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December 17, 2014 / 25 Kislev, 5775
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Of Apples and Trees and Rabbis

What upsets me the most about Sarah Silverman is her very open self-identification as a Jew.

Photo Credit: YY

I never liked comedienne Sarah Silverman. I never thought she was all that funny. Her humor is mostly vulgar and designed to shock people into laughing. Most comedians will tell you that if the only way you can make people laugh is with vulgar jokes, then you’re not really much of a comedian. But I digress.

What upsets me the most about her is her very open self-identification as a Jew. Normally when successful people tout their Judaism, it makes me proud. But when she does it – it is an embarrassment. In fact I wish she would just change her name… or go away altogether.

Of late there has been a lot of controversy about Ms. Silverman which has been generated by a political YouTube video she made. In it (if I recall correctly) she repeatedly offers to perform an obscene sexual act to elderly Republican donor Sheldon Adelson if he would stop funding Republican candidates and instead fund the Obama campaign. I saw this video a while back and was thoroughly disgusted by it.

Ms. Silverman must have thought it was funny. But in fact it was a major Chilul HaShem. It doesn’t matter that she is not Orthodox. By proudly identifying herself as a Jew in the video she has desecrated God’s name.

Ms. Silverman is an unabashed Obama supporter. There is of course nothing wrong with that. I haven’t made my own mind up yet about whom I will vote for – so in the end I may yet end up as an Obama supporter too. But in her zeal to support the President she has gone way overboard.

Ms. Silverman must feel it is her political duty to smear the President’s opposition in any way she can. “All’s fair in love and politics”, I guess. But when Judaism gets connected to vulgarities of this nature the desecration it causes to God’s name via one of His chosen people far outweighs any benefit her candidate may get from it.

Ms. Silverman was taken to task for this by Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt, someone I have written about not long ago. I do not know him personally but he seems like a gentle man who has the same goals I do. One of which is to be Mekadesh Shem Shomayim. In an article in the Jewish Press he gently rebuked her and suggested that she would be better served as a human being and a Jew if she would redirect her not insubstantial talents and energies elsewhere – perhaps by getting married and creating her own family. But you could also see the anger that Ms. Silverman generated in him with this video:

Nothing you say or stand for, Sarah, from your sickening sexual proposal to a Republican donor to your equally vulgar tweet to Mitt Romney, has the slightest thing to do with the most basic of tenets which Judaism has taught the world – that the monogamous relationship is the most meaningful one and that a happy marriage is the key to wholesomeness.

I of course could not agree more. But then came her father 75 year old Donald Silverman. He didn’t like his daughter being attacked. Like a mother bear protecting her cubs he went to town on Rabbi Rosenblatt using vulgarities that would make a sailor blush. He really let him have it. In the process of bashing Rabbi Rosenblatt he intimated that his Judaism was alive and well – having raised his other daughter so well that she has become a rabbi. And that her husband is so well thought of that he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is mentioned in a Jerusalem Post list as the 49th most influential Jew in the world.

He may have thought that he has countered his daughter Sarah’s negative characterization by Rabbi Rosenblatt by touting his other daughter’s achievements along with the considerable achievements of her husband. And yet his vulgar way of doing it has created yet another Chilul HaShem.

I have no issue with Reform Jews who never experienced Orthodoxy. If a Jew who proudly touts his Judaism does something great – as did Mr. Silverman’s son in law – that is a Kiddush Hashem. But just because that Kiddush HaShem exists doesn’t eliminate the Chilul HaShem made in the way he announced it.

I don’t know what kind of education this fellow had that makes him think that vulgar attacks in defense of his daughter is something God appreciates – if he even believe s in God. But I think I can safely say he did not get an Orthodox Jewish education… or if he did, he rejected it in its entirety.

The truth is that I wouldn’t be surprised if rabbis in his own Reform Movement weren’t all that pleased with his reaction. If I were a Reform rabbi, this is not anything I would brag about. Makes me wonder how his other daughter – the Reform rabbi – feels about it. Of course Sarah loved it, saying “Oh, dad! You’re my hero.”Here is what else Ms. Sliverman said:

“When I was three years old, I learned to swear from my father, but he taught me with every intention to do so. It was like he was teaching a ‘cursing as a second language’ course for one.”

What kind of a father does this?!Bearing this in mind her father’s behavior in defense of his daughter it is a bit easier to understand where his daughter came from.

Memo to Donald: I don’t know if you will ever read this or respond to it. But if you do – I am a product of the sixties. Profanity has no effect on me personally except to belittle – in my eyes – the person using it. You want to swear at me and call me names? Do your worst. I couldn’t care less. I am quite happy – even proud – to stand with Rabbi Rosenblatt on this one. But at age 75 you may want to reconsider what exactly you accomplish in the eyes of God by defending your daughter’s vulgarities with vulgarities of your own.

