Marry Rich, Marry Jewish

When I was in college, my dad used to joke that he made a mistake when he was rocking my cradle. He should have rocked it with a rhythmic chant that would have embedded itself in my subconscious, “Marry rich, marry Jewish.” His reason for this was not because he hates everyone else, it’s because these are things that would have made my life easier.

Money helps make things easier. Marrying someone in your religion makes things easier. It doesn’t cure every problem it just makes things easier.

So I’m having some big feelings today about something my Mom said to this me this weekend. We were talking about the things I want her to be alive for (don’t ask) and among them are the wedding of my child. (preferably one, no rush.) And Mom said she just hopes my kid (and my sibs kids) marry Jewish and raise Jewish children. She feels like her siblings children are lost to the Jewish people. Two of them don’t practice any religion, and one has actively converted to Christianity because he husband is like regressive Christian and he rules the household. She was Jewish for awhile, but he sorta oozed over that like a slug. The other three are nominally Jewish, but practically their kids seem to not be much of anything. I feel like maybe my Mom is underestimating them. I feel like they’re embers and maybe they will blow out, or maybe they will flame. It’s too soon to know. If I asked them, “are you Jewish?” I’m not sure what they’d say.

My mother’s grandchildren, however, definitely identify as Jewish 100%. And I guess I knew but didn’t think about what it would mean to her to feel like her great-grandchildren would carry on the traditions for more generations.

Continuing the line. I hope I’m fortunate enough to meet my Jewish grandchildren in my lifetime.


Still one more

Do I really have nothing better to blog about than Jew hatred? Evidently I don’t, because here I am again.

Last night, as the sportball player was reinstated to his sportsball team, I was watching an episode of the cooking show Chopped. There was a person on the show talking about using the show to find a date and the person was charming and engaging and I wondered if the show had been successful in that regard. So I googled the chef’s name and the first tweet that came up was this, and I’ll attempt to paraphrase:

Interesting how they didn’t want to promote (#AntisemiticFilm) but they actually promoting it. #SportsBallAthelete #SiteSellingAntiSemeticFilm #BeFree.

(Okay, so it’s not a paraphrase, it’s a direct quote, but I’ve made the hashtags more generic.)

And this is the same thing I continue to be frustrated about. There’s no chance or place for growth.

The thing is, propaganda films are compelling. And if it’s subject matter you don’t know much about, it all sounds so reasonable. That’s the problem with propaganda films. I loved Penn & Teller’s Bullshit! so that’s a good example for me to pick on.

They did an episode on why circumcision is Bullshit! And I don’t want to delve deeply into the subject matter, I just wanted to talk about this one thing that changed the way I looked at the show.

They had a Rabbi on the show and they asked him, “If a boy doesn’t have a circumcision, is he still a Jew.”

And the Rabbi answered correctly, yes.

And that was basis of determining that Circumcision in the Jewish community was Bullshit and should be immediately abolished.

But there’s a problem with that answer. And you don’t know Jewish tradition and Jewish law; you can’t understand the problem. Yes, you’re Jewish, but Brit Milah is part of accepting the covenant. There’s a whole series of responsas and ruling about how to handle an uncircumcised Jew. (Here are some of them, if you want to read up on it, but again, not what this post is about.)

If I watched that Penn and Teller episode, I would never know that there was any nuance or issue with a man being uncircumcised in Judaism. And if you watch the antisemitic documentary without a deeper knowledge of the history of the Jews, you would not think there was anything unreasonable about it as it makes a case for Africa being the settling point for many of the Jews kicked out of Israel. In fact, Africa WAS the settling point for many of the Jews kicked out of Israel. But so was Rome and Europe. Furthermore, it rehashes the Kuzar myth and makes the claim that the majority of European Jewry was actually Kuzari and from Israel. Which is a) wrong to begin with and b) irrelevant because converts are also part of Jewry. But again, these are not history that is generally taught. People watching the video think it’s history, not propaganda and so they treat it as history.

So how can you refute the lies if you don’t tell people that it’s not history. And I realize that telling people it’s propaganda gives it more air and allows it to spread more freely, but it’s out there. And if we don’t tell people it’s false, then it will still be out there and more people will assume it’s truth because there’s no one saying, “This isn’t true.”

Which side to to err on? Do I denounce it and risk exposing more people to it? Or ignore it and hope that people aren’t being taken in, in the face of evidence that people are watching it and believing it.

They wouldn’t attack if it they didn’t feel threatened is something I hear often. Often paired with “The truth hurts.” The truth. sigh. The truth is that lies are also deadly and fearsome. The reality is that the lie hurts. It hurts that people who we like think we’re monsters because of a lie. It hurts that people want to commit violence against the Jewish community because of lies. Violence against the Jewish community because of lies hurts.

Lies hurt. And they have to be debunked and defanged because their hurt spreads.

