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February 1, 2015 / 12 Shevat, 5775
 
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Certainly it’s permissible, possible, even easy to disagree with Rabbi Rosenblatt’s explanation and worldview. I certainly expected to see some intelligent conversations developing around the article. But why all the openly hostile obscenity?

Silverman’s father’s foul-mouthed reaction was the first indication that Rabbi Rosenblatt had inadvertently hit a very raw nerve.

By and large, the commenters were using an obvious double standard.

They claimed the rabbi crossed the line; the rabbi was offensive; the rabbi was (fill in the obscene word) – and followed it up with their thoughts on Judaism (in some cases displaying ignorance and hatred). Yet Silverman, who prides herself on her “potty mouth” and crossing the verbal line on many social mores, is untouchable and can do no wrong.

When Sarah Silverman, on video, propositions Sheldon Adelson, using her doggie in mock soft-porn as substitute for the elderly billionaire – that’s humorous and acceptable.

When Rabbi Rosenblatt tells Sarah Silverman to get married and have children, though, that’s an expression of hatred and intolerance.

The question is, why?

I propose that many of the Jewish-American commenters got so upset because the rabbi crossed a line. The line he crossed, though, was not about his views on motherhood but rather his views on the role of the rabbi and of Judaism.

Judaism, to some of those commenters, belongs locked in a box in a synagogue and should never be allowed out to offer any moral observations, opinions or guidelines that disagree with the most permissive of Western cultural values.

As expressed by some of these commenters, Silverman actually represents “Judaism” to them.

Some of them may have a list of humanitarian/liberal values they call Jewish, while taking traditional Jewish practices such as Shabbat and kashrut (as well as Judaism’s own social values) and relegating them to archaic, comical, even dark places in the culture.

For them, Judaism is liberalism – a definition under which anything is permitted, alongside a strong pride in their cultural/ethnic identity as Jews, regardless of whether that identity actually represents a Jewish value system or an accident of birth.

The question is certainly open as to whether the rabbi was right or wrong in his analysis of Silverman, but one thing is clear: he rattled something deep and painful in the psyches of those who define themselves as cultural/ethnic Jews without having any actual Judaism to go with it.

Stephen Leavitt
Jerusalem

Editor’s Note: The writer manages JewishPress.com, The Jewish Press Internet Division.

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