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Rosenblatt v. Silverman: A Culture War

Rabbi Rosenblatt's article on Sarah SIlverman touched a raw nerve among ethnic/cultural Jews.

silverman v rosenblatt

Photo Credit: Yori Yanover

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The numerous comments we’ve received on Rabbi Rosenblatt’s Open Letter to Sarah Silverman are fascinating. Once you get past the expletives, you can learn a lot about the culture that produced them. The statements and the tone of the comments demonstrate the differences, even the massive gap between Jewish culture and Jewish-American culture.

Rosenblatt addressed a public figure who has no problems exposing her inner self and saying whatever is on her mind on any subject, no matter how offensive or inappropriate it might be to anyone. Rosenblatt questioned what her underlying motives might be and offered what he believes is the answer. He couched his message, as Silverman sometimes does hers, using his notion of Judaic values and cultural identity.

And that’s when it hit the fan.

Certainly it’s permissible, possible, even easy to disagree with 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 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 humor and acceptable.

When Rabbi Rosenblatt tells Sarah Silverman to get married and have children — 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. But the line he crossed 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 might have a list of humanitarian/liberal values and call them Jewish values, while taking traditional Jewish values like 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 and identity where anything is permitted, alongside a strong pride in their cultural/ethnic identity as Jews, regardless of whether that identity actually represent 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, Rosenblatt rattled something deep and painful in the psyches of those who define themselves as cultural/ethnic Jews, without any actual Judaism to go with it.

Finally, we don’t moderate comments on our website, because we believe in the free exchange of ideas. But as our guests, we request that you refrain from obscenities and Antisemitism in your remarks.

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159 Responses to “Rosenblatt v. Silverman: A Culture War”

  1. Dina Moskowitz says:

    Andrew, thank you from the bottom of my heart and the top of my soul for writing such a wonderful comment! Couldn't agree more!

  2. Dina Moskowitz says:

    Pinchas, I totally agree… and this moronic father-daughter combo only proves totally correct, the old adage that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!

  3. Yes, and since defining marriage is a state issue and not a federal one, the federal government should stick to things it's good at: spending money and lying.

  4. Myriam Obadia says:

    True, but if we go down that road, we must repleal all the fiscal advantages the federal government grants married couple. Also, while states have the right to pass their own laws, those may not contradict the Constitution on matters of equal protection of citizens. I am not for the Federal -or any state government- to interfere with religious marriage, just for civil rights to be the same for all, IE: civil marriage to be available to all or none and for the federal and state authority to recognize all marriages or none.

  5. He did not publicly embarrass her but told her off for her disgusting behavior. You really do twist Chazal, she is the one who they would look down upon not this innocent rabbi. Obviously you don't know how to learn, neither do you have basic grasp of Torah true Judaism

  6. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    He wrote an article for your newspaper called "I am Haredi" and another called "Installing my Internet Filter", a filter which apparently hasn't been working that well. Anna's question is legitimate. However, the caricature photograph used for this article is offensive.

  7. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    Yori Yanover As is the rabbi.

  8. Charlie Hall says:

    Kishke Chulentpot You obviously missed Limbaugh's request to watch a YouTube video of Sandra Fluke having sex.

  9. Paul Naas says:

    Mr. Rosenrauch,
    You are right when you say that Mr. Garfinkel never self-identifies as a conservative. Given that he takes a conservative position on this issue, I assumed it to be the case. However, in his response to my post he also never denies the assumption, so in the face of no assertion to the contrary, I must continue to assume that my initial position was correct.

    Ironic that you would use my assumption as the basis for your response, as you immediately devolve into a similar (and significantly more baseless) assumption about me and how my "mind works." Continuing the theme, should I now assume that you believe that anyone who disagrees with your point of view is a "Jew hater?" You complain that I "immediately start labeling" when disagreeing with a position, yet you wasted no time slapping a repugnant label on me simply because my point of view differs from yours. My assumption was that Mr. Garfinkel holds a particular political point of view; your assumption about me is far more vile.