Not done yet, evidently

I told myself I would be done blogging about Jew hatred (aka: antisemitism, but I’m not calling it that anymore, because the word was invented to “provide” a “scientific” basis for Jew hatred and now it’s being used to say that Jew hatred doesn’t exist because other people also speak Semitic languages and they hate Jews, so CLEARLY there’s its not antisemitism, because they don’t hate themselves, only the Jews, who deserve it, because….Israel? Sorry for the midrant minirant.), but evidently, I”m not.

Today I am posting because one of my FB friends, and I can’t find the post again, posted that if you want to understand power, know who you can’t criticize. With a list of all the things that have happen to the rapper shoe guy post Deathcon 3. But here’s the thing. A bunch of these happened before that. Because his guy is not okay. His ex not talking to him? You don’t think that had something to do with the guy stalking her boyfriend and calling her out on social media? No, no, must be DA JEWS making trouble between a man and his devoted ex-wife. They’d still be happily married if it weren’t for DA JEWS.

I listened to a comedian’s monologue on SNL and I agree with some of it. Nothing good ever follows those two words, “the Jews,” what’s coming next is probably no more redeemable than whatever follows “the Blacks.” I’m not actually sure “The <blank>” is ever a good lead in, unless it’s “The English like tea and crumpets.” and even then, I’m pretty sure that’s a just a stereotype. Probably not an offensive one, but still.

But what I would like to seen is a measure of accountability. When the comedian said, “in this climate it’s a bad idea,” I wish he would have explained the climate. I wish he would have said, “Because violence against Jews and Jewish institutions” continues to rise in the America. And when celebrities of any stripe talk about the Jews, it seems to prompt more violence. When Jews trend on twitter, I get nervous.

The Black community is NOT responsible for Jew hatred. But when celebrities buy into and amplify the message that Jews are responsible for Jew hatred and that Jews deserve hatred; well, it’s not exactly helping to fix the problem either. The problem with isn’t that The Jews are holding down The Blacks. The problem is that neither Black bodies and Jewish bodies are safe in America. (And that’s not even considering the Black bodies that are also Jewish bodies.)

Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Slander; AKA And another thing…

This is kind of a follow up to the post I just published which I literally finished seconds ago. In Psalms today, we finished the first of the Shir Hamalaot Psalms; a group of 15 Psalms that begin with the phrase “A song of Ascents…” (120-135).

So Psalm 120 is about the dangers of slander and falsehoods and about how people who do those things will drag you down. The Psalmists likens them the sharp arrows and deceptive coals. The sharp arrows analogy is what I’m going to focus on. Slander is like an arrow because, once it is released, it cannot be called back. It will travel on its own until it hits something. The person being hit may not know who fired the arrow. It may not even hit the target it was aiming for. It may even hit more than person. Anyone who has any contact with the arrow may be affected by the arrow. Unlike most sins, you as the sinner do not know who was affected by target.

Thinking about this most recent unpleasantness, the singer/medial personality had no idea that someone would hang a banner on an LA overpass encouraging people to honk if they know that the singer was correct about the Jews. Because you don’t know who the arrow you shot will hurt. We don’t know how many people might be killed by people who needed just one speck encouragement to go kill Jews and they got it from a media personalities tweet.

My learning from a book written so long ago feels very topical when we think about it in those terms. When we realize that the arrow of a lying tongue can penetrate deeply. The coals of ratamim (juniper wood, according to some commentaries) are coals that look cool on the outside, but continue to burn on the inside. So too antisemitism seems dead at times, but the fires burn brightly in side people’s hearts waiting for the opportunity to spring out and burn again.

What Frustrates me most about antisemites

There are a lot of terrible things about antisemitism (Jew hatred) and the people who support it, but this, to me, on this day, is the most frustrating thing.

There’s no space for them to be wrong.

That’s not me saying they’re right. I’m saying that I, as a Jew who disagrees with what they’re saying about Jews and who lives my life in accordance with my beliefs and in defiance of many Jewish stereotypes (I don’t have money, I don’t covet money, I don’t cheat in financial affairs, I don’t control the weather, I don’t have power, or influence, I have a tiny blog read by a handful of people), have no space to interject logic or sanity.

Take the recent unpleasantness. A Black singer/media personality made a statement about wanting to wage war on the Jews because they control the media and are out to get him personally and have attacked him.

The first person to respond was another Black singer/media personality, and he was immediately shot down by the original guy saying that Jews had got to him.

He apologized later for his statements, sorta, but in the meantime there has been a dogpile of antiJewish hatred and sentiment being publicly expressed including the dreaded, “you know what he means. The Jews control the media. He doesn’t hate all Jews, just THOSE Jews.” Well, who are those Jews? Who does he think is controlling him?

