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May 25, 2016 / 17 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘college’

Hillel International Publishes Guide to Perplexed Jewish College Students

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

The new Hillel International College Guide which has just been released, offers articles on every facet of Jewish life on campus, including highlighting innovative programs at Hillels around the US, as well as everybody’s favorite — the latest data on the “top 60 schools Jews choose.”

Out of the top 60 Jewish-friendly state schools, here are the top ten, courtesy of the Hillel Guide:

1. University of Florida, 33,720 undergraduates, out of whom 6,500 or 19% are Jewish.

2. Rutgers university, New Brunswick, 34,544 undergraduates, out of whom 6,400 or 19% are Jewish.

3. University of central Florida, 52,532 undergraduates, out of whom 6,000 or 11% are Jewish.

4. University of Maryland, college Park, 27,056 undergraduates, out of whom 5,800 or 21% are Jewish.

5. University of Michigan, 28,395 undergraduates, out of whom 4,500 or 16% are Jewish.

6. Indiana University, 36,419 undergraduates, out of whom 4,200 or 12% are Jewish.

7. University of Wisconsin, Madison, 31,289 undergraduates, out of whom 4,200 or 13% are Jewish.

8. CUNY, Brooklyn college, 14,115 undergraduates, out of whom 4,000 or 28% are Jewish.

9. Pennsylvania state University, University Park, 40,541 undergraduates, out of whom 4,000 or 10% are Jewish.

10. Queens College, 15,773 undergraduates, out of whom 4,000 or 25% are Jewish.

The guide offers information on every one of the state schools, and on its top Jewish choices for private universities (NYU, BU, YU, GWU and Cornell are the top five), including on their Jewish graduate students, Jewish courses, Jewish studies offerings, Jewish educators, Israel abroad programs, kosher options, and percentages of males and females in the Jewish student populations.

You may want to read Josh Marks’ item “Tel Aviv comes to you,” about the Israel Fellows program, which was started in 2003 by the Jewish Agency for Israel in partnership with Hillel International. Marks interviews Raz Tidhar, a program emissary, one of 75 Israel Fellows sent by the agency to develop Israeli content for student activities at the Hillel-serving campuses throughout Montreal.

“These programs are meant to present Israel on campus as a country that is more than what we read in the newspapers and in the headlines,” explains Mason Hillel executive director Ross Diamond. “Often, Israel is portrayed as a black and white country that has one issue, which is the conflict, and our role on campus is to educate students and present Israel beyond the conflict, because it’s a country that’s rich with culture and is exciting to be a part of.”

Don’t miss Zachary Schaffer’s article on 70 Faces magazine, a project at Pittsburgh Hillel, discussing Hillel’s building diverse and inclusive Jewish communities; Gabrielle Magid’s piece on a program she founded at the University of Florida Hillel, Stronger Than Stigma, where Hillel staff address mental illness on campus; and Tyler Grasee’s report on his experience at Lawrence University in Wisconsin and Hillel’s work to include students from interfaith families and help them explore and develop their Jewish identities.

JNi.Media

Malia Obama to Attend Harvard U in 2017

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

The 17-year-old daughter of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama has decided to attend Harvard University in 2017, the White House announced Sunday.

She will take a year off after graduating from the Sidwell Friends School in District of Columbia in June this year, and celebrate her 18th birthday on the fourth of July.

Malia Obama visited a number of colleges this year before choosing Harvard.

Hana Levi Julian

The Year in US On-Campus Anti-Semitism: 302 Acts at 109 Schools in 28 States

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

(JNi.media) The AMCHA Initiative on Tuesday unveiled a database that chronicles anti-Semitic incidents that occurred over the past academic year by state and university, to be used as a resource by current and prospective students, parents, university administrators, elected officials, researchers, and donors.

The incidents are organized into three categories: Targeting Jewish Students and Staff; Anti-Semitic Expression; and Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Activity. Each act is further classified under the 10 recognized forms of anti-Semitic behavior. In addition, AMCHA announced a dynamic, 2016 incident tracker that will be updated in real-time.

“Sadly, anti-Semitism continues to plague our nation’s schools,” said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA cofounder and director. “We hope … cataloging such anti-Semitic incidents should serve as an important wake up call to university leaders and elected officials.”

