Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Godammit, Alan Colmes

Alan Colmes, still obviously miffed from the Ann Coulter idiocy from the last two weeks, says he wants to give her the opportunity to apologize. She refuses. He quotes "my friend, Conservative rabbi Shmuley Boteach."

Dammit Alan. He's freaking Orthodox. Weird, yes. But at least get the MOVEMENT right. Jesus.

Ann counters by saying she's got 1000 Orthodox rabbis on her side. Alan says that plenty of Jewish organizations have condemned her. She says the same people that hate her hate Dennis Prager.

Wow, I wonder why. Could it be because he spends most of his time alternately fellating and defending first-tier Conservative commentators such as your self, even when they say things that are plainly ridiculous and arguably offensive?

Ann decides to get HER dander up, thank you very much, saying Colmes should explain why what she said is antisemitic. He bumbles for a while, clearly not expecting this. God fucking dammit, Alan. Just give me your job and go home. He attempts to yell at her for a while, but isn't really doing a good job. She finishes by rambling on about how she's offended at the implication that being a Christian is antisemitic (now who's putting words in people's mouths?) and then making idiotic comments about how the battle isn't between Christians and Jews but the faithful and secularists- which would be more convincing if she hadn't been wasted most of her time making Democrats-are-stupid-when-it-comes-to-the-Bible-jokes.

Since Ann and Alan gave me another excuse, here's a little more commentary on CoulterGaffe 2007, part Six, from some interesting sources: Arutz Sheva. Two women, both religious Jews and Zionists, one in Jerusalem and one in the Golan. One thinks Coulter is a jerk, the other says she's a useful tool to wake Jews up.

Penina Taylor, a "former missionary who returned to the faith of her people" reminds her readers that Coulter's comment shouldn't be a newsflash:

What gets me isn't that Ms. Coulter thinks that all Jews need to be Christians - I could have told you that. What gets me is that the Jewish world has convinced itself that the Evangelical Christian Right doesn't really want us all to convert to Christianity. Hello? Is anyone home out there?

"Evangelical" means "missionary." That's what it means. And the Jewish world, Israel in particular, so much wants the friendship and financial support of the Christian world that they've convinced themselves that Evangelicals are not missionaries, that they don't want to convert us.

Let me give you a little Bible lesson here. Evangelical Christians who are calling themselves Zionists and who give moral and financial support to Israel do so because they believe with every fiber of their beings that the Christian Bible - what they call the Old and New Testaments - are the word of God. They believe every word of it, literally. That's why they are generally very good, moral people and that is also why they believe, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who does not believe in Jesus will go to Hell. That includes the Jews.

Pretty much, which is why it's hypocritical for folks that ignore evangelicals or consider them useful idiots will take their money and political support and keep quiet except when they remind them that they're not supporting Israel and the Jews JUST because they liked Fiddler on the Roof, but also because, yes, despite what some of them may say, they do indeed want to save our souls.

Taylor concludes:

So I would like to say one thing to Ann Coulter: Thank you! Thank you for saying out loud what some of us have known all along, but many of us were afraid to accept. Thank you for getting the Jewish community upset about something that it should be upset about and for speaking the truth, even if it came out by accident.

Yes, Ann Coulter is useful to beat RW Jews over the head with, but that doesn't mean I want to take her out to lunch as a thank you.

Ellen Horowitz, who I can't recall ever having agreed with, is a little more up my self-righteous indignation alley.

...some Jews who were enamored with Ann have just found out that those spindly legs that graced the cover of Time are made of clay. Others, like David Horowitz, are doing their best to make repairs on a very flawed "Ms. Right" by propping her up and declaring her an honest Christian woman.

How about an honest assessment from the right-wing Jewish pundits who, in light of over-the-top US Christian nationalism, may have to reassess their loyalties and direction?

Damn straight, and quite refreshing, too.