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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.

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8 Responses to “Of Apples and Trees and Rabbis”

  1. Arie Rosenrauch says:

    Here comes daddy silverman with another of his patented Jew hating vitriolic tirades attack believers in Judaism as "followers of a false and cruel G-d." Have to wonder how long before he reviews mein kampf for better quotes to utilize. That said, his daughter's offer to prostitute herself to have a donor change his support is defined as prostitution. donny is so proud of his fluke-like progeny.


  2. I agree with the Author Sarah should not use traditional Jewish terminology in her efforts. Because doing so is a lie.

  3. You're so right! I'm going to call your commentary a Hecshel Um Shalot for the cause!

  4. Sarah Silverman seems to me like a child who enjoys getting attention by being rude. It's silly to treat her like a sane adult and have such expectations of her – or to give her that status. Of course, her vulgarity brings dollars so there will always be someone to give her a voice…
    I read her biography a while back and I may be mistaken, but I don't think she's halachically jewish anyway (in the orthodox sense.)

  5. Hey Harry baby. I love the picture of me and Sarah. Is your god friends with jesus, allah, budda, and the rest of the gods. god bless you and all of god's children, whatever they foolishly wish to worship. XXOO

  6. First off, I'd like to say that neither Sarah nor Donald Silverman asked to be attacked, rebuked, denounced, or any other hate spewed in their direction by this "righteous and pious man". Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but to spew bile directed at the two of them is wrong. I find it ironic that many people in this publication and commenters on this site attack them as self loathing jews. All of you are guilty of the same. Even to question the halachic validity of her ancestry is engaging in hate/ division. All of you must recognize that the orthodox and haredi are but a small percentage of jews. To validate your attack according to shulchan aruch, tanach, gemorra, or any other religiously based rational can never be anything other than circular.

    The fact of the matter is that she and her dad are jewish, halachically and otherwise. To say that they are not good jews is just not justifiable. It is engaging in self loathing just the same. Many jews have similar backgrounds and reject the religious aspects of judaism. However, rejecting the Silvermans for whatever reason is counterproductive.

    Furthermore, the initial attack on Sarah was just as much an attack on her father and his parenting skills. His coming to her defense and the resulting letter fully demonstrate this. All of his daughters are a source of deep pride for him and rightly so. They are all successful and accomplished talents. I fully respect his response. Is he justified in his approach and language? If it were my family, I would have had less restraint than he had. I would have gone for the jugular and attacked that person/ people relentlessly.

    With regard to her act, approaches to getting her point across, and blatant disregard for things you hold dear I would say, "so what" (or BFD might be more appropriate). She is fully entitled to perform and do as she does. If you don't like it, don't watch it. This is the USA and free expression should be prized. If nothing else, she is thought provoking. She joins a long history of performance in the avante guarde that engage in spitting on, urinating on and otherwise offending the audience. It has been long recognized as a valid form of expression.

    Now, you people take offense in her doing this and identifying as a jew? She is somehow chastised for this. She identifies herself as a secular or cultural jew. Here is where the double standard applies.

    Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and condemning her for such action, behavior and performance. Where is the outcry about others who do this? Is it ok for Sacha Baron Cohen to do the same things and worse? Complicate that in the fact that he self identifies as an orthodox jew. Although he doesn't wear a Kipah, he is generally considered observant. How can this not be more offensive? Why is Natalie Portman not chastised by you over her pre-marital sex and the like? Bar Rafaeli, for her relationship with DiCaprio? You grumble about halacha, but it's only a problem with the Silvermans?


    Lastly, as an ashkenaze jew, who can trace back generations on all sides of my family, and bar mitzvah'd in an orthodox shul. I understand her perspective on having children. I love my kids. I do my best to support them in all there endeavors. However, with the genepool that I've been given, her perspective comes easily. Her mother has an autoimmune blood disease and she chronic depression. I have Multiple Sclerosis, Gilbert's, a congenital Hiatal Hernia and Dyslexia. My sister has MS, too. So did a great aunt. My son has already been diagnosed with dyslexia among other maladies. My daughter has chronic GERD. If I knew then, what I do now. I wouldn't wish my maladies on anyone. My hopes are that they are not saddled with half my illnesses and maladies.

    Sarah and her dad are to be celebrated. So are all other jews who contribute to this world. Rather than attacking and being divisive among all of these jews, this publication should serve to unify and celebrate.

    Rant ended.

  7. For the uninitiated I really don't agree with the above and the Yiddish words above that I just made up. I was hoping someone would have asked their meaning. I love Sarah although she even shocks me sometimes.

  8. The commentator kept throwing out Yiddish that I was clueless about so I thought I'd give him some back.

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