An Open Letter To Forward.com, Hebrew-Israelites, And Everyone Else In The World

Dear Forward.com, Hebrew-Israelites, and White Jewish Media in general,

I’m MaNishtana, and I’d like to tell you to stop. Just…Stop.

I was greeted this morning with a link in my newsfeed of an article on the Forward.com website with the headline “Black Jews Gain Wider Acceptance” splashed across my screen.

However, the little thumbnail attached to the picture revealed what I could only assume were outtakes from a casting call for an urban remake of “The Ten Commandments”.

Yes, that was a mean thing I said just now.

But I’m tired. And frustrated.  A lot of Black Jews are.  And by “Black Jews”, I mean actual ones, not practitioners of an invented pseudo-Judaism cobbled together by opportunists and sprinkled with a light dusting of the Black Church in different clothing.

A friend’s status on Facebook succinctly sums up the frustration of the [actual] Black Jewish community:

“Wow Forward…Way to step outside of your preconceived notions of what a Jew is…Sigh, Hebrew Israelite does not equal black American Jew. The two things are not synonymous. Acceptance of Israelite communities doesn’t mean anything about the greater acceptance of black Jews in America. In fact it says the opposite–it says in order to meet my diversity agenda I will not address or acknowledge the issues facing black Jews actually in the mainstream community (because I assume they’re not there), but discuss the acceptance of a community far out of the mainstream that just happens to be black. Fact…If they were white, they wouldn’t be entertained. Why do discussions of black Jews actually never talk about black Jews?…ugh”

 So please, for the love of everything good and decent in Moses’ beard, 1-Hebrew-Israelites, STOP saying you’re Jewish (especially when you’re pandering to the White Jewish camera, because you know damn well when you’re standing in front of your congregants at Temple Bnei Bet El Shalom Adath Congregation of Commandment Keeping Abyssinians, you’d rather die then call yourselves Jewish), 2-White Jewish Bleeding Heart Liberal Overcompensatingly Inclusive Media, STOP picking up anything that’s Black and looks slightly maybe Jewish and calling them us.

Because when you tout these Hebrew-Israelite sects as part of the Black Jewish community—with appellations ranging from “Black Jews” to “Black Hebrews” to “Black Israelites” and ideology ranging from moderate to militant to Messianic—the confusion these entities produced is equaled only by the frustration they cause for actual Black Jewry.

This “Kosher-style”, soul food “variant” of pseudo-Judaism is the realm of such institutions as the Israelite Board of Rabbis, whose website (www.blackjews.org) is a constant source of irritation to African-American/Caribbean Jews, as Hebrew-Israelites are considered “Black Jews” by no one but themselves and a handful of misguided and ill-informed journalists.

Regardless of Rabbi Funnye’s quote, Hebrew-Israelites have nothing to do with Judaism. Period.

Because essentially, Hebrew-Israelites are to Judaism what the Nation of Islam and Five Percenters are to Islam.

They are not Jews.  They are not Jewish.  They just appropriate parts of it.

Yet somehow, when it comes to Black Jewry, a conversation can’t be had, an article can’t be written, a group cannot be formed, without Hebrew-Israelites being put under our umbrella. But we are not the same, nor do we have anywhere near the same struggle, mostly because the existence of Hebrew-Israelites makes the struggle for the legitimacy of Black Jewry that much harder in the first place

Rabbi Capers Funnye’s presence only serves to obfuscate the issue, as he underwent a conversion in 1985, yet continues to lead and preach Israelite ideology.  However, despite his celebrity, he is not a spokesperson for the Black Jewish community.  He in fact, does not hold Jewish Rabbinical ordination. His title of “Rabbi” was bestowed upon him by the Israelite Board of Rabbis. Despite, his constant repetition of the idea, “Hebrew Israelite community” and “Black Jewish community” are NOT synonymous.

Of course, with that declaration comes the inevitable question:

“Well isn’t your saying that Hebrew-Israelites aren’t ‘Black Jews’ the equivalent of White Jews asking Jews of Color ‘How are you Jewish’ and denying their authenticity?  Aren’t you being equally as divisive towards Hebrew-Israelites as White Jews are towards you?” 

In a word?  No.

It is no more erroneous or needlessly exclusive to say that Hebrew-Israelites are not Jews any more than it is to say that bats aren’t rodents.

Bats aren’t rodents, by the way, despite what the Joker says about Batman.

Yes, bats share the same Kingdom, Phylum, Class, and Infraclass as mice, rats, and squirrels do (Animalia, Chordata, Mammalia, and Eutheria, respectively), but Order Rodentia is classified by having two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing—a crucial something which are absent in bats.  Consequently, bats are grouped under Order Chiroptera (from the Greek cheir meaning “hand” and pteron meaning “wing”) as chiropterans, not rodents.

However, due to external and superficial similarities and a lack of knowledge, bats are endlessly referred to as “flying rodents” or “rats with wings”.

Equating Hebrew-Israelites with Black Jews is no different an exercise in unawareness.

When it comes to Judaism, Hebrew-Israelites are chiropterans. Jews—Black, White, and Other—are rodents.

Wait, no.  No no…That’s…that’s not how that was supposed to come out…

Well at any rate–and I’m gonna hurt some feelings with this one–I get why permissive liberal and secular Jewish organizations love to parade Hebrew-Israelites out.

I do.

Because there’s this fear that if they exclude Hebrew-Israelites as being Jews because of their lack of normative Jewish practices, that this opens the door for more observant denominations to say that they too, in fact, are not Jewish, since they also disregard normative Jewish practices and interpretations of Jewish law.

However, the flaw in that logic is, regardless of how far flung the practices are vis a vis traditional Jewish law, the Reform and Conservative and even Reconstructionist movements were started by actual Jews.  Jews who were Jewish according to any letter of any law.  There will always be some percentage actual Jewish-according-to-Jewish-law Jews in those movements and those movements will always be Jewish.

The various Hebrew-Israelite sects–all of them–WERE STARTED BY NON-JEWS.

Being Jewish and deciding to do less doesn’t make one not Jewish anymore.  Conversely, being not-Jewish and taking on Jewish practices does not make one actually Jewish.

So please, every White Jewish-guilt ridden and or bleeding heart organization/publication/private citizen/activist, just stop.  The Hebrew-Israelite “struggle” isn’t yours anymore than its ours.  You have as much in common with them as we do.  Which is nothing.

So the next time you feel the need to write a piece on the acceptance of Black Jews, do yourself a favor and write the first ever article on Black Jews that actually talks just about…Black Jews.

And as for you Hebrew-Israelite dudes, do us a favor and stop trying to get on our bandwagon.  Because while yes, it’s flattering you want to be us, you caterwauling about not being accepted by mainstream Judaism because you’re Black makes as much since as me complaining that a hospital won’t hire me as a  doctor because I’m Jewish when the fact is I’ve never taken the MCATs.

As you were.

manishtanasignoff

MaNishtana@manishtana.net

twitter.com/MaNishtana

Order Thoughts From A Unicorn: 100% Black. 100% Jewish. 0% Safe.

Confoundment Keepers

Hi, I’m MaNishtana.

Now, before we start, I’d like us to chant a little mantra.

You know how a square is a rhombus, but a rhombus is not a square?  It’s kinda like that, except the opposite:

Black Jews are not Hebrew-Israelites, and Hebrew-Israelites are not Black Jews.  Got that?  Great.  Repeat it aloud a couple of times.  Good?  Now add this part to it: Hebrew-Israelites are NOT part of the Black Jewish community.  If you hear someone say “the Hebrew-Israelite community” and then they pause and add “the Black Jewish community” as if the two are synonyms for one another?  You can stop them right there. Because they are wrong.