Meanwhile he has lost a endorsement/partnership with a clothing manufacturer and a company cancelled a documentary of the singer/medial personality in progress (Edited to add: I wasn’t going to go further in identifying the people involved in the discussion, because the discussion rarely changes even if the names involved do, however, I realized when I reread the statement of the company that produced the documentary that it should be WIDELY shared, so, I’m adding a link here to allow anyone who hasn’t seen it to please read it. ) Is the original guy going to say, “I fucked up and this is the consequence of being a hateful asshole and I realize I behaved no better than people who say that skin color makes you superior/inferior and I need to fix myself.” or is he going to say, this proves the Jews control everything because I had things and I said something about them and they took it away from me. Even if the people who controlled the things weren’t Jewish, the Jews got to them.

If the Jews and their allies didn’t say anything, then everyone would say, “Oh, you didn’t say anything, so it must be true.”

So if anyone says something, “the Jews got to you.” And if no one says anything, “it must be true.” So where is there ever space for, “you done fucked up, you hateful jackass?”

That’s what I find the most frustrating thing.

File under: Confirmation bias.

You must learn to give, from sufficiency, not only take, from neediness

One of my favorite quotes from Lois McMaster Bujold is this one, not from the world of the five gods series, but from the Vorkosigan series. It’s a phrase I keep close to my heart and I was reminded of it again over Simchat Torah.

I was talking to a friend who in a state of feeling like he is taking from neediness and he wants to transition to giving from sufficiency. I’m not sure he’s capable of that. He’s not big on empathy in general, but I appreciate the impulse. I assured him that opportunities for giving endlessly abound and he just needs to look for them. I’m not today in a position where I need to be given to, but I pointed out that soon I will be and I’ll want every ounce of what people can give me.

Then the conversation took a turn to what makes us unique as individuals. He was pointing out that he doesn’t offer me anything unique as a friend; nothing I couldn’t get from someone else. But isn’t that true of most people, in some ways. I always feel like anyone else could do the things I do, but I’m the one who is here doing the thing. Maybe I’m not the one who can do it best, for whatever that means, but I’m the one who’s here, and sometimes that presence is enough.

Actually, I think in another Lois McMaster Bujold, back in the five gods series, I think Penric makes a point very like that. Inglis asks him, what makes you think you can help me? And Penric’s reply is “I’m the one who’s here. That seems to the most vital point at the present.”

We may never be the best solution, but like clay in the hands of the potter, we serve our task the best we can knowing that even if we aren’t the prettiest, nor the biggest, and maybe even not the best for the task, we are doing the work. And it matters.

What’s important about being right?

So I’ve reflected on this before, and here we are, in the aftermath of Yom Kippur, thinking about it again. What is the value of being right? What do you give up when you want to be right?

So I’m thinking about the story in the Talmud of R. Eliezer (as retold in this graphic novel, Akhani’s Pizza.) R. Eliezer right in his interpretation of the law; but it doesn’t matter. He can’t let it go, and neither can the sages. In the end he ends up excommunicated and friendless because they can’t find common ground. It’s a frustrating and deeply unhappy story, because it didn’t have to go this way. And we learn out so many lessons from this. (Here’s a link to a sheet on Sefaria about the topic.) About respect and community and deference. What does it take to make a community? There must be a measure of trust and respect and in this story, that’s what was lost here. It’s hard to get away from the fact that R. Eliezer was correct about the oven. But in the end that, that didn’t matter. He couldn’t convince the sages he was correct and he couldn’t acknowledge that even if the ruling was wrong, it’s how the halacha goes.

But the sages too suffered because they mistreated R. Eliezer. In excommunicating him and verbally abusing him, they bore that as a sin. Rabban Gamliel who excommunicated his own brother-in-law directly suffered as a result. Yom Kippur is a reminder and an admonition to avoid mistreating others, vowing in vain, and to generally elevate our interactions with others. And from this story we learn out more about how verbal mistreatment is as cruel as any other kind of mistreatment as the Mishna continues.

How could this have gone better? Typically when the story is taught, it ends happily with the statement from the Heavenly Voice that “my children have bested me.” But when you follow it further, it’s not a happy story with a happy ending. It’s complicated and messy and sad. And I’m really struggling with that right now.

I have been young and now I’m old and never have I seen the righteous forsaken with his seed begging for bread

This verse from Psalms (37:25) has always been extremely troubling to me. How could it be? I have led a sheltered life and yet, I have heard stories and tales of the righteous forsaken. Do we not read the Book of Lamentations every year, that has all of this and more? What does David mean? What can he mean?

Today I got a call from a Rabbi who was reading a book and came across something in his reading and he immediately called me to share it with me. He said he a Chossid he was reading had this to say about this verse. David never saw anyone forsaken by G-d, anyone who was abandoned, because David was there. If David was there; he was there by design. By the will of G-d, to help this person. To act on this person’s behalf. To support righteous before they had to resort to begging for bread.

