Thursday, December 30, 2021

Covid All in the Family

If All In The Family was on the air today, a conservative meathead would be using all of the original liberal meathead's antiwar arguments to protest Covid restrictions and government overreach. Meanwhile liberal Archie would be using all of original Archie's defenses of the president and the war to defend Covid restrictions.

Both Meatheads: The government lied to us. You can't trust the idiot president and his self interested advisors. They just want power at our expense.  I'm entitled to freedom of consciousness. I don't have to go to war/get vaccinated if I don't want to!

Both Archies: You have to rally behind the president and the flag. You can't make decisions about fighting Covid/communism on your own: you're obligated to follow the president's lead and fall into line because otherwise you have chaos. You let one little communist/covid germ gain a foothold and were all doomed. The health of the nation depends on doing everything we can to wipe it out.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Catholic frumkeit

Why don't Catholics have a concept of frumkeit? All Catholics, regardless of personal piety and personal levels of observance, can attend the same churches and live in the same neighborhood without any problem. They aren't worried about being tainted or corrupted if the neighbors are less sincerely Catholic. They don't start new congregations over issues of liturgy or decor or in protest of something the priest said. They don't create new Catholic schools to emphasize minor philosophical differences at the drop of a hat either 

From what I understand Sephardic Jews are above these sort of petty and narcisstic divisions, too. (Yes?) 

So why do the Ashkenazi OJs have this hang up? Why do we live in mortal fear of looking un-frum or of being tainted via association with the less frum? Why do the shul and the neighborhood and the school have to be exactly perfect in terms of style and hashkofa and every last stringency and leniency in order for us to feel safe? Looking for sociological explanations, not religious justifications please.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

This is why Efrem Goldberg blocked me on Twitter...

Some people expect to be seen in a certain light and will block you on social media when you refuse to comply.

It happened to me (again) when I had the audacity of pointing out that a certain famous Rabbi was being blind, patronizing and hypocritical in his account of a vacation to New Square, NY.  

In my remarks, I was not rude or impolite. I didn't deploy words like blind, patronizing or hypocritical. I simply used Twitter to make the points I will summarize below and can only conclude that the Rabbi blocked me in response because he expected to be admired for publishing an "open-minded and inclusive" travel valentine and I just wasn't playing along.

Lets begin at the the beginging. For those unaware, New Square is a Hasidic village in upstate NY with values this Rabbi would normally find repulsive. In 2018 he published an effusive account of his visit which glossed over the serious problems in a way I found strange given his values.

 As I told him, New Square is a misogynistic, anti-Israel place that overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. The residents rely heavily on welfare and do not study much math or English after 6th grade. 

Can you imagine a proper Trump supporting, Israel loving, YU educated Modern Orthodox Rabbi such as Efrem Goldberg gushing about such a place if it wasn't Hasidic?

What, for instance, would he say about a Hispanic or African American village consisting entirely of people who vote Democrat, disdain secular education,  stay on welfare, mistreat women, refuse to speak English and hate Israel?  

Would he call the spiritual leader of such a place "warm, personable, wise and inquisitive?" (Doesn't promoting such values automatically forfeit any right to be called wise?)

If he visited such a place would he overlook the abject poverty of the people and neglect to mention the extreme wealth of the ruling cadre?

But it gets worse.

One of the best things about New Square, the Rabbi tells us, is the central synagogue where "thousands daven together and yet you can hear a pin drop and feel the walls reverberate as Amen and Kaddish are responded to in deafening unison."

Somehow the rabbi forgets to mention how that wonderful unity is achieved. It's not entirely by choice. The Rebbe of New Square does not allow any other synagogues to be established within two miles of the official one and in the past this ruling has been enforced by what can only be described as terrorism. Car tires are slashed, windows are broken and in one famous case, a member of the rebbe's staff tossed a molotov cocktail into the home of a dissenter. These are not trivial oversights on the part of the rabbi and his reporting. As a whole, they bring to mind the famous question Bellow asks in Herzog:

"Would you ask them to labor and go hungry while you yourself enjoyed old-fashioned Values?"

For our rabbi, the answer seems to be yes. Let the residents of New Square stay trapped in the 19th century, he seems to say, so long as I can have a nice, exotic place to visit. And rather than confront and adjust his patronizing attitude - let them suffer with the Square lifestyle so I can have a tourism moment - he chooses to block me, the person who pointed this out.