‘I have Jewish version of original sin’

JERRY Stahl is far from the stereotypical nice American Jewish boy. Adorned with tattoos, he lived in a cave in Crete and beat his heroin addiction when he was in his late 30s.

But Jerry is amiable and good fun as we chat about his life and his new book, Nein, Nein, Nein! (Akashic Books), which was published this week.

“Not to brag, but I come from a family of depressives and a history of suicides,” he tells me, self-deprecatingly, from his home in Los Angeles.

“I actually think I turned out perfectly normal!”

And to describe his career as eclectic would be doing him a disservice.

He has done everything from working in an Irish pub in London to writing for a children’s television series, and penning films, books and magazine features.

However, what will always be with him, whatever he does, is his Judaism, although not in a practising sense.

Jerry, who was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said: “I have the Jewish version of original sin.

“My maternal grandfather always said to me, ‘if you ever forget you’re a Jew, a gentile will remind you’. In that sense, I am totally Jewish.

“When I was young, beyond loving Lenny Bruce and Bob Dylan, I didn’t feel it much.

“We were one of the few Jewish families in the area I was raised and one of a couple of Jews in an 800-strong high school, where I was regularly accused of killing Jesus.

“But I would like to add a caveat that there are other people who had things a zillion times worse.”

Jerry was born in 1953 to Florence (known as Poncy) and David Stahl.

His father escaped present-day Ukraine for America and became the Attorney General for Pennsylvania and a United States Circuit Judge.

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