After decades of decline, New York City’s Jewish population is again on the rise, but only in Brooklyn; Manhattan is a dangerous place filled with abominations like bare elbows, Wi-Fi, and artificially colored flowers!
Hey kids! Welcome to This Month In Jewish (TMIJ), a monthly installment for TC Jewfolk recapping all the important (and some unimportant) Jewish news stories you may have seen this past month. I’d love to stay and chat, but Joe Biden wants to dance, so let’s get started…
This is the second month in a row that I’ve belittled the Ultra-Orthodox. Please don’t think I have a problem with Orthodox Judaism; I don’t. I have a problem with stupid people doing stupid things.
Life is tough, and if you find fulfillment in the words of the Torah, and can live your life without hurting people, then more power to you.
But if you believe that God wants you to insult the 1.5 million people living in Manhattan by warning travellers to “Avert Your Eyes” from its filth, then we have issues my friend. Jews have prospered through the centuries because we value knowledge and critical thinking. So when you tell me to avert my eyes I’ll tell you what happens when people willfully stop seeing. Students get bullied, and teachers and friends do nothing. Women and children get molested, and everybody goes on playing football. Yellow stars get pinned to the coats of neighbors and friends, and people learn not to see the neighborhoods disappearing or the smoke rising from behind the barbed wire fences. You tell me to avert my eyes and I’ll tell you Never Again. If a few people decide that a life of Torah isn’t for them because they liked what they saw, well then they weren’t people you wanted anyway.
It’s now time for our favorite game here at TMIJ. We call it: Anti-Semitic?
First up, this tweet: “Whats the fuzz with jews. You can’t even see if a person is a jew, unless you see their penises, and even if you do, you can’t be sure!?”
I’m sure the people in charge of Sweden’s marketing campaign thought this was a brilliant idea: Hand over the @Sweden Twitter account to a different citizen each week and let them present their unique Swedish perspective. What they probably didn’t expect was someone talking about the Jews. So is this tweet Anti-Semitic? NO! It certainly is awkward. It’s also probably not the best way to promote Sweden’s multiculturalism. But Sonja, the lucky tweeter, does make a salient point: There is no way to tell who is a Jew and who isn’t based solely on appearance—which makes Jews evil seditious just like everyone else. Sonja Abrahamsson (no joke) apologized for the comment soon after, saying she was, like, just curiuz you guyz, ok?
The NYPD laid down the law on this pansy-ass wannabe cop. Not everyone can cut it as a cop, alright? Some people just don’t have the stuff. It’s one thing to go around yelling “Citizen Arrest! Citizen Arrest!” It’s a whole other head of hair to go around yelling, “Actual Arrest! Actual Arrest!” Who knows how you’ll react in the line of fire, so it’s understandable if someone like Fishel Litzman washed out. What’s that? They dismissed him because he’s Orthodox and wouldn’t shave his beard? Even though they claim to make religious exceptions? That’s messed up. But is it anti-Semitic? EH, KINDA! I’m sure a bearded officer makes an easier target than his clean shaven partners, and I’m sure there are plenty of actual anti-Semitic people who would not respect the authority of a Jewish police officer, and yes, the religious exception only allows for a beard length of one millimeter—wait, one millimeter? What religion asks for a one-millimeter beard? That’s less beard and more, “I just haven’t shaved in a few days.” Really NYPD? I expected more from you. Then again…
Someone tagged Yad Vashem with some incendiary graffiti, thanking Hitler for the great Holocaust. Is This Anti-Semitic? NO! Wait, what? “Hitler, thank you for the great Holocaust…” If the message had stopped there, it would be Anti-Semitism up the wazoo. But it continues: “Hitler thank you for the great Holocaust. Only because of it did we receive a state from the UN.”
Please duke this out with me if you disagree, but I don’t think this is Anti-Semitism and here’s why: If instead of manic graffiti, this message was a deliberate contribution to avant-garde art, would we still call it anti-Semitic? What if this message wasn’t scrawled on a wall of Yad Vashem, but instead featured as part of an explosive modern art exhibition at, say, The Museum On The Seam?
Or what about this: Would the Jews have been given the state of Israel had the Holocaust not occurred? It’s an impossible question to answer, as arguments can be made for many different Yeses and Nos. But if you believe that the creation of the state of Israel was a direct reaction to the Holocaust, and if you’re grateful that the state of Israel exists, then the instigator of the Holocaust (Hitler) regrettably must get at least some small amount of gratitude for priming the existence of the state of Israel. Yet, while not Anti-Semitic, I think the message, presented as it is, is extremely disrespectful to the millions of people (and their families) that Yad Vashem honors and remembers; it is vandalism, not avant-garde art. It’s the wrong venue for a message like that; but is the message itself anti-Semitic? No, probably not.
The Chief Rabbi Of France received death threats on his Facebook page. He was sent a Photoshopped picture of a revolver pointed at his head, with a Star of David pasted on his forehead, and a lighter labeled Zyklon B held up to his nostrils. So is this Anti-Semitic? OOOHHHH YEAH.
And like a rabbi in a biker gang, here’s some stuff that didn’t fit:
Mitt Romney, responding to a question about how his policies towards Israel would be different than Obama’s, vowed to “do the opposite.” I don’t understand what’s so wrong with Obama’s Israel policy. He hosted Netanyahu in the Oval Office, he supports a two-state solution based on the ’67 borders (a right of center position), and Israel gets more foreign aid per capita from the United States than every country but Afghanistan. I’m not trying to be Pro-Obama, or Anti-Romney here, I just don’t understand the vitriol, at least from people who seem to be otherwise rational.
