalled’s The Housesitter, a sweet guy-on-guy winter fantasy whose soundtrack features a Yiddish Isa Kremer song as well as a classic klezmer tune. 

And now comes Matzo Maidels, a short piece of 1920s era erotic “found footage” paired with a contemporary klezmer soundtrack and new dialogue voiced by Brooklyn Bloomberg “and friends.” Matzo Maidels’s zeitgeisty alliteration calls to mind Amazon’s mega-hit The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — period porn meets period porn, if you will. Like Mrs. MaiselMatzo Maidels is a bit wobbly on the consistency of its details. And as with Mrs. Maisel, a lot of people are going to yell at me that accuracy is secondary to the pleasure of the thing. Different strokes for different folks, okay? 

The footage of Matzo Maidels is a variety of very soft core, girl-on-girl scenes, not exactly something you’d watch with your bubbe, but extremely tame in our era of gonzo porn. The concept is that it’s a couple of Lower East Side girls getting together and reminiscing about their camp days, in between what one of the girls refers to as licking her “knish.” (Knish being a slang term for vagina.) Points to Bloomberg for the accurate use of a real Yiddish vulgarity, though I cringed at her mispronunciation of tsitskes (tits). Hey guys, call me when you do the sequel?

The footage in Matzo Maidels appears to be a piece of stag film ephemera. “Stag films” were erotic shorts created and distributed outside the Hollywood system, and given the nature of the material, remain poorly cataloged or researched today.

Matzo Maidels is a rare chance for ordinary viewers to get a glimpse of a lost world. It’s also just very silly, sexy, Jewy fun, a delightful reprieve from the un-fun, crazy making times in which we’re living.

Header image via PinkLabel.tv

Rokhl Kafrissen

Rokhl Kafrissen is a playwright and cultural critic. She writes the Rokhl’s Golden City column at Tablet and blogs about Jewish life at Rootless Cosmopolitan.