Sheet Cake

I have never liked cheap humor, slapstick comedy or potty humor. I love satires, which is not completely surprising, since I am a tad bit sarcastic. Satire is cerebral and pithy, carefully crafted to make you think. It contains elements of truth twisted with fantasy, and it is up to the viewer to interpret a deeper meaning. Good satire is multilayered, multidimensional, sickening and funny all at the same time.

Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live sheet cake skit about Charlottesville moved me for all of these reasons. The entire skit was giving voice to the majority of Americans who are frozen with shock. In our Sonoma County bubble, I cannot count the congregants who have told me, “I just don’t know what to do; I am so scared.”


Clearly, supporting a local Jewish or African-American owned bakery would not help at all. Clearly stuffing your face with cake or screaming into an American flag decorated sheet cake as you stab it with a grilled cheese sandwich is not a solution to anything. Just the opposite: stuff your face with sheet cake and end up with a sugar high and stomachache. Yet, how many people stress eat?

How many people really don’t know where to turn in the face of chaos that seems to be surrounding us?

At the same time, Tina also states many truthful, deeply troubling facts. We did steal America from the Native Americans! When the Native Americans protested, we did shoot rubber bullets at them, even though we allow white supremacists to protest.

The skit brought to light the powerlessness that many of us are feeling these days. Tina’s words were poignant, and that’s why every news outlet has had to respond! My favorite response was from Playboy… never thought I would say that!

Tina really pushes viewers to check their privilege, to ask deep questions about how they can be change agents rather than passive viewers. After all, only privileged people get to sit around in sweats eating cake.

Tina’s voice is inaudible during parts of the segment, even though we know that her words are carefully crafted… if they are inaudible, maybe they don’t count! Maybe screaming into a cake– a not so subtle metaphor for America– won’t solve any problems. Ironically, her voice in this nationally televised segment sparked such controversy, such fanfare and even a grassroots movement of sheet cake parties. I can’t count how many Shabbat tables delighted in sheet cake this past Friday night!

The sheet cake parties are one step in the right direction. Yes, they are fun, and, in moderation, the cakes taste good. But the sheet cake parties need another element. We need to gather around a sheet cake to listen, discuss and figure out productive and necessary actions!

Tina clearly discourages people from counter protesting this weekend (the same advice our Jewish agencies have given), yet she does it with brilliance by telling people to treat these rallies like “the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads: don’t show up. Let these morons scream into the empty air.”

How can we give a voice to all those who feel silenced? How do we fight against white supremacy, racism and hate in a safe nonviolent way? There is no silver lining with the rise of anti-Semitism and racism in America. Now we need to look for adaptive methods for education, cross-cultural dialogue and eradicating hate from our hearts.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive our hate; only love can do that.”

9 thoughts on “Sheet Cake

  1. Thanks, Rabbi Stephanie. I’d missed this cultural inflection point until reading your insightful blog. Tina Fey was brilliant. Now let’s get our marching shoes on, our phone calling fingers tapping, and our letter-writing thoughts together, really together. There’s much power in a bubble of like-minded, already empowered people sheet-cake eaters just as there is much power in an oppressed few seizing power. In that way, we can be an indivisible whole.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your insights on this important topic. Personally, I’m a big fan of stress-eating! Once the cake is gone, here’s something else we can do…

    Over $100,000 has already been raised to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center so far.

  3. A nice take. I also think what was powerful about Fey’s sketch was that she took seriously the possibility of more violence with escalating counter protests. How things play out in Boston represents how we can leverage our voices without sinking to the same lows and tactics of the Nazi and white supremacist marchers.

  4. After Charlottesville, sporting my new oncology-inspired haircut, I found myself digging my Jewish Star necklace out of my jewelry box. Not since I was plagued by teen-angst have I felt a need to do publicly announce my presence as A JEW.

    We certainly live in a bubble, but if we look and listen, I also believe there are racists, antisemites, sexists, and homophobes not only within reach, but within our circles.

    So I say sheet cake away, but make sure to invite yoyr closeted -ist friend. They need to be pushed from the shadows before they’ll see the light.

    Lovely piece, Rabbi Kramer. Did I miss out on cake?!

  5. Thank you for connecting the “sheet cake” rant with our fears as Jews in a very scary time. Tina Fey is brilliant in her ability to capture our fears and make us laugh. The situation in our country is not funny, but if we focus on our fear, we’re useless and weak. At times like these, our community gives us strength. Thanks for the reminder, Rabbi Stephanie.

  6. Thank you Rabbi. The Neo-Nazi’s and White Supremacists are nothing more than a bunch of morons, as stated by Tina Fey. I remember during the 1970’s when the Nazi Party planned a march and demonstration in Skokie, IL. There was much fear at that time too! I only remind everyone who is capable, to be as tolerant as possible. This country was designed primarily on the freedom of speech that should be protected, yes even speech we don’t like, or speech that we fear. As we can all agree the Neo-Nazi’s and White Supremacists are far right wing morons, and frankly the Antifa movement, likewise, is a far left-wing group of morons, both of whom espouse violence which should be condemned. It is these two groups that I believe the President was referring to when he said, both sides. In fact his actual original comment stated an, “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence,” yes three words that were conveniently left out of Tina Fey’s spoof. I certainly wish the President had named the individual groups, but I do not see, or find, acceptance of those groups by the use of the words hatred, bigotry and violence. Yes the right wingers struck first, but both groups, inappropriately came armed to fight; that is a fact that cannot be denied. I lost family in the Holocaust, like many others, and am insulted and angry about the Howard Dean’s of the world who consider every Republican a racist. Additionally, before we, like Howard Dean and so many National media outlets have done, group every Republican and Conservative with these moronic, violent Neo-Nazi’s, be sure you know of whom you speak or refer…. For I am your fellow Congregant, a Jew, a Conservative, and a Republican and nothing close to a racist, white supremacist, Neo-Nazi Bigot.

  7. As as Holocaust survivor, I was horrified by Charlottsville and the Presidents response to it. I’ve always known that there were those who felt this way but they remained hidden and almost silent within their caves and under their rocks. Our President and his supporters gave them permission, nay encouraged them to come out into the open. For myself, watching on TV, I got a frisson from the past – not so different from Nazi Germany – using the same flags, symbols and chants. Our fearless leader looked and sounded much like Hitler as he strived to make this acceptable and failed. His very presence as our President is a reflection of a portion of the population who feels discounted and overwhelmed by “aliens”. I’ve never seen a political scene like this before (except maybe in Germany) . This is not the America I learned about in school or a political scene that I’ve seen in my lifetime before this. I fear for where it leads. I watch the news compulsively, well aware that those watching Fox News are hearing and seeing a different picture than I. I send letters, make phone calls and write……I knit pussy hats as a form of rebellion. I’ve been dispersing them in the community. I march (in my electric scooter) – I speak up. I vote!!

  8. Went back to watch Tina Fey (which I hadn’t seen when I wrote the above). Trust me, eating away your anxieties and fears doesn’t work. I’ve been tr ying to do that my entire life and all it did was make me fat. I always tell the story of my husband and I, early in our marriage, going camping. Somehow we ended up on this narrow mountain road and as we made a turn, one wheel of the car went over the edge and we just rocked there for a second. Instantly, both my husband and I reached for the bag of cookies which was between us on the front seat. First reaction to imminent doom was to eat! Trouble was we still had to find a solution if we didn’t want to go over the cliff.
    That’s life – right?

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