“Anti-Semitism, what many of us thought only a decade or so ago was a sad part of our history, continues to rear its ugly head on campuses from coast to coast,” said Leila Beckwith, AMCHA cofounder and UCLA emeritus professor. “What those of us that monitor cases on a regular basis know is today’s anti-Semitism not only includes swastikas and historical anti-Jewish slang. Today’s anti-Semitism is often cloaked in anti-Israel behaviors and demonstrations that in truth seek to deny Jews, alone of all ethnic groups, the right to self-determination, and blame the only Jewish state for all evil in the world and spew lies and hatred about the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Universities must adopt accurate definitions of anti-Semitism so that students understand when political debate crosses the line into blatant anti-Semitism.”

Here are a few examples of the 302 incidents from 2015 that took place at 109 schools in 28 states:
Brooklyn College: “Jews – the root of all evil” was scrawled on a wall in the library.
Clark University, Cleveland State University, Framingham State University, George Washington University, John Jay College, Montclair State University, Rowan University, SUNY Purchase, Tufts, UC Berkeley, University of Maryland, University of Missouri, Valdosta State University, Vanderbilt, Western New Mexico State University: Swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs were scrawled on school buildings and property.
Columbia University: Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was one of 10 local SJP chapters endorsing an advertisement for a rally that contained several classic and contemporary anti-Semitic tropes including that the administration’s ties to Israel were responsible for tuition hikes.
Delaware Valley College: Female student athlete tweeted, “Can I kill all the [expletive deleted] Jews in Lakewood pleeeasse?!?!!”
Drexel University: A swastika and “Jew” was found written near an Israeli flag.
Farleigh Dickinson University: A swastika was drawn outside Hillel Director Rabbi Ely Allen’s office.
Hunter College: “Zionists out of CUNY” and “Long live the Intifada” was chanted during a rally protesting tuition hikes.
Indiana University: Thirty members of the Traditionalist Youth Network marched on campus holding anti-Semitic signs and wearing Nazi memorabilia.
Medgar Evers College: An Orthodox Jewish student was punched in the face and told “Leave the school, you Jew.”
Miami University Ohio: Two students wrote anti-Semitic graffiti on a dormitory hallway.
Northeastern University: Following a divisive divestment vote, a mezuzah was vandalized and multiple swastikas were drawn on school property.
Northwestern University: Following an active and vocal divestment effort, multiple swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti were found in four different locations on campus over a three-month-period.  During that same time a Jewish student reported being targeted and harassed at an SJP “Israel Apartheid Week” event and filed a bias incident report.
Pace University: A student’s Snapchat account featured the University’s football captain giving the Nazi salute.
San Diego State University: Convicted terrorist Rasmeah Odeh was the keynote speaker at a national SJP conference at SDSU promoting the anti-Semitic BDS movement.
Towson University: A Jewish star with a cross through it, “Hitler was right,” and “With Jews you lose” were scrawled on campus.
UC Berkeley: “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” found etched on school property.
UC Davis: A Jewish fraternity was defaced with swastikas the day after a contentious divestment vote; “grout out the Jews” was etched into the Hillel house; and vandals carved swastikas and “F**k the Jews” into cars and slashed tires on campus.
UC Irvine: An Anteaters for Israel I-Fest event was disrupted by anti-Israel protesters who chanted loudly to drown out the event and physically blocked a walkway.  The civil rights of Jewish students who wanted to gather peacefully were violated.
UCLA: A UCLA student and employee posted anti-Semitic comments on social media including, “F**king Jews. GTFOH with all your Zionist bullshit. Crazy ass f**king troglodyte albino monsters of cultural destruction. F**king Jews. GTFOH with your whiny bullshit. Give the Palestinians back their land, go back to Poland or whatever freezer-state you’re from, and realize that faith does not constitute race.”
UC Santa Cruz: SJP set up mock checkpoints on campus insisting that students show ID cards before entering the library.  The event demonized Israel and Jewish students reported feeling targeted and harassed.
University of Central Florida: A rash of anti-Semitic posters swept through campus over a period of a week. One had a Star of David and the words “1%” and “Bankers” underneath, a second had a swastika on a flag with a message calling for an Israel boycott and others contained the phrases “Muh Holocaust” and “Truth is Treason In the empire of lies.”
University of Chicago: Threatening anti-Semitic comments were posted on Yik Yak including, “Gas them, burn them and dismantle their power structure.  Humanity cannot progress with the parasitic Jew.”
University of Illinois Champaign Urbana: A large menorah outside the Chabad House was knocked over twice.
University of Oregon: A male yelled anti-Semitic slurs at a Jewish student and threatened to assault him with a firearm.

