web analytics
September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘american society’

How the World Sees Men in Black

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Last Friday night, the TV series Blue Bloods had a Hasidic themed episode. A segment of that episode that was filmed in Boro Park by an onlooker was uploaded to YouTube.

Now that I’ve seen the actual episode, (…it can be viewed online) I can comment on it. The storyline involved the death of a Hasidic Rebbe in what looked like Williamsburg. He knew he was dying and had to choose which one of his two sons would inherit his Hasidic dynasty (shades of Satmar.)

The rest of the plot involved the highly unlikely circumstance where one of the two brothers was murdered… a brother that had an affair with a non Jewish woman. (Although it is not unheard of that a Jewish religious leader has ended up committing adultery even on a biblical level). As police dramas go it ended up as a who done it… where in the end we find out who the perpetrator was.

But the storyline and plot are not the issue of this post. What is at issue for me is how Jews and Judaism are portrayed in Hollywood. There have been many such portrayals in the past. Most of them inaccurate… often making us look like people of great faith but nonetheless fools that reject the far better ways of a modern and enlightened society. Thus living archaic and unnecessarily primitive lives. Especially Hasidim. The portrayal of the rabbi as a doddering old fool in Fiddler on the Roof comes to mind.

But in recent portrayals the image has been improving and is much more accurate. That was the case here. Leaving out the ridiculous storyline – I could not really find fault with the behavior as depicted on the screen. Which was not all that flattering.

The Hasidic Rebbe was portrayed with great reverence and sensitivity. But the depiction of some of his Hasidim reflected the reality of how many of them relate to non Jews. Especially the police. It is to the credit of the writers that the lead characters in the show did not end up hating Jews… and realized that every society has its problems as well as people with bad attitudes.

As an aside it is also interesting to note that Hollywood now realizes that Hasidim are not representative of all observant Jewry. They are just one segment of us. That too is an improvement over the past where religious Jews did not get broken down into varying different types. The religious Jew as Hollywood saw him was a kind of conglomeration of all religious Jews rolled into one. Modern Orthodox Jews were not on Hollywood’s radar until relatively recently. Thank you Joe Lieberman, Michael Mukasey, and Jack Lew.

Which brings me to an article in the Jerusalem Post by Rabbi Shumley Boteach. I do not always agree with him on the issues. In fact sometimes I find him to be an outrageous self promoter. Other times I find him just plain embarrassing. But at the same time I find that he often he makes a lot of sense. In most of this article, that was the case.

His point was one that I make quite often here: That as a people we have been falling far short of the Torah’s mandate to be an Or LaGoyim – a light unto the nations.

Rabbi Boteach considers catastrophic the notion that Jews are no more moral than anyone else. I think that the depiction of Hasidim on that show demonstrates this point. They are made to look and act like anyone else. With the same prejudices and lack of ethics. The only difference between them and the rest of society being their clothing, long beards, and claims of piety. It isn’t that hard to understand why that is the case. But rather than paraphrasing let me quote what he said… words that I have said many times myself in various different contexts:

Simply put, if learning and honoring God’s will doesn’t make us better people, then most will choose to discard Judaism as an empty relic of a superstitious past. PICTURES OF five handcuffed New Jersey rabbis had already rocked the American Jewish establishment when the even more gory news of a double murder in a gay Tel Aviv community center gave Orthodoxy an even greater challenge.

Orthodox Judaism has reached a moment of truth. Many people no longer believe that Jewish learning and observance make you a better person. They no longer believe there is any correlation between keeping Shabbat and keeping honest, between wearing tzitzit and avoiding adultery, or between lighting Shabbat candles and seeing the light of God’s grace in every human being. And we Orthodox have no one but ourselves to blame. We are often “religious” without being spiritual, prayerful without being humble and ritually precise without displaying the same punctiliousness in business… Orthodoxy without morality and basic humanity is a religion without God. It is cold, harsh, an abomination.