Like the joke about the man who was in his house when the floods came. And a car offered to take him away. And a boat offered to take him. And a plane. And he refused over and over saying G-d will save me! And when he dies in the flood; he goes to up to Heaven and cries to G-d, why didn’t you save me. And G-d says, “I tried. I sent you a car. I sent you a boat. I even sent you a plane!” The man was not abandoned by G-d who dispatched his servants to his aid.

If I can see it. Maybe I can fix it. Maybe it’s for this reason that I was created. It brings to mind that Chassidic story about the Rabbi who was asked, “Why did G-d create atheists.”

And the Chassidic master answered that they are there to teach us compassion. So when someone before us who needs our help, we shouldn’t say, G-d will provide for you. We should be like an atheist who assumes there is no G-d to help and thus we ourselves should help. Our Psalmist goes a step further. We should not do as this Chassidic master says, to be like an atheist. We should instead see ourselves as a messenger of G-d sent to do His will in the world. Part of our job in this world is to see the problems and prevent them. In that way, we assure that no one around is forsaken by G-d. That the children of the righteous suffer no lack. We, as partners in creation, as the agents of a loving G-d in this world. We have the ability to fulfill this vision of Psalmist. Our eyes can realize this promise.

…and you’re so far away from me

Because I had a conversation about Fiddler on the Roof today, I have that on my mind. Hodel marries Perchick the intellectual and travels away with him. Like Hodel, I moved halfway across the country from my family and my birth place; my hometown.

Most days it was an easy decision, but today its hard as my family ages and I miss all these opportunities to spend time with my family. We have an occasion coming up in a little under a month that I just found out about. If I’d heard about it even a week earlier, I might have tried to make arrangements to be there. In fact, I checked my calendar to see if it was doable even yesterday, but the child is in camp that day and it’s a weekday. I’m wondering, toying with the idea of changing camp and maybe taking a week off, but camp is completely scheduled and I doubt we could get our money back. We could switch to a different week, but there are no other weeks we’re interested in.

Do I just give up that camp week and convince my husband we should drive home for an evening party midweek? What would we do the rest of the time? Mini road trip? The week after July 4th? I don’t know. I’m feeling a little numb and confused.

Unpopular Opinions

I’m not sure what aspect of the meme, I’m going to focus on, but it reads:
“Not going to be real popular for this statement, but undisciplined children grow up to be undisciplined and disrespectful adults.”

And I’m not sure what that means. I’m around a fair number of children because my child is a bit of a social butterfly, and I’ve seen a fair number of different parenting style.

Good parenting is hard and massively contradictory:

Provide structure, but not too much structure, because kids need time to be kids.

Provide support, but let kids learn to solve problems on their own.

Let them know you’re there for them, but don’t be their friend. You need to be an authority figure.

So what is disrespect? Is it unkempt hair and falling down pants? Is it assertiveness? When does assertiveness cross over into disrespect? Is it disrespectful to stand your ground when your boundaries are being violated?

In my experience, the people who tend to post these kinds of memes are sad that children are being taught social and emotional learning and can assert themselves. Is that what’s considered disrespect?

What are undisciplined and disrespectful adults? Are they the adults who pee in the aisle when asked to wear a mask in a store? Are they the ones who berate the wait staff in restaurants? Are they the ones who want to follow people into bathrooms and accost them to check their sex or gender?

What I’m trying to teach my child goes beyond respect. It includes reading the room, understanding people, and understanding boundaries. It includes understanding when jokes are appropriate and when they aren’t. Some people might hear our jokes and think they aren’t respectful. (When my child was a baby, we had an”Evil mommy” song that the child was invited to sing whenever the child felt I was being mean. (usually by insisting on appropriate things like “putting on clothing,” not crazy shit.) Child still had to do the thing, but, it was okay to feel grumpy about it. Would someone hearing the “evil Mommy” song think that the child was being rude and disrespectful? Probably. But only if they didn’t notice that both of of us laughed and the requested thing was done.

Last night we had a big conversation about big feelings. My child is frustrated with having big feelings; thinking it’s in appropriate to feel them and react. “Maybe my feelings aren’t okay.” the child mused.

I said what I’ve always said, “Your feelings are your feelings and you can express them in healthy ways. If your reaction was to hit me, that would be something that wouldn’t be a healthy way to express them. That I would ask you to stop. But to stop having feelings and telling me about them? Never.”

What kind of adult will the child grow up to be? I don’t know. I can hope for happy adult with caring, compassion, and vision; but, I don’t know. We never know. But then again, I’m not sure what an undisciplined, disrespectful adult is or whether the people to whom I applied those adjectives were themselves disrespectful children.

I would guess that growing up to be an undisciplined, disrespectful adult has less to do with being a disrespectful child and much more to do with being an entitled child.