Horowitz goes on to identify more cases of Jews being asleep at the wheel when Coulter's "rah-rah-Christians" cheer reared its head:

Coulter has always worn her cross on her sleeve (when she wears sleeves), but Jews never seem to notice these things until the crucifix is dangling within an inch of our eyes. In response to 9/11, she wrote, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." But "them" wasn't us, and so we let it pass.

At a lecture at Northwestern University a few years back she declared, "This is a religious war, not against Islam but for Christianity, for a Christian nation.... The concept of equality, especially when it comes to gender equality, was not invented by Gloria Steinem. It was invented by Jesus Christ. As long as people look long enough, they will always come to Christianity."

Good thing we weren't looking.

And it isn't just an issue in America, but in Israel, too. As in America, though, it seems there are always more toadys and supposed pragmatists willing to accept evangelical aid (and money), regardless of whatever strings, theological, political, or otherwise, are attached:

Things are getting sticky for us Jews in Israel, too. What was supposed to be a practical marriage of convenience to improve and strengthen our economic, political and security standing in Israel has been converted into a full blown love affair of Biblical proportions. And our Evangelical partners are pushing for a Judeo-Christian consummation - a spiritual bonding - of our relationship. We should have had a prenuptial agreement drawn up before embarking on this precarious interfaith venture.

Too bad, because we Israelis had always enjoyed tremendous benefits from our connection with Gentile friends and supporters. We didn't have to cross questionable political, legislative, halachic, monetary and spiritual territory in order to nurture and build on that potential. But in our enthusiasm, we created a missionizing monster.

Knowing what we now know about Coulter and company, do we really want to pursue theologically based bonds with Christians who are so passionate about their beliefs? And if we do opt to continue our relationship, how far do we take it?

Should the Jewish people attempt to form a union with another faith whose members can't keep their mouths shut about what they perceive to be the sacred truth, but which to us is utter and explosive blasphemy? With headlines from major Christian Zionist and Jewish Messianic publications boasting that "Jews Beg Christians to Save the Temple Mount," it appears that we have been handed the short end of the grafted Judeo-Christian stick.

The good news is that we hold the key - a common denominator - for Jewish unity. Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, secular and atheist Jews - across the entire political spectrum in both Israel and the Diaspora - all agree that Jesus is not our Lord and savior. Bingo. Maybe saving Judaism, Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael is as simple as saying the Shema.

Perhaps we Jews would be more successful if we would focus on strengthening ourselves and our faith, rather than empowering Christendom in Jerusalem and Washington.

I'm not sure how I feel about Horowitz's proposed "solution" to this issue- it still smells like a covert plug for the Jewish Agency- but she is right that the solution to Jewish problems, politically and otherwise, lies less in strengthening (and particularly overlooking) questionable alliances with potential threats (be they Pat Robertson or ANSWER) and more on keeping dialogue open between all different kinds of Jews. Ignoring all the sins of the Christian right because they're "good for Israel" is just as big a mistake as giving blanket support to anyone on the left. If people like Dennis Prager (or Jack Engelhard) don't understand this simple fact then they're letting their ideology cloud their judgment.

P.S. I found another annoyed commentary on Coulter from another surprising source: fellow Conservative and WND columnist Barbara Simpson. Money quote:

For all her education and media experience, Ann Coulter shows herself to be a narrow-minded, holier-than-thou Christian of the worst sort.

Even the pope had the grace to apologize for the antagonism toward Jews, which long lingered with Catholic laity and many clergy who interpreted Catholic teachings to provide a basis for anti-Semitism.

Coulter's brand of Christianity (she didn't specify which, and they're not all the same) gives all reasoned, educated Christians and Catholics a bad name.


Edit: A Transcript of the Coulter-Colmes not-really-showdown. Amazingly, the commentator seems to look to people like Coulter to help "the American people... be significantly more informed about current events and matters impacting the nation." Talk about two people watching the same thing and yet not. Also check out some of the comments for fun Jew-baiting. But don't worry, I'm sure they're just irked at the liberal ones, of course.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Fun Post on Identity

I had an interesting online conversation with a Breslov BT about a month ago and my views regarding halacha came up. The guy was fairly shocked that I was so open about not really giving a fig about the law, and said as much. "Without Torah, what holds you to Jewish identity?"

Here was my response, slightly edited and clarified:

My approach to Judaism and Jewish identity is predicated on the idea of picking and choosing. I entered into being "actively" Jewish with the understanding that I was not going to let my disinterest in halacha (not Torah per se) become an insurmountable barrier to identifying as a Jew. From an (Orthodox) religious perspective, I am probably a "bad" Jew because my religious observance is nowhere near close to Orthodox. However, since I don't define my Jewishness or Jewish identity according to that scale, it really doesn't come into play. I hold on to my Jewish identity because it's where I come from and because I see no need (and feel no desire) to "become" something else.

However, partially due to my upbringing (secular Jewish with zero Jewish education) and partially my demeanor (fairly skeptical and firmly agnostic), I see my roots as informing my behavior/thought process/perspective, rather than dictating it (basically a rip-off of ol' Rav Kaplan). The fact that 5 generations ago my relatives kept kosher and the laws of purity doesn't make me feel particularly obligated to do those things any more than my Communist g.grandparents' past make me feel obliged to start spouting lines from Das Kapital.

I suppose if I had to identify with a particular group of Jews it would be the Yiddish writers and artists of the early 1900s, who were raised in one world and deliberately left it, though often could never quite make that break completely. By contrast, today where I could very easily leave the Jewish world entirely, I see history, folklore, literature, and yes, some elements of Jewish thought and philosophy (I enjoy cracking the Matt Zohar now and again) as anchoring elements (and frankly, when I have the opportunity, I intend to learn more about Jewish practice so I can have more knowledge and the ability to make more informed and integrated choices about my personal practice). But I don't see any particular need to go from appreciating all those elements of Jewish culture and contributions to following halacha, either to the letter or really, at all. I like the idea of flexibility in practice, approach, and outlook on Jewishness, I like the idea that you can "do" Jewish in a lot of different ways besides just what Maimonides put on his list.

When it comes down to it, I pretty much don't care what the Shulchan Aruch says, apart from cultural/anthropological interest (hence my copies of the Zohar and Sefer Aggadah). If there's a particular custom or ritual that I can get something out of, I might try it (I've fasted on Yom Kippur for almost a decade). But to go from zero to 60 (or 613 as the case may be) for basically no reason... I can't justify that. I wear a yarmulke around the house because I like doing it and it gives me a feeling of connection, not because God said so. I light candles and go to Friday night services (when I do) because I want to, not because someone's looking over my shoulder. And so the same logic carries over into all the things I don't do. Why don't I keep kosher? Because I don't think there's any compelling reason for me to do it. It doesn't resonate with me the way some other things do. It's just that simple. Just like shatnez and kitniyot and family purity and eruvs and so on ad infinitum.

Simply put, my conception of God is not halachic (obviously I'm biased because I'm not halachic, but there you go). Now,if God, existent or not, does not care about halacha, then my only reason for observing the mitzvot is either a skewed form of Pascal's wager (which I'm not very impressed with) or personal and subjective gratification. Self-centered? Admittedly. But in my mind, the only real rational option. I look at the mitzvot and can't avoid thinking that a lot of them are nonsensical (admittedly, this is not helped by books such as this). I can appreciate them (to a degree) as history and custom, even ritual, but I can't accept them as law, certainly not a binding law. I'm happy when people can find beauty and meaning in them, but I reserve the right to opt out if I don't find myself moved in the same way. "But grandpa did it" is not a compelling enough reason for me to subsist on crackers and golf balls for a week every spring, anymore than it would be for me to start speaking Yiddish (great-grandparents) or go become a Jewish cowboy (one crazy g.g.uncle). Is this selfish? To a certain degree, absolutely. But the alternative is to either embrace all of because of "tradition!" (bitty bum-bum), or to chock the whole thing out the window, as quite a few of my relatives have done. I don't see why I need to choose one of these. I don't see why a middle path isn't a better option. I refuse to accept that the only "right" way is to pick Hasid or Trotsky.

I don't begrudge other people following the mitzvot, in whatever interpretation, but I'm not really interested in tagging along, other than semi-regular dabbling in small areas. I'm happy to take what looks appetizing, mull over some of the supposedly healthy bits, and leave the rest for someone else to deal with. Cafeteria Judaism doesn't bother me. In fact it's the only thing that makes sense.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Battle of the Court Jews

I know, it's not nice to call people Court Jews. Or Uncle Jakes. Or suck-ups, or pansies, or whatever. And, to be fair, Shmuley Boteach isn't always a Republican/Christian tool. He's just generally weird.

Anyway, it's interesting to compare Shmuley's reaction to Ann Coulter's bit of theological opining with Dennis Prager's and Yaakov Menken's. And fun to see who can be more simplistic and self-righteous. Let the games begin!

We start things off with one of the lesser-predictable CJs, Shmuley. Though actually, in cases of perceived antisemitism, Shmuley has a pretty well-established track record- he usually gets very mad, very loud, and more than a tad off-track. Not that it's a bad thing to get mad, just that he often goes on to say things that make the situation worse (see his famous "Jews aren't the problem in Hollywood, SECULAR Jews are the problem" riposte to Bill Donohue). Thanks for representing the tribe, Shmoo.

Shmuley, understandably, is a tad pissed by Ann's dopey comments. Unfortunately, his response does not involve calling her a media-whoring jackass, which she is, or identifying that, as her defenders are saying, this is a fairly incontrovertible position among traditionalist Protestants, and thereby use it as an opportunity to discuss some of the stickier issues in the Protestant-Jewish alliance. No, Shmuley always has to go for the one-up-manship. He does this by trying to demonstrate that he is more knowledgeable about Christianity than the Coulters of the world- specifically, that Jesus was a Jew, and exclusively practiced and preached Judaism.
Jesus derived all his principal teachings from Judaism. His aphorisms are restatements of earlier biblical verses, and his allegories are mostly teachings of the rabbis that are found in the Talmud.
Pretty much, but this isn't the same as:
Judasim was the faith practiced by Jesus for his entire life, and from which he never wavered.
This discounts all the areas of the Gospels where Jesus and his disciples deliberately break the law. I wrote about this subject a number of times in college, and basically concluded that the problem is a lack of clarity from Jesus on how he defines the law. Shmuley quotes extensively from the Sermon on the Mount to demonstrate how Jesus cribs it from rabbinic sources, but clearly doesn't understand how it functions rhetorically. The Sermon is significant because it defines the contours of Jesus' teachings as going even farther and stricter than the rabbis. Now, this does not preclude Jesus from still upholding the law, in fact it strengthens many of them- at least, the ones he mentions. But most of Jesus' supererogatory amendments are to ethical, not ritual, laws, and there's nothing, other than his ambiguous statement that "I have come to fulfill, not destroy" that tells the reader where he stands on ritual law. By contrast, the Gospels record quite a few occasions where Jesus and his followers violate associated purity and Shabbat laws, with nary a cross word from the big guy.

Shmuley goes so far as to bring out the big gun, the best example of Jesus breaking Shabbat, the cornfield incident. Shmuley tries to maintain that this still demonstrates Jesus' Jewishness because he uses a Jewish argument to justify himself.
In trying to prove Jesus' break from the rabbis and tradition, the New Testament relates that Jesus allowed his apostles to desecrate the Sabbath. But in justifying the desecration, Jesus famously says: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." This pronouncement is actually a classic rabbinic statement.

Jesus' disciples were in a field and they picked corn, which indeed violates biblical law. And while the New Testament does not give us the story's background, the nature of Jesus' answer to the critical "Pharisees" seems to supply us with a clue.

He refers to an incident in the book of Kings where David is fleeing his enemy with a few loyal men. Their lives are in danger and they have no food. David allows his men to eat the showbread in the Temple in order to save their lives, even though they were not priests and were thus not permitted to eat the showbread. What Jesus is thereby inferring is that he has allowed his students to break the Sabbath and pick corn because their lives are in danger and they are in desperate need of food.

The Talmud says, 'The Sabbath was handed over to you, and you were not handed over to the Sabbath.' This maxim, directly echoing Jesus' words, is found throughout the Babylonian Talmud, for example in Yoma 85b. The Talmud takes it for granted that human life must be saved at all costs, and the question of keeping the Sabbath when life is endangered is quickly brushed aside.

All of this is technically true, but Shmuley himself is brushing aside the larger question of what this example means. At best, Jesus is playing rabbinic pilpul. At worst, he's acting like a Jewish Rasputin or Jacob Frank, claiming to be fulfilling the law by violating it. Suggesting that this definitely proves his position on Jewish law one way or the other seems quite a stretch.

What I find so annoying about all this isn't just Shmuley's lazy scholarship, but the fact that he's side-stepping the issue. If what Coulter said was offensive, then he should talk about that on its merits, not waste his time trying to show that she's a poorly-educated Christian because she doesn't know how Jewish Jesus was. It makes no different if he was an Orthodox Jew or a Hare Krishna, that isn't the point. The answer to assholery is to identify it as such and explain why, not cry that Christians should be nice to Jews because they kind of are Jews, kind of. We don't need to prove Jesus' Jewishness to justify ourselves to Christians, and the implication that we do is a very old world, shtetl-ish, "please, benevolent Christian lord, save us from the mob" kind of thinking that I for one find rather unattractive.

Now that we've dipped our toes in with Shmuley, it's time to really go for a dunk in the Minstrel Mikvah. Yaakov Menken, you're up!

What happened was that Donny Deutsch, a Jewish talk-show host, asked her what her dream America would look like. And she said it would "look like New York during the Republican National Convention." Note, of course, that for her to want everyone to be Republican is not considered offensive. No one would dare condemn her for thinking her political ideology is correct. After all, Teddy Kennedy and MoveOn.org have the same flaw in a very different direction.

This is crap. See the longer Prager fisking below.

But Deutsch isn't satisfied with the answer. He says no, no, not just the politics, what's the country going to look like. And she says "Well, everyone would root for America, the Democratic Party would look like Joe Lieberman, the Republican Party would look like Duncan Hunter…" Hey, did you notice? Her model Democrat is a kike!

Hang on, Cross-Currents censors comments like Satmars burn billboards, but KIKE gets in? Nice quality control there, guys. That's super heimishe for the frum yiddishe bochers. And what a coincidence that her model Jew is perceived by many as a total stooge for the Republicans and their Judeo-Christian hegemony. Isn't that a little like Bill Donohue saying his favorite Jew is Cardinal Lustiger? Or Shabbetai Zvi?

Deutsch isn't done, so he keeps after her until she says "Well, OK, take the Republican National Convention. People were happy. They're Christian. They're tolerant. They defend America, they…" and we'll never find out what else they are, because that's when Deutsch leaped down her throat.

Truly, the greatest tragedy for man's intellectual advancement since the day Moses smashed the tablets, or Dickens' wife burned the first draft of Tale of Two Cities. Maybe someone should write a piyyut about it for Yom Kippur Yizkor Service: Cossacks, Inquisition, Hitler, Ann Coulter getting interrupted! Gasp! ("Forgive us, pardon us," Thump, thump, thump.) Or it could go in the Al Cheit.

In reality, Coulter shows a pretty liberal Christian perspective. Deutsch says to her "So I should not be a Jew, I should be a Christian, and this would be a better place?" Her answer: "Well, you could be a practicing Jew, but you're not." Catch that? Her view is that a better America would be a more religious America.

Cop-out. She goes on to say that the ideal model is Christianity.

She also says, "We believe your religion, but you have to obey." Judaism isn't wrong according to her version of Christianity (as I said, she is pretty liberal).

Compared to who, the Klan? Most Christian denominations believe some version of this, even Catholics. They also have the good sense to shut up when it comes to "who's really right," knowing it doesn't go anywhere good.

Is this a surprise? In the words of Iago, the obviously, stereotypically Jewish-sounding parrot in Disney's Alladin—the Jewish character is the one with the mile-long shnozolla, and no one gets upset at that—"I think I'm just going to die from that surprise!" [Yeah, he's Jewish all right.]

A few things:

A- Yaakov watched a movie? Does his Rav know?

B- That movie doesn't promote Jewish values: it whitewashes Islam and the Arab world (no dhimmis), glamorizes a life of crime and homelessness, promotes witchcraft and sorcery, encourages materialism and deception, and of course, Princess Jasmine's outfit is definitely not tznius.

C- A Disney movie? Doesn't he know Walt was a huge antisemite? What's next, buying a Ford? Or maybe a Mercedes, God forbid?

D- The actor playing Iago, Gilbert Godfried, is a huge Jew, but the voice was not specially created for that character- he's like Fran Drescher; that's how he ALWAYS talks (more's the pity).

E- Parrots have large beaks. That's just the way their face looks. Are we going to claim Pinnochio is a MOT next? How about Flipper?

F- Not to state the obvious, but a parrot cannot be Jewish.

It's completely acceptable to think your politics are right and everyone else's is wrong, but to think your religion has it right is evil and backwards—even if she acknowledges that practicing Judaism would contribute just as well to making America a better place. Again, the true target here isn't Coulter, but religion, and the true intolerance here is coming not from Coulter, but from Deutsch.

Wrong again. Menken's answer to people supposedly out of context is to take Coulter out of context in order to suggest she's actually a semi-ecumenical religious liberal. Nobody's buying it. Look at the larger context of what she's saying and it seems fairly apparent she buys into a "Christianity-dominant" model of faith. Her right and prerogative, obviously, and not worth pillorying her, IMO. But to congratulate her for being a jackass and act as if she's actually pro-Judaism, as Menken seems to be trying to do, gives a whole new meaning to the term denial.

Last, and always least, my favorite whipping boy after Abir, Chuck Norris, Bill O'Reilly, and Rabbi Lazer, there's good ol' Dennis.
Those who label Ann Coulter an anti-Semite do damage to the battle against anti-Semitism.

I say this as a committed Jew, a religious Jew, a Jewish writer and lecturer, a past college instructor in Jewish history, co-author of a widely read book on anti-Semitism, recipient of the American Jewish Press Association's Prize for Excellence in Jewish Commentary, instructor in Torah at the American Jewish University, and a man who has fought anti-Semitism all his life.

Ah yes, who could forget Dennis' magnum opus, "We aren't really sure why people hate Jews but since they do, don't forget to marry one."

There is nothing in what Ann Coulter said to a Jewish interviewer on CNBC that indicates she hates Jews or wishes them ill, or does damage to the Jewish people or the Jewish state. And if none of those criteria is present, how can someone be labeled anti-Semitic?

Well, one could argue that Christian chauvanism is a form of antisemitism, which has been an accepted Jewish view for quite a while. Hence Jewish apprehension about things like Christian Dominionism, Dispensationalism, End-Times stuff, and of course the Christ-Killer myth.

And, not to contradict ol' Dennis, but while suggesting someone's entire belief system is fundamentally flawed and bankrupt isn't hate, per se, but is sure isn't a compliment. "Thank you Miss Ann, may we have another?" Besides, using Dennis' criteria, he has no business shitting on George Soros for being anti-Israel/Jewish, either.

What damage has she ever done to Jews?

Your answer to this probably depends on whether you think people like John Hagee, Pat Robertson or Tim LaHaye have ever done anything to Jews.

What is wrong with a person believing that it would be better if another person adopted their faith?

Stupid question. There's nothing inherently wrong with most philosophical positions, in theory. However, in practice, there are a number of ways in which having a "Conquistador"-style view of religion (or politics, for that matter), can be, shall we say, less-than-fantastic.