Thoroughly.  And completely.

Are there Black Jews whose first personal or familial exposure to Judaism was through the Hebrew-Israelite movement?  Yes.  And Malcolm X’s first exposure to Islam was through the Nation of Islam.  And then he went to Mecca and became a real Muslim.  Because the Nation of Islam and Five Percenters–while spouting Islamic-ish ideas–are not part of Islam.  They are not Muslims.  They are Black Nationalism mixed with a dash of Islam.  And Hebrew-Israelites are to Judaism what the Nation of Islam/Five Percenters are to Islam.

It’s confusing, I know.

After all, hardly an article written on actual Black Jews can be written without SOME kind of mention of one of the varied Hebrew-Israelite sects, thereby portraying that the two exist in the same sphere.  Which they don’t.

Oftentimes, people will trot out Temple Beth-El Church of Gd Saints of Christ of Virginia, Congregation Temple Beth-El of Philadelphia, or, as is all the rage most recently, the Commandment Keepers of Harlem, and paint this picture of them being the introduction of Judaism to African-American folk, valiantly withstanding the battering of the White Jewish community on one side and the non-Jewish Black community on the other while just trying to keep an observant lifestyle.  In fact this new film Commandment Keepers by Marlaine Glicksman, “explores the under appreciated–and largely unknown–existence of the only African-American Jewish community in Harlem.”

Except it doesn’t.  Nor is it an exploration of the “the past and present history of Black Jews”.  For that to happen, people kinda need to be Jews.

To elaborate, to be a Jew, one’s mother must be Jewish (or father if you subscribe to the Reform school of thought).  If neither one of your parents are, then to be Jewish one must decide to actually, y’know, JOIN THE JEWISH PEOPLE.  If you have made no formal declaration, ever, to ANY denomination of Judaism–halachic permissibility of conversions across the denominations aside–or undergo any rituals whatsoever under the auspices of the people you are claiming to be a part of, then you are not ANY kind of Jewish.  AT ALL.  It doesn’t matter HOW “observant” you are.

Enter the Hebrew-Israelite/Black Hebrew movement and this brief Wikipedia snippet with accompanying history overview:

“While Black Christians traditionally have identified spiritually with the Children of Israel, they never claimed to be descendants of the Israelites. In the late 19th century among some African-Americans, an identification with the ancient Hebrews developed into an identification as ancient Hebrews.”

1896: William S. Crowdy, a former railroad worker, has a “vision” and begins preaching that African-Americans are descended from the ancient Israelites.  Forms the Church of Gd Saints of Christ congregation in Virginia which eventually becomes known as Temple Beth-El.  It describes itself as “the oldest African-American congregation in the United States that adheres to the tenets of Judaism.”  Kinda hard when “Saints of Christ” is in your charter name.  Neither Crowdy or his congregants convert to any denomination of Judaism.

1919: Wentworth Arthur Matthew begins preaching that African-Americans are descendants of the Israelites and founds the Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation of the Living God Pillar & Ground of Truth, Inc, claiming himself and his congregants to be descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba–despite the fact that neither he or any of his congregants are actually Ethiopian.  Neither he or any of his congregation convert to Judaism as they believe that they in fact are the true Jews and White Jews are European Khazarian converts, yet Matthew ordains dozens of Black “rabbis”.

1951: Louise Elizabeth Dailey founds Bethel Holy Commandment Church in Philadelphia.  In 1973 they stop preaching about Jesus and decide to abandon the New Testament.  Neither Dailey or her congregants convert to any denomination of Judaism.

[*When I say “none converted”, I mean people who stayed with the congregation.  As I said before, some Black Jewish families come from people who were Hebrew Israelites and then, dun dun dun, converted.]

Now, see, it’s kinda hard to say that you are “observant Jews” or that you “adhere to the tenets of Judaism” when you don’t do one very entry-level thing: convert.

If you claim to follow Judaism, then you know that–even if you ARE descendants of Jews–the fact that your practice has been “lost” over some generations means that you STILL have to go through a conversion, even if its a lesser version of what actual converts have to go through.  See: anusim, conversos, Igbo Jews, Kaifeng Jews, et al.  And those are all communities with MUCH less of an ambiguity concerning their origins.

So pretty much, if you’re a bunch of Black Christian folk who just up and decide one day that you are actually Jews, largely based on “feeling” Jewish essentially, that’s fine.  But feeling like you’re Jewish doesn’t make you Jewish anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car.  You actually need to do the do.

For example, I can’t get a bunch of friends together, decide to study anatomy and physiology REALLY intensively, declare ourselves doctors, and tell people it’s totally legit for us to perform surgery on them.  Because that’s illegal.  I might just very well have the necessary knowledge and skill to perform open heart sugery.  But unless I’ve actually taken the MCATs, gone to medical school, and received my M.D., I’m NOT a doctor.  And DEFINITELY not a surgeon.  It doesn’t matter that that’s not how one used to became a doctor 400 years ago in medieval France or 3000 years ago in ancient Greece or whatever.  Because this is how things operate NOW.

Now, aside from the general confusion Hebrew-Israelites cause vis a vis identifying as Black Jews (which, by the way, is a new development.  Before, they were content to call themselves “Hebrew Israelites” or “Black Hebrews”), what’s even more infuriating is how permissive our enlightened liberal white Jewish brethren are.

It’s like if it even looks like Judaism they’ll fall over themselves to accept it and say it’s ok, like they’re afraid of getting wished to the cornfield or something.  Despite the fact that a large majority of Hebrew-Israelite dress, worship and ideology is either counter-Jewish thought or very obviously Judaism-plated Christianity.  It’s all very emperor’s new clothes.

If the tables were turned however, and the psuedo-Jews were white, there wouldn’t be any of this nonsense.  If those same white Jews walked into a white “synagogue” on Shabbat–with the elaborate costumes and preachiness and everything-but-the-Jesus gospel songs and organs and tambourines and whatnot–they’d very quickly step back outside to see if they somehow stumbled into a Seventh Day Adventist church.  Put it in blackface though and they’re willing to ignore all the glaring evidence against it.  They commiserate with these congregations on the “White Jews don’t accept us as Jews because we’re Black” boat, instead of just straight up saying “Um, they don’t accept you as Jews because you’re actually NOT Jews, like, at all.  You just HAPPEN to also be Black.”

What’s additionally sad is that not only do us Black Jews who state these glaring facts get considered as being elitist or self-hating or whatever, but Hebrew-Israelites believe that the “open-minded” white Jewish folk who are accepting and including them regard them as equals, when in reality, they are actually patronizing and pitying them.

It’s sort of like the “whistling dog” syndrome.  Sure, the dog can’t do it very well and all the fur in its mouth kinda muffles the sound, but how much whistling were you expecting a dog to be able to do in the FIRST place? So it’s really amazing he can do it at ALL.  Swap out “whistling dog” with “Hebrew-Israelite” and you get “Aww, it’s okay that you can’t do the Jewish so good, but gosh darn it here’s some credit for trying.  You want a treat?”

Now if you REALLY wanna talk about the past and present history of Black Jews, talk about Billy Simmons, the first recorded–emphasis on recorded–Black Jew in America.  Talk about the converted black slaves who fought for the Confederacy.  Talk about the Igbo Jews who got swept up with their Nigerian countrymen and became part of American slavery.  Talk about why synagogues had rules in their constitutions which banned “people of color” and declared their congregations to be for “white Israelites only”.  But don’t talk to me about Hebrew-Israelites and tell me that’s where Black American Jews came from and who they are.

Do the research.

manishtanasignoff

MaNishtana@manishtana.net

twitter.com/MaNishtana

Order Thoughts From A Unicorn: 100% Black. 100% Jewish. 0% Safe.

Dig Hole, Insert Head

Hi, I’m MaNishtana and the other day I was reading advice columns.  Because I was clearly interested in being a middle aged housewife. But I digress.  As I was reading I came across this question:

I’m applying for citizenship and plan on moving to an American community very soon. I’m also Jewish. I didn’t really expect much anti-Semitism from the American community but, surprisingly, people have been saying things. Some simple (but still bigoted), like, “A Jewish girl will never find a good American husband,” and among the more hurtful, “K-s shouldn’t be American.” I’m already looking for a different area to move but I know that I will continue to encounter anti-Semitism anywhere I go. My question is, how do I respond to these sorts of comments? Should I respond at all? What is the American approach to anti-Semitism?

Clearly a hurtful conundrum.  And if the situation alone didn’t upset me, the answer she got back upset me even more:

Wow! Good for you. It takes a lot of courage and strength to immigrate and I am in awe of you and your choices.

What is the American approach to anti-Semitism? I’m sorry that you even have to ask such a question. It should be clear to all that racism is appalling. There is absolutely no excuse for it. It is bad character and a clear violation of the Constitutional belief that all men are created equal.

That said, Americans are still human beings and we have many flaws. There are those who cheat in business or spread malicious gossip and slander. The key is not to tar the whole community with the same brush and to judge each individual fairly. Rotten apples don’t spoil the whole bunch.

On the other hand, you may also need to guard against over-sensitivity. Perhaps the comment that “a Jewish girl will never find…” was heard incorrectly. Maybe it was meant to prepare you for a struggle rather than as a harsh statement of bigotry. Depending on how it was said, and the exact language, it is possible that the speaker was merely trying to warn you of the challenges ahead. Finding a good husband is difficult for everyone. It is harder for an immigrant and even harder for someone in your particular circumstances. Right or wrong, good or bad, that is the reality and perhaps you can cope with it better once you have a clear perspective on the situation.

I wouldn’t respond to racial slurs. Why dignify them in that way?

Amazing.  Patronizing and dismissive all in one fell swoop, topped off with the classic “Just ignore it and it’ll go away” that doesn’t even work with elementary bullies on a playground let alone in real grown up life.  Such a masterpiece of apathy that not only doesn’t answer the reader’s question but also essentially tells her to suck it up because she’s being “too sensitive”.  How DARE the advice columnist just–oh, wait, sorry, sorry. Sorry.  Wait.

THAT wasn’t the question I read.  THIS was.  On aish.com:

Dear Emuna,

I’m converting to Judaism under Orthodox guidelines and plan on moving to a Jewish community very soon. I’m also half black. I didn’t really expect much racism from the Jewish community but, surprisingly, people have been saying things. Some simple (but still bigoted), like, “A black girl will never find a good Jewish husband,” and among the more hurtful, “N-s shouldn’t be Jewish.” I’m already looking for a different area to move but I know that I will continue to encounter racism anywhere I go. My question is, how do I respond to these sorts of comments? Should I respond at all? What is the Jewish approach to racism?

— Taken Aback

And the answer back was…:

Dear Taken Aback (and Rightly So!),

Wow! Good for you. It takes a lot of courage and strength to convert and I am in awe of you and your choices.

What is the Jewish approach to racism? I’m sorry that you even have to ask such a question. It should be clear to all that racism is appalling. There is absolutely no excuse for it. It is bad character and a clear violation of the commandment to love humanity and love your fellow Jew.

That said, Jews, including observant ones, are human beings. We are, hopefully, striving to improve ourselves and get closer to God, but we have many flaws. There are those who cheat in business or spread malicious gossip and slander. The key is not to tar the whole community with the same brush and to judge each individual fairly. Rotten apples don’t spoil the whole bunch.

Secondly, you don’t want to (as the quaint expression goes) throw out the baby with the bath water. Despite how some people may behave, a life of Torah and service of the Almighty is still a meaningful and fulfilling one. Don’t let them affect your impression of the Torah itself.

I cannot justify insensitive comments and let me state again clearly: there is NO excuse for racism.

On the other hand, you may also need to guard against over-sensitivity. Perhaps the comment that “a black girl will never find…” was heard incorrectly. Maybe it was meant to prepare you for a struggle rather than as a harsh statement of bigotry. Depending on how it was said, and the exact language, it is possible that the speaker was merely trying to warn you of the challenges ahead. Finding a good husband is difficult for everyone. It is harder for a convert and even harder for someone in your particular circumstances. Right or wrong, good or bad, that is the reality and perhaps you can cope with it better once you have a clear perspective on the situation.

The real key here is that in this, as in all other areas: the Almighty runs the world. He makes the matches and he watches over His children. His is the only approval and love that you need.

I wouldn’t respond to racial slurs. Why dignify them in that way? Unless you can react like the man in the story in the Talmud who, when insulted about his looks (not that you should be insulted I hasten to add!), advised the person to “take it up with my Creator. He’s the one who made me.”

— Emuna

Now.  If after you’ve read the first question and felt outraged–because I know you did–If you can read the second one and find the writer’s upset to be somehow “less valid” or less “serious”, then congratulations: You’re part of the problem.

Also, you’re kind of a racist.  But a passive one, so totally not the same thing.

Except not.

manishtanasignoff

MaNishtana@manishtana.net

twitter.com/MaNishtana

Order Thoughts From A Unicorn: 100% Black. 100% Jewish. 0% Safe.

Joonery Buffoonery* *(explicit language)

Hey guys, I’m MaNishtana.

Remember back in 2009 when Spike Lee called Tyler Perry out? When he accused Perry of producing films that are a step backwards for African-American cinema and resort to coonery and buffoonery?

Well,for JOCs–especially Black Jews–not only when we’re in White Jewish spaces do we have to fight the perception that “coonery buffoonery” creates, we are finding ourselves increasingly having to also have to fight “joonery buffoonery”™, a term I have just invented an am currently in the process of trademarking.

Jew+Coonery Buffoonery =”Joonery Buffoonery”™.

It’s a quite disturbing trend that takes the concept of being a JOC–again, being a Black Jew, especially–and makes it a laughingstock.  And the worst part is–just like Tyler Perry and his “Madeas” and “House of Paynes” and “Why Did I Get Marrieds” which glorify the pathology of being Black and its minstrel-like qualities as being the average everyday life of Black folk–we do it to OURSELVES.  Then we turn around and say, “Oh, it’s only a joke.  We’re just laughing at ourselves!  It’s a parody!”

1-If there has never EVER been a realistic non-comedic portrayal of JOCs, then why do you think it’s suddenly ok for us to laugh at ourselves? We’ve never been SERIOUS with ourselves yet.  You wanna have fun?  They’ve you’ve gotta do the work first.

2-You think it’s parody.  That’s nice.  What makes you think anyone else cares?  You really think people are going to take the time to do the research?  Or are they just gonna laugh at the Black people entertaining them and move on with their day.  But, yeah, I’m sure you’re right.  Because people are able or even care to differentiate between rumor/parody and fact when it comes to people they see as inferiors.  Because, y’know, there AREN’T people in THIS country who STILL think Jews have horns and Black people have tails.  Because they care that those things aren’t actually true.

But yet there are those people who stubbornly cling to the “It’s just parody” mindset who enable joonery buffoonery to proliferate to a point where even THEY are offended, which is, of course, too late to correct because by that point these images have been pumped into the public consciousness to the point that it is no longer “parody” and now just “fact”.

Take this little progression of joonery buffoonery timeline:

The Big Black Jewish Wedding, March, 2011

;

A Black Jewish couple thinks it’s fun to have two comedians officiate their wedding. How awesome. Why is a wedding on the Jewish Humor Central? “Oh, just leave them alone,” someone said to me. “They’re just trying to have fun with their wedding. People know that’s not how all Black Jewish weddings go.”
Really? How would “people” know this? Based on what? Are there other videos of Black Jewish weddings on YouTube that I somehow missed?

Black and Jewish (Black and Yellow Parody), August, 2011

http://player.ordienetworks.com/flash/fodplayer.swf

“But it’s a PARODY!” people screamed.  “It says so right there!”

Yes.  It DOES say right there that it’s a parody.  A parody of the song “Black and Yellow”.  If people are largely unaware of Black Jews, you’re expecting them to understand that this song ALSO is a parody of Black Jewish life because…?  And again, based on what should they understand it’s a parody of Black Jewish life? Is there a realistic “Black and Jewish” video out there on YouTube?

H.Y.F.R., April 2012

And NOW we hit the goldmine.  Because Drake is mainstream.  He has million of fans.  And since the rest of the world can’t comprehend that REGULAR Black life isn’t like how it’s portrayed in rap videos, Black Jews are now thoroughly screwed, because Drake has just told millions of people “This is what happens at a Black Jewish bar mitzvah”.  And how was he able to do it?  Because people–JOC people–went and co-signed on those first two vids up there saying it was ok.  And now JOCS have to fight something else that wasn’t even a fight in the FIRST place.  Thanks Drake.

Joonery buffoonery folks.  It needs to stop.  Because it’s not very fucking funny.  Fuck your “It’s just parody”.

manishtanasignoff

MaNishtana@manishtana.net

twitter.com/MaNishtana

Order Thoughts From A Unicorn: 100% Black. 100% Jewish. 0% Safe.

Holocaust II: Electric Boogaloo* *(explicit language)

Hello dear readers, I’m MaNishtana.

Remember how I said, like two seconds ago, that it doesn’t make sense to base your choice of American president based on his policies of a country you DON’T live in? That if you’re going to so publicly and vehemently establish your allegiance to a foreign country over the one you actually live in you should probably either just move to that foreign country in the first place or just hush up?

Remember how two weeks later, the Satmar Rebbe himself vocally condemned Jews who bash Obama?  In fact, just to excerpt his words:

“We live in a malchus shel chesed. We enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  But recently self-appointed Jewish leaders have gotten up and insulted the President in the worse way.  Their words have been broadcast on the radio and television and all the media.  Why should Jews come out in public with these sort of statements?  It is provoking the nations to hate us and it brings danger upon Jews not only here but all over the globe. We mustn’t forget that this is exile. Who knows what the effects of this irresponsible behavior could be?”

Remember how a week later, Ron Paul advocated the ending of aid to Israel, stating what essentially every other non-Zionist American is thinking?:

“If we weren’t in the Middle East, it’d be a much greater motivation for Israel to deal with all the people and maybe the Arab League. Maybe they would be talking to the Arab League every single day to work out problems. But they don’t do that, they don’t have the motivation because they know we’ll back them up.”

Remember how in 2009 I first stated that “Black Jew is the New Black”?  And then do you also remember that 2010 then saw the explosion/reveals of Amare Stoudemire, Drake, and Shyne?

Remember how in 2010 I warned against protesting gay marriage on the grounds that it sets precedent for discrimination against other groups, and even used banning of circumcisions as a “barbaric process” as a theoretical example?  Then in 2011, an anti-circumcision bill was on the table in California?

Good.

I would just like to have first established my apparent knack for accurately predicting things.  And I would also like to state that I don’t have any particular desire to be this century’s incarnation of Jeremiah.

But my grandmother, wise woman that she was, used to say to my mom growing up that nothing was learned from the Holocaust, that there would be a second one, and that it would happen here in America. And given the progression of the past decade or so of events, I’d have to concur.

“But how?”, you ask.  “This is America!  Aside from the fact that we run tons of shit but here but pretend not to, it’s the electronic age!  Everybody is in EVERYBODY’S business! There’s no WAY something like the Holocaust could happen again!”

Firstly, ignoring the Lather-Rinse-Wash cycle of Jews thinking they run shit only to be rudely awakened that keeps renewing itself [see: Babylonian conquest, Roman conquest, Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, et al], while everyone was partying away this past New Year’s Eve weekend, a law was quietly being signed into existence: The National Defense Authorization Act.

What’s the NDAA? Oh nothing special.  Just a little law which has now made it perfectly legal to indefinitely detain and/or execute American citizens without a trial.

And boom.  That?  Right there? THAT’S how a second Holocaust can happen.

“But that’s too drastic, too soon,” you say.  “That wouldn’t just happen overnight! They’d never execute an American citizen without trial!”

Well, [excepting for the fact that the government already HAS executed a citizen without trial] it HASN’T happened overnight. It’s BEEN happening.  Most Jews have just been too busy berating their elected officials over Israel or jumping on the general atmosphere of Arab-hating Islamophobia to realize it.

So then let’s illustrate:

The pivotal event establishing Nazi Germany was the Reichstag Fire, an arson attack on the German Parliament. Staged as a Communist plot, then-Chancellor Hitler urged then-President von Hindenburg to pass emergency decrees suspending civil liberties to counter the “ruthless confrontation of the Communist Party of Germany”. Smokescreened by “national security concerns” Hitler & Co. continued to reign in control over government and pass laws that nullified the Constitution. The American counterpoint would be 9-11. While the argument and conspiracy surrounding whether or not it was staged wages on, it’s still undeniable that it was used as a vehicle for open spending and military mobilization.  And those “Constitution nullifying laws”? The Patriot Act of 2001 and the alteration of the Posse Comitatus Act of 2006, both by Bush,Jr. [who I recall as being described as a “friend to the Jews and Israel” or something like that?]. And now, the NDAA, quite disappointingly under President Obama.  And don’t believe the myths about American citizens at home being exempt from the NDAA. The only thing we’re exempt from is MANDATORY military detention.  It’s only an “option” in our case.

The final pillar in the Nazi Regime was war and expansion.  Hey, remember that time we were attacked by Osama bin Laden and we launched a war in revenge…on Saddam Hussein in Saudi Arabia?  By the way, exactly HOW many different wars have we been simultaneously been fighting since Bush, Jr?  I lost count after three.

Now the more religious in the crowd are probably going to say

“But this generation of Jews has seen such a proliferation of study and Judaism! Clearly we’ve got some merits to protect us this time around!”

Well, except for the random stupidity and not-Torah based hatred we see so publicly displayed in the news that no one is addressing.

See, right now you’re probably thinking “Yeah, that IS true.  It’s a shame that this nonsense in Israel is happening with this girl being spat on and the bus segregation and fights.  But what do you mean no one is addressing it? The RCA and the OU just jointly condemned these goings on just the other day!  And the Israeli leaders have been tirelessly working to end the unnecessary sexist segregations on buses and sidewalks!”

And there’s the problem.  Because while I too heard my Rabbi speak on how “embarrassing it is for the world to see Jews behaving and fighting in this way”, there was no such concern when the racist anti-African rally was held in Israel, spoken at by Israeli Parliament member Michael Ben-Ari.  Nor was there any public outcrying when the article on Ha’aretz covering the racist event was mysteriously deleted.  Where were all the voices of the Israeli leadership then?  The RCA? The OU?

Speaking of schooling, where was the outrage this past September when five Ethiopian Israeli girls were told by the Or Chaya Chabad school in Petah Tikva:

“We don’t take in Ethiopian children. We don’t think you match our lifestyle and we’re not sure about your Jewishness either.”

Can’t recall anyone saying how “embarrassing” it was to see Jews treating Jews like this in either of these instances.

“But we have the State of Israel now! This stuff CAN’T happen!”…Except for the fact of–if a group of people has suddenly become undesirable to you–what better place to deport them to than that place they keep harping about “having”?

Seems to me like a very bad time is very quickly ripening.

So maybe, Jews, while things are still up in the air, we should take notice of the signs and act accordingly to dispel them.  Or hey, don’t. After all, what do I know?

[Puts on baggy jeans and hoodie sweatshirt and blends into crowd].

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Methinks The Lady Doth Protest Too Much…

Hi, I’m MaNishtana.

So I’m just chillin, surfing online, when a link to an article pops up.

“Vatican Christmas Shocker!,” the headline screams. “Pope says child rape isn’t that bad, was normal back in his day.”

Ridiculous, I thought.  It’s not enough that Catholics have a (sort of) Nazi pope sweeping child molestation charges underneath the rug with his insidious Sith powers?

Not pictured: John Williams score.

Now he’s saying it’s “not that bad”?? That in was “normal” back “in his day”?? Whatever the hell THAT means?? So I click over to the article and feast my eyes upon its opening paragraph:

“Victims of clerical sex abuse have reacted furiously to Pope Benedict’s claim yesterday that paedophilia wasn’t considered an ‘absolute evil’ as recently as the 1970s. In his traditional Christmas address yesterday to cardinals and officials working in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also claimed that child pornography was increasingly considered ‘normal’ by society. ‘In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,’ the Pope said. ‘It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than’. Nothing is good or bad in itself.’ “

What the WHAT?!

A caption below a picture of Pope read: “Is the game up for the Catholic Church? Sadly not, as many of its brainwashed members will continue to support it in spite of its now overt symptoms of psychopathology.”

And reading the Pope’s comments, I couldn’t agree more…Until I found the Pope’s speech.  His ACTUAL speech.  With his quotes in that funny little thing called “context”. The lines the article quoted are in bold:

“…We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility. But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light. There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society. The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times. From Bishops of developing countries I hear again and again how sexual tourism threatens an entire generation and damages its freedom and its human dignity… In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a “better than” and a “worse than”. Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today…”

Big difference, eh?

Because it seems obvious to me from his entire speech that he is CONDEMNING those in the 70’s who viewed child porn as “normal” as well as those fence-straddlers–including those within the Church–who say there’s “no such thing” as good or evil in and of itself.

But of course, leave it to those rabid anti-religionists to paint religious folk as brainwashed sheep engaged in harmful psychpathology.

Honestly, guys? Gimme a f*cking break and get off your high horse. Bending truths to fit your point? Presenting a distorted version of facts to gain supporters and believers to your cause? Sounds an awful lot like what you say religion does.  Don’t get me wrong: Organized religion DOES have its problems. And they are legion.  Just stop pretending that you guys are better.

See, I’m really not sure when it became vogue not to be merely atheist, agnostic, or a non-believer of religion, but an ANTI RELIGIONIST WITH THE FURY OF A MILLION MILLION SUNS!!

Like, I can’t scroll thru my Facebook newsfeed without seeing some post or video or article from someone about how much they don’t believe in Gd.  Which is just ridiculously obnoxious to me, an ex-Chabad Orthodox Jew, because less than 1% of my posts, links, or statuses have anything remotely to do with religion, and 0% of them, to date, have had the word Gd in them.

Yet every day, like it’s a job, I see posts from the same group of ppl bashing either religion, or Gd, or both, patting themselves on the back for being so critical and deconstructive and philosophical and logical, yet in the same breath saying “Don’t force your religious views on me, the same way I’m forcing my anti-religion views down YOUR throat”.

And then recently, one day, I had enough and decided to comment on a post.  Said post was this picture below:

I’m sure everyone will recognize it as one of the main argument points attacking the “biblical” definitions of marriage.  It is also misleading.  So i decided to address that fact with, y’know, actual facts:

Poster: Here are some examples of “traditional marriage” from the Bible.

Me: Hm. Highly oversimplified and thoroughly inaccurate in some examples, but sure.

Commentor 1: Oversimplified and inaccurate? Where?

Me:

Man & Woman: Even arranged marriages–which isn’t general practice–must have consent of both parties. If either the potential bride or groom arent enamored with their particular option, they can refuse and there’s no match. So there’s plenty of room for marriages based on romantic love. A bride is only stoned in the case of being a virgin at betrothal, but not one at marriage (i.e., she slept around in between the two), stoning being one of the punishments for certain kinds of adultery.
Rapist & Victim: This is creative use of semantics. It’s not the victim who’s stuck marrying her rapist, it’s the rapist who is stuck marrying the victim as punishment. If the victim doesnt want to, there’s no marriage. The 50 shekels isn’t “property damage”, it’s the money less of a virgin’s dowry if she chooses not to marry her rapist, as she’s no longer a virgin.
Man & Brother’s Widow: Again, the only thing “required” here–AGAIN if the woman desires it–is that the deceased brother is given the first opportunity to marry her. If either party does not want to, she is free to marry whomever.
Soldier & Prisoner of War: The soldier isnt permitted to even touch her until after 30 days, and if then she still isn’t interested in the match, she’s set free unmolested.
Additionally, in NONE of these cases is the wife required to “sexually submit” to her husband. Sex, is in fact, at the WIFE’S prerogative.
Poster: Thanks for clarifying MaNishtana. So the “punishment” for rape is marriage. Interesting.
Me: For the guy? Yes. That is, of course, in cases of rape when the guy wasn’t put to death.
Poster: Funny how the men were permitted polygamy, but the women weren’t.
Me: Laws of inheritance. Harder to figure out who is the son of who with multiple possible fathers. See: Maury.
Poster: Yeah, but the “laws of inheritance” wouldn’t have been a problem if these misogynists would have allowed women to inherit or pass wealth down to their own children. May not know who the daddy is, but you’d damn sure know who the mother is.
Me: And in some cases women CAN inherit and pass down wealth.
Commentor 2: Also I missed the part in the Bible where God says “but women have a right to turn down these relationships and sex even if they are slaves/concubines”.
Me: Show me that part in the Bible again where women are commanded to submit sexually against their will?
Poster: ‎”In some cases.” Like in the cases where there are no men to inherit, you mean?
Me: No. I mean in cases where the inheritance has been given as a a “gift” to circumvent such. As well as other scenarios.
Poster: Yeah. The Bible is so progressive on women’s issues. You’ve convinced me of that MaNishtana. (If you didn’t know, that was sarcasm.)What the punishment for a man who isn’t a virgin or who commits adultery?
Me: In some cases a man who commits adultery gets the death sentence. There’s no punishment for a man OR woman engaging in extramarital sexual relations (if there’s no issue of adultery/betrothal/rape/adultery/coercion, etc. or other likewise mitigating factors) besides lashes.
Poster: Isn’t that only if he sleeps with another man, though?
Me: Nope.
Poster: And what about the man who isn’t a virgin? What’s his punishment for not being a virgin?
Me: AGAIN, there is no “punishment” for a WOMAN not being a virgin. These examples on this chart are SPECIFIC cases which involve infidelity. Hence the “oversimplified” and “inaccurate” comment which began the conversation.