This is so true. Nonetheless it is a truth too often ignored by far too many people who call themselves religious. I happen to believe, as does Shmuley, that most religious Jews are ethical and moral. That we do have our heads screwed on straight. That we do act in ways that reflect in ourselves the image of God. But there are too great a number of religious Jews who do not. And as I have always said, the fault is in how we educate our children. There is simply way too much emphasis on the minutia of Halacha and not enough emphasis on ethical and moral behavior. It is ethical and moral behavior that makes us a light unto the nations. Not wearing our Tztzis out. Or having a long beard. I don’t think I can say it any better than Shmuley does:

Our children must be taught not only the rituals that will make them good Jews, but the underlying values that will make them good people. Children in yeshiva should learn not only the correct blessing before eating an apple, but that the purpose of all such blessings is to instill gratitude. That when a boy with tzitzit and a yarmulke passes a soldier in uniform, he should thank him for protecting him and allowing them both to live openly with their faith. When our sons don yarmulkes, let us remind them that it’s not only a symbol of identity but a reminder of constant supervision. God is watching us at all times, even when the FBI is not – especially when the FBI is not. To that I say – Amen!

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Islam in the United States

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

John Walker Lindh is a citizen of the United States who was born in Washington, D.C. in the year 1981. Lindh was not born a MuslimHe converted when he was 16 years old and then traveled to Yemen in order to learn Arabic. In 2000, he traveled to Afghanistan and underwent an educational and training course in al-Farouq, an al-Qaeda training camp. He made contact with the organization of Mujahadeen in Pakistan, and was caught in 2001 in Afghanistan serving as a jihadist with the Taliban. He was convicted of fighting for an illegal organization and sentenced to twenty years in the Terre Haute prison in the state of Indiana.

In prison, Lindh continued to preach to his fellow prisoners and exhort them to be persistent in their jihad against the United States and the jihad to enforce Muslim Shari’a law on all of humanity. As a result, the prison authorities limited his participation in public prayer to only one time per week, on Friday. He appealed to the court, demanding to be allowed to participate in public prayer five times a day. The judge of the federal court, Jane Magnus-Stinson, found – contrary to the opinion of the prison authorities – that despite the fact that Lindh does not recognize the legality of the American court or the authority of her honor the judge, he nevertheless has the right to pray in public and to meet with his comrades five times every day, even if it means that the prison must beef up its security arrangements in order to accommodate his wishes.

This is not an isolated case. The United States has been driven for the past several years by “political correctness,” which censors any reference to a person’s faith, even if this faith instigates him to wage holy war against the United States. According to this approach, if someone claims that the United States is the “little Satan,”  Americans must accept this characterization as correct and legitimate, and if the American is uncomfortable with this, he should do some soul searching to ascertain the reason that caused the Other – who is clearly miserable, hungry and neglected because of the crimes of the United States – to regard him as Satan.

Political correctness is what dictates conduct in the highest echelons of leadership in the United States: most citizens of the country consider it to be unacceptable to say that President Obama comes from a Muslim family, and believe that it is not legitimate to refer  to Obama’s religion in any way. This is why the campaign against Obama that was based on this fact failed to prevent him from being re-elected.

The federal investigative bodies have also been seized by American political correctness; and two years ago, in keeping with instructions  from above, training programs for the FBI agents and other investigative agencies were changed, so that today, an interrogator is forbidden to relate to the religion or beliefs of someone under investigation, even if his faith or beliefs actually incite him  to murderous jihad against the state. Authorities of the state forbid the use of the expression “Islamic terror,” and laundered expressions such as “ideological violence” must be used instead.

The slaughter that  Major Nidal Malik Hasan perpetrated against his comrades at the Fort Hood base in Texas in order to prevent them from going to Afghanistan, is described by the authorities as “workplace violence.” For the adherents of political correctness, the fact that Hasan was in contact with Anwar Awlaki, the Yemeni-American terrorist who was subsequently eliminated, does not contradict the theory of political correctness that characterizes Islam as a religion of peace and love, hugs and kisses. “Islam” – so they believe – is based on the Arabic word “salam,” which means “peace,” because the superficiality that characterizes the American media discourages people from looking it up and discovering that the real meaning of the word “Islam” is “surrender” or “submission.”