JNi.Media

Stardom 101: Lipa Goes To College

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

He is a singer, an entertainer, a performer, a composer, a lyricist and perhaps the most revolutionary force to ever hit the Jewish music world. But for the last two years, Lipa Schmeltzer has donned another guise, trading his microphones for textbooks and the concert stage for the classroom, as the colorful artist has headed to school in pursuit of a college degree.

Schmeltzer’s dream of obtaining a higher education began approximately two years ago as he drove past the local community college and began to contemplate the possibility of earning a college degree. Stopping off at the registrar’s office, Schmeltzer inquired as to the enrollment requirements and was told he needed a high school diploma.

“I never got an education other than biblical stuff,” reported Schmeltzer. “I called up someone in New Square and he got me a paper saying I had graduated high school.”

Not surprisingly, the registrar at Rockland Community College, a two-year school which is part of the State University of New York system, informed Schmeltzer that the paper he was holding was of little value. As English is actually Schmeltzer’s second language, he spent eighteen months working towards his high school equivalency diploma, taking classes at the Rockland County Board of Cooperative Educational Services as well as studying with private tutor Chaim Glovinsky in order to pass the series of five tests which would award him a General Equivalency Diploma and allow him to enroll in college.

Now completing his first full semester at RCC, the 34-year-old Schmeltzer is a firm believer in the value of proper schooling.

“I never had the opportunity to get an education,” explained the superstar. “It’s not fair what is going on in many communities today. People are getting married yet they have no way of supporting themselves and one day they wake up and realize they can’t manage. Even if someone disagrees with the idea of going to college there are still programs which can provide a college degree so that they can make something of themselves and support their families.”

Schmeltzer, who is pursuing a dual associate’s degree in performing arts and liberal arts, a two year process, took twelve credits in his first semester and hopes to take a full 18 credit course load for the upcoming spring semester. Among the courses Schmeltzer plans to complete in his first full year in college are acting, dance, musical theater, English, psychology and pluralism and diversity.

Both Schmeltzer’s classmates and the faculty at the college laud his exuberance, his talent and his determination.

“Lipa is kind, enthusiastic and nice to everyone,” said classmate Neidin Loughran. “Everyone in our acting class respects him, his beliefs, his decision to enroll in college at his age and his passion for performing.”

“Lipa has never boasted about his career but he is a superstar to us,” added department chairperson, Patricia Maloney-Titland, who was also Schmeltzer’s professor this past semester. “His manner, his work ethic, his creativity, everyone enjoys what he brings to the table. Lipa clearly inspires people and if anyone can be the messenger to remind us that we all need to find common ground to unite us, he is going to be that guy.”

In fact, Schmeltzer views his time at RCC as an opportunity not only for his personal growth but that of other Jewish students as well. Rabbi Dov Oliver, director of the RCC Hillel, which also doubles as a Chabad House, had nothing but praise for the college’s most well known musical personality.

“From his first days at RCC, Lipa has been here offering to do whatever he could,” reported Rabbi Oliver. “He has helped me put tefillin on kids and he brought his entire family for our annual Shabbat dinner. He made kiddush, sang zemiros, did badchanus and literally made his way to every single table in the room, making everyone feel good. Once, at our weekly parsha shmooze, Lipa spoke about his life, how unlikely it was that he would have ended up in college, explaining that you never have to accept your circumstances as the end game, you can control your own destiny and work towards what you believe. He made a very powerful impression on the students.”

Sandy Eller

The Mashgiach Wore a Dress: The Fight over Opening Kosher Supervision to Women

Monday, November 26th, 2012

This January, Midreshet Emunah, a college devoted to Jewish women and family studies, will begin to train women to work as a kashrut supervisors. Training will be given in a comprehensive course that will include 150-180 hours of study, at the end of which each participant will receive a certificate that qualifies her to supervise commercial kitchens in Israel, Mynet reported.

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is yet to give its formal approval to the initiative, but sources in the Rabbanut say they would consent to the training of female supervisors only after an organized set of rules is established to facilitate their integration into the field. But beneath the surface there are already ripples of resistance to the entire project. A source in the Rabbanut suggested that “there are fears that women’s organizations are behind the idea, in order to undermine the halakhic establishment.”

With or without chief rabbinate support, the college leadership is determined to offer the course anyway. “Until two years ago, that body that supervised the kashrut supervisors in hotels, restaurants, hospitals and other institutions were the local rabbinates in their city,” says Emuna movement spokesman Itzik Rhett. According to him, only two years ago a new law went into effect, empowering the chief rabbinate of Israel to decide who is qualified to be a kashrut supervisor.

“At the time we approached the chief rabbinate and asked their permission to open a course for women,” says Rhett. “Through informal means, we discovered that the rabbinate would not approve our course. We didn’t give up and constructed a complete course system, just like the one available to men. Laws of meat and dairy, meat preparation, kashering utensils, laws connected to the Land of Israel, Shabbat in the domestic and institutional kitchens, and keeping kashrut in hotels, hospitals and restaurants. We included every item included in the courses for men, and they still ignored our requests.”

Emunah Chairwoman Liora Minka has been very critical of the chief rabbinate. According to her, if the college is not granted rabbinical approval for the course, they will not hesitate to reach all the way up to the Supreme Court. “If they cannot embrace this rationally, let the High Court determine it,” she says.

“The notion that ‘the Torah prohibits anything new’ has become the expression of Haredi opposition to any renewal, any technological development, even if no religious prohibition is involved. The examination of insects in vegetables, adhering to the laws of milk and meat – are any of these beyond the comprehension of women? Of course not. Is there is an halachic prohibition on a woman working in a dining room or a kitchen? Is it so outlandish an idea that a woman would walk into the kitchen of a restaurant, a hospital, a banquet hall or a nursing home, open refrigerator doors and track the processing of raw materials and mixtures? These are rhetorical questions the answers to which are clear,” says Minka.

“Unfortunately, there are uneducated rabbis who cannot keep up with modern life. They are marching backwards in time. Just recently we heard statements by rabbis who still can’t accept the fact that women can cast a ballot on their own, to influence and sometimes to be elected and be excellent public representative, better than many men.”

Ten women have signed up for the course since it was announced on Sunday. Aliza Hochshtad from Efrat, one of the first women serving as kosher supervisors in Israel, says she is delighted with the news. “For years I tried to convince colleges that offered courses for kosher supervisors for men only that they should offer these courses to women, too. Unfortunately they didn’t pay attention to me.”

Hochshtad works for the rabbinic council of Efrat as a kashrut supervisor. She says she also travels a lot to conventions of kosher supervisors in the U.S.

Finally, the spokesmen for Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and for the Rabbinic Posek (halachic “decider”), said they did not object to the idea of women kashrut supervisors in principle, but were worried about issues of… modesty and chastity.

When all else fails…

Yori Yanover

Never Mind Condemnations by Torah Sages, College Is Not ‘Traif’

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

“Certainly, there is an absolute condemnation of any sort of college from most Gedolim.” That is how the cover article in last week’s Ami Magazine was punctuated.  That article was about the dangers to one’s spiritual health of attending college.

Ironically the article itself was very fair about the issue.  Various rabbis who are either directly or indirectly involved with colleges and universities that have significant Orthodox Jewish populations were interviewed.  There was not a single comment indicative of any Issur on attending college.  Instead it seems to be a generally fair analysis of the situation as it exists without any real comment – pro or con about attending college (with the obvious exception of that statement in there final paragraph).

As to the substance of that article – there seemed to be a consensus that there are differences between colleges and universities with respect to retaining observance by Orthodox students.  As secular colleges go, commuter colleges are the way to go.  A commuter college like Brooklyn College that has a large percentage of Orthodox students is considered the safest type of college. Commuter colleges have no campus life to speak of.  Students attend classes and go home. Brooklyn College has the added advantage of having so many Orthodox Jews in attendance and being located in Flatbush -a very Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn.

If one opts for a university away from home that entails living in a dorm with its attendant a campus life – there too there are differences. Although generally speaking that is a very dangerous situation to put a child into, there are some notable exceptions. Among the best of them is the University of Pennsylvania (referred to as ‘ Penn’ by  most people ) which is an ivy league college.

Penn is considered a fairly safe environment for Orthodox students. Students there have an on campus Orthodox environment to live in.  It appears that very few students go OTD there. Somewhat surprisingly the article concludes that the best place to attend college is a place like Touro or Yeshiva University– where the Beis HaMedrash is never very far from the classroom.  I could not agree more with that.

The truth is that there was really very little of substance I disagreed with in that article. It is almost as if the Ami editorial staff didn’t believe in their own anti college hype. But that they just had to put in a condemnation of college in order to maintain their Charedi credentials.

But I have to challenge the very premise that most Gedolim condemn college. Do they? That statement flies in the face that Yeshivos like Ner Israel. Torah VoDaath, Chafetz Chaim, and Chaim Berlinhave a history of most of their students attending college with the help of the Yeshivos themselves. Those Yeshivos facilitate their students’ attendance by providing Yeshiva “credits” that can be used to fulfill some of the elective requirements.

And let us not forget the ill-fated attempt by Rav Hutner and Reb Shraga Feivel to actually create their own college! It may have been stopped by Rav Aharon Kotler. But is shows that at least these two Gedolim did not only did not condemn it they wanted to actually create their own college!

But all that is beside the point I wish to make here. A sub-theme of this article is the question of Modern Orthodox dropouts. Left pretty much unsaid is the fact that the vast majority of Jewish university students are from Modern Orthodox homes. In my view there is a connection to the MO dropout problem and attending a college that has does not have any kind of Orthodox presence. Which brings me back to my post on that subject.

In that post Rabbi Steven Pruzansky quoted a shocking and yet unsubstantiated statistic. He claimed that 50% of the of MO high schools students go OTD within 2 years of their graduation. I understand and even agree with the point he was trying to make. But he was grossly in error in the way he tried to make it.

When someone quotes an outrageous statistic like that, he better be able to back it up. The fact that he just threw it out a number from a survey that he did not even see just to make his point actually undermines it. His point was lost – virtually buried by the strong criticism he received by using a questionable statistic to make it.

The fact that he used an unsubstantiated and shocking statistic does not mitigate the problem. As I said in my earlier post, all segments of Orthodox Judaism has OTD problems. And there are different reasons why members of each segment goes OTD although some reasons overlap. Point being that the problem exists in large numbers in all segments.

That said, the OTD problems that are specific to Modern Orthodoxy are real and should not be glossed over. Rabbi Pruznski’s point should not be overlooked just because of the foolish use of a questionable statistic.

I think it is safe to say that the 50% figure is ridiculously high. The real dropout rate is probably much lower. Does that mean we should ignore the problem? I don’t think so. We ought to not get hung up on statistics.

Unless someone actually believes that Modern Orthodoxy does not have an OTD problem at all, we ought to take what Rabbi Pruzansky’s suggests seriously. While his reasons are not the only ones or perhaps not even the primary ones – I do believe his observations are valid. I strongly believe that the  “Lite” factor a significant contributor to why a child will go OTD.

Rabbi Dovid Landesman who was a long time principal of an MO high school in Los Angeleshas noted that it isn’t so much that kids go Off the Derech. It is more that they were never ON the Derech in the first place! What does that mean? I think it means the lack of priority given to observant Judaism in the home by parents.

If  parents do not treat their Yiddishkeit as a priority their children won’t either. If a parent prioritizes things other than his Judaism, while keeping his observances in Judaism passive the child will very likely do the same thing. The only difference will be in what the child will value. It may not be what the parent values, but it may not be their Judaism either.

When a child like that goes off to an ‘away from home’ college with its attendant social subculture which is anathema to Judaism –  it is not all that unlikely that his observance will be willingly compromised if not altogether dropped by the social pressure there – with little if any guilt attached.

Let’s be honest. Although it exists in both communities, being Lite in one’s observance is more indigenous in a community that is immersed in the general culture than it is among one that isolates itself from it.

The fact that organizations like the OU and people like those rabbis interviewed for the Ami Article (e.g. Rabbis Steven Burg, Jonathan Shulman, David Felsenthal, and Reuven Boshneck) are actively involved in trying to create a religious environment on college campuses is indicative of that. These are “In-reach” rabbis, not “outreach” rabbis. They work hard and see their roles as essential for these students – who are mostly MO – to retain their observance.

That said – as I point out many times – there are always exceptions. There are kids form serious MO homes that go OTD and kids from Lite homes that become very committed to their Judaism. And the fact is that the Charedi world has their own OTD problems. As does the Chardal world in Israel as illustrated in Wednesday’s post.

But please let us not lose sight of the fact that there is a dropout problem in the MO world caused by problems which are unique to it. We ignore it at our own peril.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Harry Maryles

A Star Falls Over Chicago

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

The Obama Campaign, that strange 4 year marriage of Generation X hipsters, inner city bosses, suburban college educated boomers longing for racial healing, Big Green businessmen and shady Saudis, appears to be finally sinking beneath the waves. It isn’t going out in a blaze of glory, but with mumbles of trending topics.

Obama was always a petty man and his campaign has descended into pointless pettiness, into Team Big Bird, binders full of women and bayonets and horses. Like so much hipster culture, it exists so that the participants can entertain each other with something that no one else thinks is funny or clever. And that elitism is precisely the point. It’s the last resort of losers who hide from their lack of taste behind walls of exclusivity.

Abandoning mass appeal, Obama is getting back to his roots of entertaining upper middle class college kids with his ‘hipness’; both actual  college kids and the overgrown middle aged variety that make up the professional class of the mediacracy who treat the rest of the country the way that they treated the natives on their Peace Corps assignments.

The Obama Campaign was never serious, but it once aspired to an Oprah level of seriousness, to the dignity of the self-help sections where trite observations are recited with great solemnity so that they sound like they must mean more than they do.

For the Northeastern New York Times reader, Obama held out the promise of atonement for the country’s grave racial sins. For the San Francisco wind farm executive, he offered the prospect of a presidency that would be one long endless TED talk with plenty of subsidies for the cunning Greenvestor. And the college student would finally have a president who watched the same shows, listened to the same music and got the same jokes making him the perfect Resident Adviser for the country.

Two biographies and four years later those same people have learned that like that party guest who mentions that he’s a nuclear physicist, a poet and an explorer of supernatural phenomena, Obama wasn’t actually interesting, he just seemed interesting in a cursory sort of way. Obama’s biography made him an interesting party guest, but not past a 5 minute chat, and it in no way qualified him to hold the country’ top job during an economic crisis and two wars.

Obama’s seriously intent tone, the one that signals you to pay attention, no longer works on even the faithful. Like Pavlov’s dogs, they have stopped coming once they realized that just because the bell rings doesn’t mean that dinner or a functional economy will be served. The weighty tone that he once used to deploy to great effect, borrowing the tricks of the preachers that he encountered in his huckstering days, has come to seem as empty as Oprah’s smile or Bill Clinton’s sincere head nod, just another of the tricks of hollow public personalities signifying nothing.

For years and years, he has talked and said nothing of any import. All the talk, the endless speeches and addresses, the verbal and facial tics that indicated seriousness of purpose, have never led to one single thing. Not one problem solved, not one crisis resolved and not one plan laid out and completed in four years with something to show for it.

Somewhere along the way, Obama became boring. He became that one man at a party that you don’t want to talk to because he will go on forever and all his chatter leads nowhere, because for all his conversational skills, he is capable of nothing but talk. And after talking to him for ten hours, you don’t know him any better than you did after ten minutes.

Voting for Obama was never the right choice objectively, but it was the right cultural choice, it was the trend, the impulse that everyone seemed to be following, the style that everyone was wearing and the book that everyone was reading. But trends like that don’t last. How many people will have Lady Gaga songs in their players or Fifty Shades of Grey on their bookshelves ten years from now? This too is the fate of the president of the trending topic, the commander-in-chief of the pet rock and the mood ring with his binders full of women and t-shirts with pictures of horses and bayonets on them. A joke that like Snakes on a Plane or All Your Base Are Belong To Us never gets old until 5 minutes later.

When times are bad, people have a well-known escapist streak. During the Great Depression, lavish musicals were popular. After September 11, Zoolander topped the box office. Facing two wars and a failed economy, the American people followed their own escapist streak to a smooth talking trickster with a soothing bag of promises that were too good to be true. Who wanted to listen to McCain, a man who looked like a walking war injury and kept talking about sacrifice, when you could get big bags of free stuff from a man who offered a post-racial society as a free gift with every vote.

Americans escaped to Obama and now they’re escaping from Obama. The vacation was already being cut short in 2012 and now it’s approaching its blackout date. Instead of taking Americans away from everything, Obama took everything away from them, and now they’re gearing up to take it all back and put him on a back shelf next to last summer’s beach reads and last decade’s pop hits.

Obama is over. And confronting his ‘overness’, that deadliest of fates for a hipster, he is crawling back to pander to his original audience, the graphic designers who put together posters of him on their free time, the celebrities who were eager to form his Jack Pack, to be his Joey Bishop or his Marylin Monroe, the musicians singing about him, the netroots bloggers cranking out their sensations of euphoric immediacy at being in his presence and the professional leftists cheering for him to take down the American Empire like Godzilla took down Tokyo.

But all the trending memes with hashtags and Tumblr pages, the calculatingly overexposed Instagram photos and the celebrities scribbling things on their hands and Twitpiccing the results, can’t bring back the thing that’s over. And even if they could, it won’t make a difference to the election. Hipsters like things that are different before they become popular, because it makes them seem like interesting people. Once something is popular then liking it no longer means that you’re interesting, instead it comes with the ego-deflating revelation that you are just like everyone else, except more so.

There’s no point to liking Obama anymore. Not when Obama is everywhere, more overexposed than Instagram, grinning from every corner, from every screen and magazine cover, selling out to get ahead and making the old faithfuls wonder if he ever stood for anything at all. Theirs is the sad burden of knowing that they will never have their own JFK who died, tragically and horrifyingly, before he could dive all the way into Vietnam, before stories of his carousing hit the papers forcing him to go on television and insist that he never had sex with any of those women.

Obama will not be immortalized by a Communist with a rifle. Instead he is doomed to be mortal, his hair turning white and his musical tastes turning worse. Any day now he will admit to a fondness for Kenny G and after that there will be no saving him from the dread ravages of time. And so he is over because the alternative to him being over is the tastemakers having to confront their own overness. Their own mortality.

If Obama were cannier than he seems, then he would embrace his own fakeness, becoming a self-constructed celebrity, glorifying in his own artificiality, until like Lady Gaga or Lana Del Rey and every third hip hop star with a pulse, his very fakeness would serve as proof of his inventiveness and his media savvy. Such an Obama would present a birth certificate showing that he was born in Kenya to challenge our notions of identity, admit to squandering all the country’s money for its own good and keep us entertained with his latest antics. It might not win him the election, but considering the example of Zoolander, it might, because then instead of being over, he would be a new escape all over again.

But Obama is determined to be a hipster to the very end, instead of embracing the shamelessness of his own media manipulations, he veers erratically between an insincere sincerity and the sneer of the spitefully superior. It’s the performance we saw in the third debate, the antics of every college kid you ever argued with, that combination of smugness and insecurity that marks the hipster as an impossible conversationalist.

The only thing sadder than a hipster is a wannabe hipster and that’s what Obama is now, a man in search of a meme, a one-man band in search of an artfully touching documentary about its travails in the wilds of Portland and a flat line in search of its trend.

Obama does not know how to govern. He does not know how to address the economy or war. The one thing he knows how to do is be popular. That is the one and only skill that he has cultivated in his life. And it is a good skill for a politician, but a politician whose only skill is popularity had better avoid taking responsibility for anything that might make him unpopular.

Popularity is a trend, and like every reality show star still pounding away on Twitter five years later, trying to move their latest CD or comedy club appearance, Oprah’s most popular boy toy since Dr. Oz has failed to realize that he is no longer popular, his moment has passed, his relevance is through and no one wants a man whose only skills are on-camera skills to be the one standing between them and economic oblivion.

The country doesn’t hate him, but it is tired of him. It wakes up every morning, remembers the time everyone got drunk and decided to vote for the cool black dude who talked a lot about hope, winces and then forgets about him all over again until it looks at the latest economic news. It’s over him and it wishes that he would show some dignity and walk away from a job that he isn’t qualified for on his own.

Obama has gotten desperate. His fundraising emails walk the thin line between emotional blackmail and hysteria. Increasingly they read like Cousin Larry phoning for bail money from Tijuana. Shrilly needy they demand that we pay attention to him, that we love him, adore him and spend money on him. They are the missives of a man who cannot conceive of a life outside the spotlight, the vapid fear of a celebrity who cannot confront the real world and cannot understand why their public is walking away.

In the last stages of his career, Obama has become Norma Desmond, waving around a social media gun and shouting, “No one leaves a star. That’s what makes one a star.” But the country has left and what they leave behind is a star falling from the sky over Chicago.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Daniel Greenfield

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-star-falls-over-chicago/2012/10/24/

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