It always amuses me, aside from the fact that a lot of anti-religionists argue from the same place of unfocused indignant passion and lack of knowledge on the subject matter that they charge religious crowd of operating in, that, in a world where rational people can accept that they wouldn’t understand Shakespeare–which was written only 500 years ago and in English–were it not for the commentary explaining the words/situations/and jokes in context, and that in a world where they admit they didn’t “get” a scene in a movie from LAST YEAR until they played the director’s commentary on the DVD, that they feel that they are completely equipped to provide a justified and accurate opinion on an English, translated from Latin, translated from Greek, translated from Hebrew verse from a 2000 year old book while they simultaneously and pigheadedly refuse to read in context or accept the existing commentary on, and reject said context and commentary when such enlightenment is offered.

Hm.  Irrationally rejecting presented facts when they challenge your belief system.  Funny. Sounds like what religious people are accused of in the face of things like “science” and “fact” and “logic”.

Don’t have a heart attack now, but you anti-religionists? You DO have a religion. It’s the religion of being blindly ANTI-religion. And you can be just as myopic, bigoted, condescending, self-righteous, dismissive and illogical as the organized religion that you rail against, all in your quest to prove that anything religiously derived/influenced is unequivocally wrong and primitive.

But let’s say you’re right. Let’s say all you atheists/anti-religionists are really the enlightened ones, and us silly religious and Gd-believing folks are the sheep in the dark.  That sounds pretty plausible, right?  I mean after all, we’re the kooks who believe the world is only six thousand years old when modern science places the Big Bang about 13-15 billion years ago, yeah?

Well, except for that little fact that Rabbi Yitzchak of Akko postulated that the Universe was 15,340,500,000 years old in the 13th century, using calculations based on that silly thing called, *gasp*, the Bible. A whole six to seven hundred years before you religion-bashing science folk got caught up to speed.

Pretty cool feat for us backwards thinkers, no?

I mean, it would’ve been pretty cool.  If Rabbi Nechunya ben HaKana hadn’t come up with the figure of 15.8 billion even earlier than that…in the 1st century.

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Well I Never!

Hey, I’m MaNishtana, and as I sign into my Facebook newsfeed I discover that Israel has pulled their whole “Dont marry those evil American Jews” campaign.

Hi. Larious.

For those not in the know, last week the Israeli government launched an ad campaign, sponsored by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that “warn” Israelis that they will lose their national identities if they marry American Jews.

One video shows the horrified faces of Israeli grandparents as their granddaughter identifies a menorah as being representative of Christmas.  A second shows a clueless American boyfriend thinking that the music and candles in the apartment he shares with his Israeli girlfriend are for a romantic evening, not in remembrance of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s day of mourning.  A third shows a young child addressing his father as “Daddy” instead of the Hebrew “Aba”. You can find two of the videos below (presuming, of course, that they haven’t been removed by the time you read this.)

Now, I find these videos, and the outrage that has arisen from them on the U.S. side, quite amusing.

Firstly, I really don’t get the political mindset of the majority of American Jews.  For those who don’t realize it yet, us American Jews? We don’t live in Israel.  So why American Jews constantly base their electoral choice of president of the country that they DO live in based on his policies of the foreign country they DONT live in has always baffled me. The only concern really, should be if a presidential candidate intends to maltreat the Jews in the country that HE IS ACTUALLY BEING ELECTED TO BE PRESIDENT OF.

Do Hispanics vote on presidents based on their policies on Mexico or the Dominican Republic?  Do African-Americans base their votes on the contingent that a president provide constant aid to Rwanda?  So why, Jews, is it a mitigating factor that to the detriment of the country that, again, YOU ACTUALLY LIVE IN [i.e., two terms of Bush, Jr.], that you choose a president based on his involvement in a country that YOU DO NOT??

Ah, what’s that?  Because they’re our brethren, you say?  Well I suppose that’s because we’re all Jews, no?

So then, if we’re all Jews, what is this amorphous “Israeli identity” that children will seem to be losing?  For me it doesn’t really seem to be anything beyond the ability to speak Hebrew. Religion isn’t really a factor.  There’s plenty of Israelis who are completely secular and have never even looked at America on a map. Chanukah isn’t any more of a religious holiday to the average Israeli than Xmas is to the average American, so it’s clearly not religious outrage that the grandparents in that one video are showing. Hell, as everyone keeps spouting at the top of their lungs, the State of Israel is a SECULAR country. For all intents and purposes, Israeli culture is pretty much  just American culture in Hebrew, plus missiles and a lot more hummus. Non-kosher food? Porn industry? Club life? Large secular population? Religious fanatics? Vehement anti-religionists? Warfare culture? Emphasis on Holocaust remembrance? Islamophobia? Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check, and check.

So what exactly are Israelis “losing” here in America that marrying American Jews is such a huge factor of? Nothing that I can really see.  Then again, I’m American.  Which means I’m prone to mistake Yizkor candles for romantic tealights.  More importantly, why are American Jews surprised?  If you don’t particularly have any sort of respect/allegiance to the country you live in, do you really expect other people to have respect for YOU? [See: the concept of an enemy army welcoming a defector/traitor into their ranks].

Also, like you keep harping on, Israel is a SECULAR country, remember?  Secular countries are known for two things:

1-Being nationalistic.

2-Telling Jews to bend over and grab their ankles.

So color me surprised.

I think the most humorous part of all of this is the severe feeling of “BURN!” that American Jews are feeling, that after all the rallies outside of the UN, and Jewish-American politicians who chide American foreign policy vis a vis Israel, and aid organizations, and tons and tons of military aid and warfare involvement, and presidential voting choices, that Israel essentially just said:

“Hey thanks for all the money and support and outrage at the leaders of the country that you live in and the influence that you exert on your foreign policy where Israel is concerned even though it essentially has no bearing on your life in America, and please make sure to keep it coming.  Just don’t marry our daughters you filthy Jews.”

manishtanasignoff

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Heeeeere turkey turkey turkey turkey….

Hi, I’m MaNishtana.

Here we are, nearly at the end of November, which means I get asked one or all of the following three questions:

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Your family doesn’t do Thanksgiving?!”

“Why don’t you do Thanksgiving??”

To which my half-shrug reply usually is:

To non-Jews: “We’re Jewish. We have enough holidays. Why add more?”

To Jews: “Don’t we have enough holidays? Why add more?”

And actually, until moving to the Midwood area, the concept of Jews celebrating Thanksgiving was completely foreign to me. As was the concept of celebrating Halloween or 4th of July. Which got me to thinking: “Can Jews celebrate Thanksgiving? (And to a lesser extent 4th of July, Halloween, etc)?”

So here I present the condensed and Halachic (at least for us Orthos) opinion on the matter, compiled from a gajillion sources, pamphlets and websites. Grab some cocoa and snuggle up under a blanket, kids. This might take a while.

First and foremost, there is the Biblical injunction against imitating the customs of “the nations”, ie, non-Jews:

“After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.” (Lev 18:3).

Generally this is interpreted as one of two opinions:

1-A prohibition against idolatrous customs and a prohibition against “foolish” non-Jewish customs even if they aren’t idolatrous in origin.

2-A prohibition only against customs with an idolatrous origin. Other non-Jewish customs are permissible so long as there’s a reasonable explanation and they’re not immodest.

And generally, halacha goes with the second opinion, as noted by the Rama:

“Those practices done as a [Gentile] custom or law with no reason, one suspects that it is an idolatrous practice or that there is a taint of idolatrous origins; however, those customs which are practiced for a reason, such as the physician who wears a special garment to identify him as a doctor, can be done; the same is true for any custom done out of honor or any other reason is permissible” (Rama YD 178:1)

Which pretty means yes to things like 4th of July, Veteran’s Day, and Father’s Day, but no to things like Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and—brace yourself—Mother’s Day.

Why not those days?