First, it demonstrates the potential to have a huge degree of self-righteousness, blindness to all one's faults, etc. Second, it suggests the possibility of a limited, simplistic, or even strawman interpretation of other positions. Not even Prager would suggest that Coulter came to her conclusion regarding Christianity's superiority to Judaism only after a careful period of religious study of the two faiths.

Third, and perhaps most important, lies in the delivery and the audience. The lack of a martyrdom and persecution tradition in Hinduism probably means they don't react to conversion talk in the same way as, say, Hugenots.

Is there one liberal who doesn't believe that a conservative would be better -- "perfected," if you will -- by embracing liberal beliefs and values?

This reminds me of the time Dennis said that smearing someone's good name was equivalent to raping them. On behalf of all the liberals I've met, and I've met a lot, let me be the first to call Dennis Prager a giant moron. While many liberals (and conservatives, for that matter), may think their political opponents are wrong, I don't think I've heard anyone used the "perfected" line. But that's bullcrap hyperbole strawman rhetoric for you. I'd also point out that usually there's a substantial difference from talking about perfection or, say, damnation in political contexts versus spiritual or religious ones.

Why is it laudable for a liberal to hope that conservatives convert to liberalism, but dangerous and hate-filled when a Christian hopes that Jews or anyone else will go to heaven (that is, after all, Ann Coulter's and most other Christians' primary concern) by believing in Jesus?

Actually, both are problematic because both are either-or scenarios. A better alternative is suggested by Judaism, with its scenario of a base consensus of agreed behavior and laws, which creates in effect a broad coalition of the righteous, all of whom will be rewarded. A sort of common-ground bipartisanship, if you will. An example might be Dems & Reps working together on Health Care, Natl Security, or reminding the Prez that he wasn't elected Pope of America. Forget turning everyone liberal. I neither need nor particularly want that to happen. I'm not on a crusade to turn Alabama into San Francisco. I'd settle for common sense and civil discussion back in politics and government. If we can't agree on abortion or gay marriage, let's at least try to fix public education or housing, or SOMETHING. I'd prefer negotiated and principled compromise to forced conversion. But maybe that's just me.

I have read Jewish and non-Jewish writers who argue that Ann Coulter's words will lead to another Auschwitz. How does one respond to irrationality? How does one respond to hysteria?

First, who actually said that? Are you sure it wasn't just the voices in your head? Second, how are you responding to Coulter?

There is also a move to boycott Ann Coulter, so dangerous are her words. Of course, there is no such Jewish or liberal boycott of former President Jimmy Carter, who has done real damage to the Jewish people by describing Israel as an "apartheid" state in the very title of his anti-Israel book... But for many Jews and liberals, real hatred, real damage to Jewish security can only come from the right, especially from Christians on the right. So Ann Coulter, who has done nothing in her life to compromise Jewish welfare, is to be boycotted, but Jimmy Carter is worthy of invitations to speak. Jewish groups even invite John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, the authors of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," which is essentially a tempered modern-day version of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." But Ann Coulter is beyond the pale. And she said nothing to harm Jews.

Prager's right that boycotting is a stupid move from the ADL. Blanket labelling of people as anti-semites is also a bad move. Much better would be a detailed analysis and explanation of why something or someone is antisemitic, or a debate. That goes for Carter, W&M, and Coulter. Hell, throw Ahmedinajad in there, too.

She said she believes that Jews who accept Jesus as their savior are "perfected." I fail to see why this is some form of hate-speech, let alone the basis of anti-Semitism, as stated by Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, which often defames conservative Christians, whom he and his organization hold to be the greatest domestic threats to America.

Take your Jewy well-poisoning elsewhere, Dennis. The reason the comment is offensive is fairly obvious; if Jesus-accepters are perfected, where does that leave the rest of us? She doesn't say, but chances are it's somewhere below perfection. That's her perrogative, but it's hardly surprising that this might raise some people's hackles, particularly given her delivery.

As a practicing Jew, I do not agree with Ann Coulter's theology any more than those attacking her do. But I am neither offended by her nor frightened by her or her beliefs. She believes that Christianity is better than Judaism. So what? Why is that in any way different from liberals thinking that liberalism is truer and morally superior to conservatism? Or conservatives thinking that their values are superior to liberal values?