Together with an American colleague, an attorney by the name of David Yerushalmi, I published an article about two years ago, “Shari’a and Violence in Mosques of the United States.”  This article is based on analysis of data and material that was collected in approximately one hundred mosques across the United States. Included in this material are two interesting pamphlets, in clear English. One is “40 Hadiths on Jihad” (a hadith is part of the Islamic oral tradition that relates to the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad). This and this booklet is a song of praise to jihad, to the jihadist and to his reward in the world to come. Jihad in this booklet is not against illness, poverty, neglect and corruption, and not even against the evil inclination, but against anyone who is not Muslim, and implicitly, every American who does not convert to Islam.

Needed: A Conservative Counter-Culture

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

The last election has brought on essays bemoaning the conservative disconnect from popular culture and the need to somehow reconnect with it. The means of this reconnection are hardly ever stated, though there is the implication that conservatives would need to “evolve” on certain social issues in the hopes that its economic viewpoint will be taken seriously by a population whose social way of life doom it to be dependent on government support.

As plans go, this one is nearly as clever as trying to promote weight loss by opening a cake shop. And it ignores the obvious reality that the only way that conservatives will be allowed to participate in popular culture is as the butt of a joke. Whether it’s Sarah Palin’s appearance on Saturday Night Live or Rush Limbaugh’s Family Guy appearance, trying to be a good sport about liberal culture is the strategy of a good loser playing into the prepared stereotype, rather than destroying it.

The culture is polarized. That means there is no place for conservatives in it except by playing the villain’s part, and the villain’s part, whether played with good humor or reluctantly, is not the winning part. But it’s also a mistake to call it the culture, when what we really mean is the culture created and perpetuated by a small number of corporations, their affiliated creatives and their affiliated press.

Take Girls, an HBO series that is one part nepotism and nine parts artificially generated corporate trend, that was recently the subject of several essays insisting that we take it seriously because it is “the culture”. How big of a slice of the culture is Girls? It’s on HBO, which means it has limited viewership and unlimited publicity. HBO exists to promote the illusion, not so much of quality, but of relevance. And Girls is a triumph of fake relevance. It is the show that you must consider relevant, because well… it’s relevant. Isn’t it?

The Girls Season 2 premiere scored 866,000 viewers. After multiple airings it made it up to 1.6 million. It wasn’t exactly a case of the entire country tuning in. Nor its entire female population or even its entire population of women in their twenties. And since HBO only exists as a desperate effort by the dying cable industry to hang on to its subscribers, its episodes are not available on iTunes, Hulu Plus or any of the other concessions to the age of internet broadcast entertainment.

Girls is doubtlessly relevant to the daughters of wealthy urban liberal families who find themselves with too much money and too little common sense. And it’s probably not even relevant to them since its larger audience share is with men over 50 and its median viewer age is 43. Is it relevant to the culture as a whole? Not really. And its perceived importance highlights the disconnect between the Low Culture of the free TV sitcom and the High Culture of the cable indie drama. Both may have a leftie agenda, but one exists to be consumed by overeducated professionals, many of whom also work in media, in the major cities, while the other is mass culture entertainment.

Trying to tackle, adapt to or duplicate leftie High Culture is a senseless and useless task in every sense of the word. Their only relevance comes from their trickle down effect into mass culture. It’s mass culture that is relevant, but though that Low Culture is mass consumed, it’s still created by the same sort of people who create the High Culture and packed with many of the same agendas.

The difference between them is in tone and the perception of importance. Elites imagine that what interests them is important, because they are important. What interests the masses is less important, because they are less important. Important people and their important programs influence the culture or even are the culture. Unimportant people are not. In fact it’s the other way around.

Girls is not America. No television show is. But the closest to America may be American Idol or Sunday Night Football, which dominate the ratings and reflect the culture far more than it ever will. That’s not something to celebrate either. Not when you consider that most entertainment emerges out of the bowels of a cultural and corporate establishment well to the left of the country at large. And unlike Girls, much of what it spews forth does slowly push the country to the left. But that also shows why trying to run alongside it in the hopes of staying relevant is a dead end. Not unless the goal is to go on being the villains, comic relief or otherwise.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/needed-a-conservative-counter-culture/2013/02/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: