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Posts Tagged ‘the Forward’

Shushed and Booed, Podhoretz Walks Out on 92 St. Y Panel

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

There have already been several reports of the ruckus that occurred during a talk entitled, “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?” which was held at the 92nd St Y in Manhattan Monday night, Dec. 16.

But no accounts thus far examine the role of the audience in inciting a panelist to get up and walk out of the event.

There were first hand accounts by John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and the panelist who walked out of the event, and another by Jane Eisner, the editor of the Daily Forward, who was the moderator of the event.

The other two panelists were Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, and David Harris, president of the American Jewish Committee.

One account can be found on this website.  Haaretz and the New York Times weighed in with their own versions, based, loosely, on the earlier accounts.

The rabidly anti-Israel blog Mondoweiss headlined the story “Podhoretz leaves 92nd St Y stage after saying Swarthmore Hillel deserves to be ‘spat on.’”

Over on planet Mondoweiss, the editor was so eager to prove his true lefty street creds he expressed outrage that the event was held without a single Palestinian Arab on the panel. He mused: “I wonder what liberal Jewish forum would have staged a debate on Jim Crow back in the ’60s without black leaders…” Earth to Mondoweiss: the topic for the evening was “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?”

WHY AND WHEN DID PODHORETZ EXIT STAGE RIGHT

Podhoretz admits saying that the decision by the Swarthmore “Hillel” to vote itself out of Hillel so it could sponsor anti-Zionists was their right, just as it was his right to (rhetorically, he claims) “spit at” the Swarthmore (former) Hillel group. This was the topic of discussion by several commentators.

But that isn’t when Podhoretz left the stage.

According to the accounts of the two participants, Podhoretz became agitated during the discussion of the recent American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

What happened was that although all of the panelists said they disapproved of the ASA boycott, J Street’s Ben Ami then began recounting what he said were Israeli policies that led people to believe that a boycott of Israeli institutions was appropriate.

PODHORETZ DEFENDS ISRAEL, AUDIENCE EXPLODES, ‘ENRAGED’

“You’re blaming the victim!” Podhoretz exclaimed.

To which the 92nd Street Y audience erupted into loud booing.

According to the moderator, Eisner, who is much closer to Ben-Ami’s Israel viewpoint than the others – having served as a co-chair of her local New Israel Fund regional council – there was not just scattered booing. She wrote in her blog on the topic that when Podhoretz accused Ben-Ami of blaming the victim, some “members of the audience became enraged.”

The audience was so disruptive with what Podhoretz described as a “prolonged bout of booing,” that he turned to the audience and asked with what he thought was obvious irony, “why don’t you also hiss?”

Eisner did not understand that Podhoretz was being sarcastic.  She wrote that “mystifyingly, the Commentary editor encouraged them, challenging them to boo and hiss.”

The audience also did not understand, or was not embarrassed by Podhoretz’s sarcastic effort to remind them they were adults listening to a panel discussion, not bloodthirsty members of a bullfight audience, howling for blood. We know they didn’t understand because their response was to hiss, along with the booing.

That appears to really be what tipped the balance.

It was with the audience hissing and booing, that Eisner claims Podhoretz raised his voice and wagged a finger at Ben-Ami. Eisner wrote: “That’s when I stepped in, trying to rein in the argument, using my hands (I am known to gesticulate) to try to calm him down.”

Why Is the Left So Concerned with Haredi Dropouts?

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Over the past few months, we’ve been inundated with stories about Haredi men and women who can no longer tolerate life inside their sheltered—and at the same time oppressive—communities, and opt instead to live in the big city, go to college, go on the Internet, and subscribe to cable television like the rest of us.

Some of them do it because of their sexual preferences—as was depicted by the touching film “Trembling before God,” others go on NBC to explain how much better off they are with their college degrees and Manhattan careers. It’s all extremely touching as well.

Then there are Modern Orthodox Jews who advocate passionately that these ex-Haredim should try their looser-but-still-religious lifestyle, instead of going “off the road” altogether. I’m sure Conservative and Reform compassion is poured on them, too. No Jew left behind, you know the drill.

If you ask me, there’s something hollow, even vacuous, certainly vulgar, about people who manage their personal relationship with God through newspaper articles and television tidbits (like the recent NBC item). It makes me, personally, feel uncomfortable. It’s like watching someone shopping for a bathing suit – I have no doubt they could use a nice suit, but why must I be made to watch?

But the hyper indulgence of outfits like the Forward and NBC in these stories and confessions and heartbreaking melodramas have very little to do with religious or spiritual soul searching and a whole lot more to do with the Jewish left’s panicky need to do something about the enormous tide of Haredi births, which threaten to drown American Jewry with torrents of cute, little, seemingly identical Haredi babies—in my opinion, the current dispute is only over the point in time in which Haredim will constitute the majority of Jews in America, but nobody questions the fact that that moment will be here, in our lifetime.

By pointing out the shortcomings—some obvious, some less familiar—of the burgeoning Haredi masses, these anxious reporters must prove that the laws of physics are working, and that the Haredi pendulum that has been swinging in an unstoppable curve to the right, must, at some point, give in to the laws of gravity and entropy and start swinging back.

And so, the refugees from Lee Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for their self-indulgent reasons, are collaborating with the anxious, Jewish left, to make history more palatable.

Here is the most recent contribution to this genre, “Why I Am Not Modern Orthodox,” by Shulem Deen, on the Forward’s blog dedicated to “conversations about the Jewish tomorrow” (where Shimon Peres meets Zabar’s? — thanks to my friend Larry Yudelson for the link and the quote, I originally thought it was written by Larry, only to be told otherwise by our readers):

“What many ex-Haredim are saying, then, to religious leaders and religious communities and religious lifestyles of all kinds: We have lost the trust necessary to embrace your religious views, however moderate they might be. We have lost faith in your ability to convey truths, just as we have lost faith in the Haredi worldview with which we were raised. We have rejected that which demands trust but does not recognize the need to earn it; dogmas and assertions simply declared as truths, be they Satmar or Modern Orthodox, Chabad or Renewal.”

This note aggressively depicts that mission in well phrased protests good enough to be pinned, Martin Luther style, on the oak doors of the main Satmar synagogue. But while I recognize the validity of these protests, I don’t believe they are valid—as he seems to argue—in describing the actual motivation of even a single Haredi dropout.

My own experience with young men and women leaving the fold has been that their departure was over sexual choices – looking to date more freely, yearning to explore their sexual identity, over education, over love of music, over just needing to have more fun in their lives. I doubt very seriously that anyone has decided to move to Manhattan over their loss of trust in their religious Sherpa.

I think Deen very much engages in these issues of mistrust, and he is absolutely on the money regarding their seriousness. In fact, I would venture that this loss of trust in our leaders is common to all of us, religious Jews. When a chief rabbi today is up on charges in Israel for embezzlement and the Jewish world is yawning in disinterest—it must mean that we are simply not surprised that such a man would do such things. So, we expect our rabbis to be scoundrels—what does that have to do with keeping kosher or driving on Shabbat?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/yoris-news-clips/why-is-the-left-so-concerned-with-haredi-dropouts/2013/07/03/

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