Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Things Your Mother Never Told You--This Isn't One of Them.

When I was young(er) and my mom told me there are Jews who are anti-semitic. At that innocent idealistic time I thought how awful is it, that a Jewish person would look at Jewish people with the same bigotry as a...bigot.

Then I got less idealistic and less ignorant and found out what was up. Even before I was born, an exchange between an anti-Jewish Jew and her boss, who she thought was Jewish, was recorded in the movie
Gentlemen's Agreement

Elaine Wales: You just let them get one wrong Jew in here, and it'll come out of us. It's no fun being the fall guy for the kikey ones.

Phil Green: Miss Wales, I'm going to be frank with you. I want you to know that words like yid and kike and kikey and coon and nigger make
me sick no matter who says them.

Elaine Wales: Oh, but I only said it for a type.

Phil Green: Yeah, but we're talking about a the word first.

Elaine Wales: Why, sometimes I even say it to myself, about me, I
mean. Like, if I'm about to do something I know I shouldn't, I'll say,
"Don't be such a little kike." That's all.

The big news today is Imus, his racial remarks, and he's getting bumped from the simulcast on MSNBC. (I seem to remember him ranting one morning that MSNBC delivers under 400,000 viewers of his show, while his radio syndication is heard by over 11 million--think MSNBC banning him matters?)

What strikes me is the various firm conclusions we come to based on the flavor of the day. I am as guilty of this as anyone I criticize. The only difference is that I see the shades of grey, while so many of my fellow humans follow the need to categorize, stereotype, and label--to make judgement easier and filing neater. I'm not that organized.

in another in a series of meaningful coincidences in my life (if you have read prior posts, you know I don't believe in random coincidences) I was meant to read several book reviews by very intelligent Rabbi Jack Riemer in the latest issue of Orange County
Jewish Life
. (Sounds like an oxymoron, but the increase in minority
percentages in Orange County over the last two decades is, well, a factor of that increase everywhere.)

While I woke up this morning thinking once again that there was nothing more I needed to know about the place of the Jewish status in the local community, or for that matter, in the world--that Jews are the universal scapegoat, hated by pretty much everyone who is not Jewish; that Jimmy Carter's book rightfully points out the mistakes Israel is making in the effort to defuse fighting and make peace in the Middle East; and that despite this dichotomy, in the end, Jews will have to stand up for themselves in the absence of any gentile aid--I was in for a "rude awakening," or better yet, an enlightening refresh of my preconceived notions, no matter how recently preconceived they are.

You (I) learn something new every day. But you (I) have to keep an open mind.

Then I read the opening of Rabbi Riemer's review of David Mamet's
(yes, THAT David Mamet who writes plays and screenplays) book, THE
; And Semitism, Self Hatred, and the Jews, by David Mamet,
Schocken Books and Nextbook, N.Y. N.Y. 2006, 189 pages, $19.95

"David Mamet begins this book by telling us, "It is for the Jew who in the sixties envied the Black Power movement and in the nineties envied the Palestinians; who wept at the movie Exodus but jeers at the Israeli Defense Forces; who nods when Tevye praises tradition but
fidgets through the seder; who might out of curiosity go to a dogfight
or a bordello or an opium den but who finds ludicrous the notion of a visit to a synagogue; whose favorite Jew is Anne Frank and whose second-favorite does not exist; who is eager to learn about Kwan-zaa
and unashamed of his ignorance of Tu Bishvat; who dreads endogamy more than incest; who bows his head reverently at a baptism and makes crude jokes at a bris — to you — who finds your religion and your race repulsive, and your ignorance of your history satisfying — here is a
book from your brother." '

I was embarrassed because this rabbi was talking to me personally! And his final words were no further comfort for me either:

"We are not used to reading books as blunt and as forthright as this one is. If you know anyone who is Jewish but who bends over backwards to be objective on all Jewish matters, if you know anyone who believes that the Jews must be in some way to blame for the hatred that they endure, buy him this book. It is a real mitzvah to do so."

OK OK--I'll buy it ASAP!

Now I think OK so I'm not as informed as I want to be, once again I've made judgmental conclusions about Carter's book, Israel, the Middle East crisis which stands on end for several decades now, and I need to see all sides. The little right jabs have awakened me, now I get the left hook which leaves me reeling, and ready to learn more.

Rabbi Riemer reviews two more books about the heroes who risked their lives to save the lives of Jews before and during WWII, and they were all not Jewish. Here is the summary of the Rabbi's reviews, which has stayed with me since I read it:

"So here are two books that Jews, as well as Christians, ought to read. They will help Jews overcome the sense of isolation and the belief that the whole world is out to get us, which does no good to our spiritual health. And it will help Christians learn how a few brave and determined people, who followed their consciences instead of their instructions, saved many lives, and how one determined scholar restored the honor of Judaism to many of his Christian brethren."

by Mordecai Paldiel, Ktav MPublishing Co. Jersey City, N.J. 241
pag-les, $29.50

HE ALSO SPOKE AS A JEW: THE LIFE OF THE REV. JAMES I PARKES, by Haim Chertok, Valentine-Mitchell, London, England and Portland,Oregon, 516 pages, $30.

As for Imus and the rest of what's wrong with information on the airwaves--it took a week for MSNBC to assess the amount of problems keeping Imus's simulcast on the air would cause--a week. Then the
MSNBC honchos decided to cut the cord.

A friend of mine in high school once said I sounded like a Kike when I talked. He was no longer my friend in that instant. It didn't take a week, or a day, or an hour to figure it out. When MSNBC considers a comment about "Nappy headed hoes" an insult to everyone, and not just one group, then the real lesson will be learned. Until then, despite my mistakes and judgments, at least I feel like I really know that we're all in this together, and that with all we have to learn, the first thing is to get along as if there were no differences between us.

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