Well, Valentine’s and Patrick’s Day are “Saint” days, both obviously having Catholic origins and so get crossed off the list. Even if we argue they are divorced from their religious origins, there is already a Jewish “love” holiday—15th Av—and—even though a drinking-just-to-drink holiday is not the kind of debauchery to be religiously sanctioned—there are “holy” equivalents in Purim and Simchat Torah, thereby eliminating the need to celebrate either Valentine’s or St. Patty’s.

Halloween is a combination of the Celtic pagan holiday Samhain and the Catholic church’s reaction to it. Either way, the practices memorialized—communion with the dead, walking between bonfires for purification—are incompatible with and forbidden in Jewish tradition. Even if an attempt were made to divorce it from its pagan roots, there is still no rational reason to go from house to house dressed in costume to request candy on the last day of October. (However, it is allowed to give candy if only one feels it is necessary to prevent undue hostility if people will be angry or insulted.) Additionally, these are also practices which have a permissible equivalent in Purim and the various yahrzeit and Yizkor services throughout the year.

Mother’s Day—the surprise sleeper on the list—is actually derived from two non-sanctioned religious sources: the Roman Matronalia, dedicated to Juno, and Mothering Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Lent to honor the Virgin Mary and one’s “mother” church (the main church in the area). The rest of Mothering Sunday was used visiting family and giving gifts to one’s mother. This is dealt with slightly more leniently because, divorced from its non-Jewish roots, it still finds legitimacy as a day to honor one’s mother (despite the fact that this day too is unnecessary, as honoring one’s mother is a daily commandment).

*whew*

So. Concerning Thanksgiving, the question is: Does it have non-sanctioned religious origins as a holiday?

History time.

The usual story behind Thanksgiving is that it commemorates the Pilgrims having successfully survived the harsh American winter. And the Pilgrims did commemorate this event. Once. On July 30, 1623. That’s not only not the modern November Thanksgiving, it’s also the middle of the summer, for those of us keeping score. There were similar “Holy crap, we survived another winter!” celebrations of “thanksgiving” throughout the 1600’s, none of them being the annual commemoration of the First Thanksgiving.

In the 1700’s, individual colonies would randomly designate a day of thanksgiving in honor of military victories, adoption of a state constitution, having a really good crop, or scoring a sweet new tricorn hat. Most often than not these days would be marked with prayer and fasting, not feasting and fighting one’s in-laws.

On November 26, 1789, George Washington declared a Thanksgiving that year, declaring the first national “Thanksgiving”, which, while rife with references to “G-d” and “L-rd” was absent often stating anything of “Jesus Christ” (as had the 1777 declaration of Thanksgiving). There was, however, the “in the year of our Lord 1789” at the end.

Thanksgivings were also declared in 1795, ‘98, ’99, 1814, and twice in 1815. It didn’t finally land annually or anywhere near where we know it know until 1863, when it was proclaimed an annual holiday by Abraham Lincoln on the final Thursday in November, also bereft of “Jesus Christ” references, and in 1934 it was moved to the fourth Thursday of November by Franklin Roosevelt to spur holiday shopping and increase spending.

That’s right. Thanksgiving is essentially what it is so people would spend more money. Almost sounds Jewish already. But is it halachically secular or religious?

According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein—who wrote his first responsum on the matter in 1953, 19 years after Thanksgiving officially became what it is today—the answer is “just” secular, because:

“Since it is clear that according to their religious law books this day is not mentioned as a religious holiday and that one is not obligated in a meal [according to Gentile religious law]…halakhah sees no prohibition in celebrating with a meal or with the eating of turkey.”

However, he does say that, “pious people should be strict” concerning days like Thanksgiving and New Year’s and it is nonetheless “prohibited to establish this as an obligation and religious commandment and it remains a voluntary celebration.”

Why?

Well, because of the prohibition against adding holidays to the Jewish calendar:

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deut 4:2)

Such a prohibition becomes relevant when a celebration becomes a “holiday” through the creation of an annual observance. Therefore, this is a problem with celebrating not only any secular holiday every year, but also modern Jewish ones such as Yom Yerushalayim, Yom Ha’Atzmaut, and Yom Hashoa. Modern Jewish holidays actually pose more of a problem than secular ones, because secular ones lack any ritualized prayer component, formal activities, or obligatory liturgy such as the recital of Hallel, in sharp contrast with modern Jewish ones.

However some leniency can be applied to Thanksgiving since it does not have a fixed date and changes from year to year.

End result?

Yeah, Thanksgiving is technically allowable. Should you avoid it? Probably. But if you don’t, just don’t do it every year.

Enjoy your turkey day, ppl. 😀

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Lights! Camera! Faction!

Hi, I’m MaNishtana. Ever feel like your life is just one long academic paper with footnotes that keep referring back to things?

Just bear with me here…

Hey kids!

Remember a couple of weeks ago (like, oh, July 14th) when I put out the call for lil JOCs on video to combat the rather monochromatic “What Will The Jewish Future Look Like? “ video from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles?

Well there I was with all these videos, getting ready to compile the response video when I received a Facebook email from Jared Jackson, founder of Jews In ALL Hues, saying:

“My friend, we NEED to talk. It has spread to Philly.”  Included was a link to a video by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia entitled “What’s YOUR Ish?”

Wow.  Really?  Not even someone ambiguous like the maybe Asian looking kid in the first video?

Now, seeing this, I thought, “Well, this video is gonna have to be a little bit bigger then and include grown-up types”…until Jared said:

“It gets worse. They started calling jocs and dual heritage Jews “those interfaith people” on their Twitter feed.”

WHAT?! Aw, hellllllll nah.

So I booked it over to Twitter:

JewsinALLHues @JFedinPhilly “Sun, Sand and Shiksas!” What? Were any dual-heritage Jews consulted about this?

JFedinPhilly @jewsinallhues Dual heritage? You mean interfaith ppl? No, but tell us what you think on facebook.com/phillyjewISH! What is your #ish?

Um, what? And so the JOC Twitter League rose to action.

Jews in ALL Hues @JFedinPhilly “interfaith ppl” is not what we mean by dual-heritage Jews at all. DHJ’s are Jews. Feel free to visit our FB to learn.
Swirl Girl @JFedinPhilly not to mention, that while some of us “dual heritage” jews r from interfaith families, many rn’t.
Swirl Girl @JFedinPhilly + there r many single heritage J.O.C.s; doesn’t make ’em ne less Jewish + im sure there r some (kids) in philly
MaNishtana @JFedinPhilly “interfaith”? do i look “interfaith” to you? no wait, dont answer that. dont want your head to explode.
Rivka13 @JFedinPhilly – again! it would be appropriate if the jfed would acknowledge that there are jews that r not ashkenaz!
Rivka13 @JFedinPhilly – we r black, brown, sephardi, etc. some even born not made! need to model inclusiveness!!!
Jews in ALL Hues @MaNishtana @Swirl_Girl SO glad that we’re on the same page! 😀 All of our experiences are unique and should be honored as such.
Jews in ALL Hues @MaNishtana @Swirl_Girl @Rivka13 @mochajuden Thank you for the support! Let’s keep it up!
Personal Wallaby @JFedinPhilly “Dual heritage” does NOT mean “interfaith”. Plenty of 100% halachically Jewish people identify as @jewsinallhues #Annoyedish
So we’ve got a great momentum going right?  You think the JFed is gonna apologize or something soon right?  Then Jared tweets from his private account:
 
JaredEJackson @JFedinPhilly that was truly offensive. I’m sure that a lot of my friends who have converted as well as others would agree with me.
…To which JFed replies:
 
JFedinPhilly @JaredEJackson Offensive? Really? Why don’t you start the debate – join our conversation at http://on.fb.me/olBOu4 & tell ALL your friends!