The Israeli military celebrated Gay Pride Month by releasing a photo of two gay soldiers holding hands. LGBT activists hailed this photo as progress, and millions of Facebook users shared this to their friends with comments like, “OMG! Israel is soooooo awesome.” But it turns out—only one of them is gay! WHAT?! This is an outrage! This is an embarrassment for equal rights and—yes? Nobody cares? OK, moving on.
Gilad Shalit is now a sports columnist for Yediot Aharonot, a leading Israeli newspaper. This proves that even in a tough economy you too can land the job of your dreams. You just need passion, hard work, and 64 months spent as a prisoner of war.
The Prime Minister of Israel pulls a hamstring. The right blames the Palestinians, the left blames the right, and the kids laugh because he’s old.
I’m a bit of a commencement speech nerd, so I had to include this collection of Jews giving commencement speeches.
That’s all for this month; next month be on the lookout for these hot stories:
Monkey At Typewriter Produces Word For Word Replica Of Mein Kampf
Synagogue Youth Field Trip Dissolves Into Chaos When Bus Driver Orders Pepperoni Pizza.
Confused Jews For Jesus Endorse Joe Lieberman for President.
(Photo: Nate Ginsburg. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram)
You have missed a recent announcement by Alice Walker. She has rejected a request to publish “Color Purple” in Hebrew. Apparently she thinks that Hebrew and all those who speak it are bad and unworthy people. Here is a new low — demonize not just the state, but the language that people there speak.
Reminds me of the Soviets and their bans on languages.
Ah, of course! How could I have forgotten that?!
I want to point out to you, however, that Walker didn’t deny the right to publish the book in Hebrew; she denied an Israeli publisher the right to publish the book in Israel (with a Hebrew translation). In her letter she gave the example of not allowing the movie version of her book to be shown in South Africa until after Apartheid ended there, and said that while she wants the “brave Israeli activists (Jewish and Palestinian)” to be able to read her book, now is not the time. I don’t really get it, I still think her decision was misguided, but that’s her choice.
I’m reminded of a speech another novelist, Haruki Murakami, gave when accepting the Jerusalem Prize a few years ago. Many of his fans begged him not to accept the prize, for the same reasons Alice Walker denied the publication of her book, but he accepted it anyway, saying that he didn’t want to give the impression that he supported one side over the other, and that “between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg…. no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg.” But he chose to come anyway because: “I chose to see for myself rather than not to see…” (sound familiar?) “…I chose to speak to you rather than to say nothing.” I think Murakami has it right in that you can accept a prize, or publish a book, without taking a side on an issue. But if Walker doesn’t see it that way, then we either have to hope for peace, or for her to change her mind.
If you’re curious, here’s a link to her letter: http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1917
And here’s a link to Murakami’s speech: http://www.salon.com/2009/02/20/haruki_murakami/
Thank you for the reference.
Somehow, most of the news outlets (and I do not mean Fox News) reported her action as refusing to publish her novel in Hebrew translation, with some emphasizing that particular point.
It would be interesting to see how she would reply if a request is made to publish her book in Hebrew translation outside of Israel.
Typically, however, these types of refusals usually follow by “You, the Jewish people are like…” accusations.
Now, about your comment on Yad Vashem graffiti.
People who left it were likely from the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist fringe of the Orthodoxy. Stupid? Very. As stupid as those peyos-adorned idiots who dressed themselves up as concentration camp inmates during the girl-spitting protests of a few months ago. Idiots who completely lost contact with Jewish people, who do not see living Judaism behind the Halacha.
Anti-semitic? Do not know, they are “semites” themselves. This term has become exceedingly over-used.
Anti-Jewish? For me they are, as they have distanced themselves from our people and our religion, by praising violence against my own blood and kin, and by glorifying the monster who perpetrated that violence. They were not the first, nor will they be the last to put forward that particular idea, though.
Then again, I view the likes of Peter Beinart and his cohorts, American rabbi Alissa Wise and other “American rabbis” who support BDS as being anti-Jewish and being against my blood and kin who happen to live in West Bank “settlements”, often not by choice.
Unfortunately, as of late, I am beginning to notice a great deal of difference between “American rabbis” and Jewish Rabbis. And, as an American Jew from the former Soviet Union, I prefer to stick with Jewish Rabbis.
I actually really like the distinction you’ve made there between Anti-Semitic and Anti-Jewish – which, for a Jew to be Anti-Jewish, I would also claim is different from “self-hating Jew.”
I think the Orthodox, anti-Zionists living in Israel are some of the silliest people on the planet. The way their views match up with their daily lives is, to me, so backwards I can’t even be offended by it as much as I am amused. But again, I think the most offensive part of that message was that it was graffiti on a wall at Yad Vashem. The manner in conveying the message was disrespectful, and I’m sure that was at least partially their intent. But if it had even been Photoshopped graffiti on a picture of a wall of Yad Vashem, displayed in an art gallery (or coffee shop, or whatever) I think it would be our obligation as patrons of the exhibit to take the message more seriously.
As for BDS: it’s really a no-win situation. I’ve met Palestinians who were undeniably mistreated by Israel and Israelis, and when I hear their story I feel ashamed to support Israel and drift to the left. But I’ve also met settlers who were asked (not even forced) by the Israeli government to settle the West Bank, then forced out of their homes when the Israeli government changed its mind. I met a woman from Gush Katif who told us how they used to farm vegetables on that land, and now that the Palestinians have it, they turned it back into a desert wasteland. When I heard that story my blood boiled against the Palestinians and I drifted to the right. From the little of Beinart’s writing that I’ve read I seem to agree with him, but again I’ve read very little, and again again, there isn’t a solution out there that will make even 50% of people happy.