    Your final ad hominem attack is perhaps the most ridiculous and unsupported. What does where I have taught have anything to do with my point of view? If all you've got to support your argument is where I've worked, then maybe you should rethink your response before posting.

  10. Arie Rosenrauch says:

    Paul: be careful of ASSuming!!

    Where you taught actually has a great deal to do with identifying you. Teaching at a leading left wing school in a city at the forefront of banning Judaism in the US is indicative osupport for that Jew hatred

  11. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    You don't have to admire Sarah Silverman to criticize the Rabbi's letter. He claims to represent Orthodox Judaism; she doesn't. If I feel he misrepresented Judaism (eg claiming that monogamy is a "basic tenet" of our faith — it is not), does that mean I'm a fan of hers? (I'm not).

  12. Pinchas, t's a given in today's day and age that we cannot afford to go around feeling upset at every instance of crudity. I have family members and coworkers who use foul language and I have to put up with them all of the time. What we should be focusing on is how we present ourselves, Orthodox Jews, to the outside world. Rabbi Rosenblatt's smug, condescending busybodying into Sarah Silvermans career and personal choices in a public forum validated every last negative stereotype about Orthodox Jews. Nomatter how wrong the secular Jews are (and being secular, they can only do so much right), we Orthodox have to be better if we want to attract and maintain newcomers. Our yeshivos have never been in worse shape since the Holocaust, so quite frankly, selling ourselves effectivly to the outside world is more than just a matter of idealism.

  13. Our community is overwhelmed by the swelling ranks of the unemployed. Do we need to give employers, many of whom are secular Jews, more reasons not to hire the Orthodox? Wake up, Pinchas. Political Correctness really isn't about bleeding hearts-it's about effective public relations.

  14. Hey, Andrew, if I thought so much of secular Judaism (whatever that is), I would not be wearing this headcovering. The fact is, there are more of them than there are of us, so we gain little by provoking them. What good can come of giving them "mussar" when they are not of our religion? Do you care what a Baptist minister has to say about your lifestyle? Why do we have to be like the little boy in The Emperor's New Clothes?

    Another thought: do we benefit ourselves by inflaming the secular Jews on the local city council who vote on issues like shul zoning and eruvim? What if Sarah Silverman, in addition to her father, takes issue with Rabbi Rosenblatt- but with the media clout of her celebrity status behind her? Do we need to be ridiculed by the media? What good does it do our community to encourage or even tolerate an approach like Rabbi Rosenblatt's?

  15. Paul Naas says:

    I see – so suggesting that someone is a conservative because he demonstrates conservative attitudes and behavior makes me an "ass," yet you can make huge assumptions about me based on scant information, and that makes you correct? And you can't see how ridiculous that is? It must be horrible living in your head.

  16. Tobias Wietelmann says:

    Why Sarah Silverman still isn't married and doesn't have children:

    "Silverman has said that she does not consume alcohol, because it nauseates her. She is open about her lifelong battle with clinical depression which at one point led to her developing an addiction to Xanax. She credited her subsequent emotional health to taking prescription drug Zoloft. (…) Silverman has stated she does not want to get married until same-sex couples are able to.[57] She has also stated she does not want to have biological children to avoid the risk that they might inherit her depression.[58]".

  17. 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.

  18. Halachically, people who suffer from mental illness are exempt from peru urivu. Sarah Silverman doesn't care about halacha anyhow, so what sense was there in lecturing her in front of the whole frum community? Rabbi Rosenblatt's behavior hardly placed him in the most admirable light.

  19. Devon Cage says:

    I'm guessing the stack of Hanukah Cards is going to be a bit thinner this year LOL

  20. Devon Cage says:

    Dave said it best, I am an entertainer, see how easy it is to provoke an emotional response out of people you don't know. Sarah Silverman does the same **** every day, Were not the voice of our people, just a voice. Agree with it or not, like it or not. Just a voice.

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