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. “Debate”?  Did you really just say join the “debate” if you exist or not? WTF?

 
Swirl Girl @JFedinPhilly i don’t understand y it needs to be a *debate* that we exist and should be featured as a part of the future?
JaredEJackson @JFedinPhilly you know @Swirl_Girl is absolutely right. I won’t have my authenitcity challenged. There isn’t a debate to be had.
Swirl Girl @JFedinPhilly However, if you would like to ask us (well, me but i think us) questions because you actually care, i’m open

Now I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking this is when JFed says “Oops, we f*cked up.  Our bad.”  Well let’s see:

JFedinPhilly @personalwallaby @JewsinALLhues website says, “a safe space for people from interfaith families” so how is that not interfaith?

Umm…Since when does coming from an interfaith family make YOU interfaith?  Additionally, why are you unable to make the connection that a group called “Jews In ALL Hues” mentioning “dual-heritage” is probably talking about, y’know, HUES?

JewsinALLHues @JFedinPhilly  Either way. Having one non-jewish parent does NOT make you an “Interfaith” person. We do offer trainings…

And here is where I jumped back into the fray.  Because I personally know that while Jews In ALL Hues does work with interfaith families, it works a lot with just JOCS in general (y’know, that whole “Hues” thing).  So I was completely baffled why JFed was confused, because I knew that “a safe space for people from interfaith families” couldn’t have POSSIBLY been the sole group descriptor.  So I headed over to the website.

On the front page–dab smack in the middle–is the welcome blurb which reads:
 
“Jews in ALL Hues is a grassroots organization whose purpose is to create diverse, welcoming communities for dual (or multiple) heritage Jews through dynamic workshops and events; creating inclusive educational, social and professional initiatives approaching many topics that face the Jewish community today.”
 
Hrm.  Nothing about interfaith there.  On the blurb to the left there’s another synopsis:
 
“Jews in ALL Hues is a grassroots organization whose purpose is to create diverse, welcoming communities for dual (or multiple) heritage Jews”
 
Hmph.  Still no mention of interfaith.  But JFed couldn’t have been pulling this from thin air, right?  So I head to the “Ground Rules” and find this:
 
www.jewsinallhues.org is a safe place to explore the GIFTS and challenges of growing up with Dual (or multiple/Jewish/ Non-Jewish/interfaith/conversion) Heritages in today’s world.”
Wait.  Wait wait wait wait wait.  JFed, PLEASE don’t tell me that what you did, is IGNORE both mission statements on the front page obviously advocating racial diversity, pore over the site, and blatantly IGNORE the “multiple/Jewish/Non-Jewish/conversion” portions of the sentence that you RE-EDITED to prove your myopic point.  Tell me that’s not what you did.
MaNishtana @JFedinPhilly  the website says @JewsInALLHues  “is a grassroots organization whose purpose is to create diverse, welcoming communities…”
MaNishtana @JFedinPhilly “for dual (or multiple) heritage Jews through dynamic workshops and events; creating inclusive educational…”
MaNishtana @JFedinPhilly “…social and professional initiatives approaching many topics that face the Jewish community today.”
MaNishtana @JFedinPhilly and did u miss the REST of the sentence you quoted and selectively edited??
MaNishtana @JFedinPhilly “is a safe place to explore challenges of Dual (or multiple/Jewish/Non-Jewish/interfaith/conversion) Heritage?”
MaNishtana @JFedinPhilly so #confused or #readingcomprehensionfail

Oddly enough, they didn’t tweet back at me.  They DID tweet back at personalwallaby, tho:
PersonalWallaby @JFedinPhilly A JOC is a non-white Jew. Like white Jews, many are 100% Jewish, some are interfaith. Capiche?
JFedinPhilly @personalwallaby @JewsinALLhues Capiche! Thank you!
So yes, kids.  There is a vid coming, a little later than I’d anticipated, but a LOT bigger.  So keep sending those vids of your kids.  Send in vids of YOU.  No age, denomination, color restrictions apply.  Just send.  There’s a ball we need to get rolling.
By the way, that “Black and Jewish” video everyone was talking about a couple weeks ago?  The one that i said was funny but a double-edged sword?  The one about which the Huffington Post says: “Mark your calendars, because July 2011 is the official point in human history that the black Jewish community got their long-awaited anthem.”?
Last I heard JFed was gonna put it up to see on their website as a “good depiction” of Black Jews.
Still funny now?

BlackandJewish, not Black AND Jewish

Hi, I’m MaNishtana.

So.

One bright morning in the middle of the night, I’m trolling through the Facebook, and I find this lil gem posted on my wall: a video from Funny-or-Die entitled “Black and Jewish (Black and Yellow Parody)”. Here, check it out:

http://www.funnyordie.com/embed/d056b3dd60

Now.

Is the video funny?

…Yes.

Did you see the caution there?

Why?

Cuz I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it.

Look, I think it’s great that there’s this ridiculous little parody video out there that mocks both “Black” and “Jewish” stereotypes, is promoting the fact that those who are both don’t have to “choose” which one they are and can blend both parts of their identity, and the fact that there are now two more JOCs out there in the public arena who were fairly unknown before, or at least their Jewish heritage was unknown [because honestly I think we were ALL getting a little tired of Lenny Kravitz and Sammy Davis, Jr. being paraded out every four seconds and Drake is quickly on his way to being just as always ran].

However.

This video is also a HUUUUUUGGGEE doubled-edged sword. Because it does all of the following things:

1-While this video is great for those JOCs who are biracial/multiracial, what about those of us who arent?  All this vid is really doing is furthering the idea that you have to be part-White to be Jewish.  That to be Black and Jewish, you have to be Black AND Jewish.  Now, when people of dual-ethnicites make vids like this, its an implicit co-signing of the “fact” that non-converted Jews who aren’t part-White don’t make “sense”.  Case in point?  Twice in the video, picture montages of celebrity JOCs flash on the screen.  Not only are the requisite Lenny Kravitz/Sammy Davis Jr./Drake shots present, absent is a photo of Yaphet Kotto, a fairly well-known, fully Black, fully Jewish actor.  Why?  Dunno.  But again, I’m think it’s awesome for people with that diverse background to identify with this video, however it also simultaneously pushes acceptance/awareness of Jews like me further back.

2-It equates “Jewish” with “White”.  Check the lyrics: “Black dad/Jewish mom”.  What kind of Jewish mom?  Syrian? Indian? Ethiopian?  Nigerian?  Mexican?  Puerto Rican?  African-American?  Oh, you mean Ashkenazi Jewish mother.  Well you didnt say that.

3-It promotes being Ashkenazi as the standard default majority setting for being Jewish.  Big noses are not “Jewish”.  They are Ashkenazi.  Bagels and lox are not “Jewish”.  They are Ashkenazi.  Gefilte fish isn’t “Jewish”.  It’s Ashkenazi.  If someone whose mom was a Chinese Jew from Kaifeng and his dad was “Black” [b/c apparently we only need to identify the race and not the religion] and he said he was “pouring hot sauce on my Chicken Lo Mein”, would that sound “Jewish” to you? Exactly.  But to him, Chicken Lo Mein is “Jewish”.  Because he’s Chinese.

Now, all that having been said, this video is actually fairly hilarious and we have two new JOCs on the scene speaking to their own experiences.   I can’t expect them to speak to mine, because they’re not me, any more than I could speak for theirs, because I’m not them.

I just hope that, now that they’ve opened the door, they’re willing to hold it open so I can walk through too.

Are they?

manishtanasignoff

MaNishtana@manishtana.net

twitter.com/MaNishtana

Order Thoughts From A Unicorn: 100% Black. 100% Jewish. 0% Safe.