To a certain extent, it's not, not that this necessarily justifies it, as I said above. However the fact that it's about religion and identity rather than merely, "If Democrats had brains they'd be Republicans" makes it substantially more PERSONAL, particularly given the bad track record Jews have had with Christians thinking they were less than perfect due to their position on Jesus. It's an old wound, and apparently still pretty raw. It doesn't make her antisemitic, but it does suggest she either isn't that bright, or revels in being an asshole (or some combination thereof, which, based on past behavior, seems pretty likely).

Liberals not only believe that conservatives are philosophically imperfect, but they often believe that conservatives are bad human beings (something in no way implied by Coulter about Jews).

Now we get to jump off the deep end. Yes, Dennis, all liberals think conservatives are eeevil- totally unlike the firebrands on the right, especially the nutjob Protestants like Robertson, Dobson, Falwell, Reed, and so on. They just love liberals, right? Ask someone who calls abortion "a Holocaust" how they feel about liberals; I guarantee you you'll be in for a treat.

Howard Dean has said that conservatives don't care about children who go to bed hungry.

So you have a thick skin as a Jew, but not as a conservative? Conservatives say Hillary's the godamn anti-Christ!

Liberals yearn for a world without conservatives at least as much as most believing Christians want a world without non-Christians.

As usual, Dennis is now applying characteristics that may apply to a group of liberals to the whole, something just fine for him to do but which would cause him to scream bloody murder were anyone to do it to his beloved Christians or Conservatives. The only argument left is his cherished chestnut, "but wait, liberals also do STUFF!"

The difference is many liberals are immeasurably more likely to impose their views on others than Christian Americans are.

Uh huh. So slavery, Jim Crow, Nativism, hell, restricting abortion and gay rights, those are all liberal causes? Yeah, Dred Scott, that was one hell of a liberal decision, Dennis. Come off it. Everybody in any position of power generally uses that power to advance their ideological views. Go tell a Planned Parenthood worker in the South (or a gay couple) that Christians don't impose their views on people. You self-righteous, hypocritical, totally oblivious, black-pot-kettle doofus.

Liberal judges impose their views -- e.g., on same-sex marriage -- on society.

Judge. Roy. Moore.

And liberal educators force young students to watch Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," the former vice president's hysterical beliefs about impending doom -- and offer no countering viewpoint.

Abstinence-only sex-ed. Intelligent Design. "Evolution is just a theory" stickers in biology notebooks. And of course, bezerk PTA Moms petitioning school libraries to remove Harry Potter books.

Next he'll be complaining liberals solicit money over the Internet.

this past Sunday night I was the keynote speaker at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Since 1981, the church, led by Pastor John Hagee, has had an annual "Night to Honor Israel." ...Those are Ann Coulter's people, and they are, by and large, the best friends the Jewish people have today. And since Judaism teaches that we judge others by their behavior, not their beliefs, this Jew thanks them. And fears those who fear them. One day, God forbid, should there be real anti-Semitism in America, these hysterics will have cried wolf so many times that no one will listen.

Fair enough, don't call things antisemitic if they're just assholeish, but also don't whitewash the complexities of Jewish-Christian interaction in America just because John Hagee likes dancing the horah. Uncritical friends of America, or Jews, IMO, are not particularly valuable or useful- or, frankly, sincere. Like Jews for our accomplishments. Like us because we're nice people. Like us for philosophy, or even our religion. Don't like us because you think God will squish you if you don't. The issue is about respect. It still is unclear why and how conservative christians like Jews so much- and for many of us, the answer seems to be that they see us as reflections of themselves, and God's chosen people, and all the rest of that end-times stuff. Great. But that means they don't see us as real people, and don't see our religion or beliefs as authentic or worthy. And yes, that is sort of a problem if you're going to present them as our new best friends because they don't say we're going to hell (exactly), and they give money to Israel. it reduces us to cartoon characters and, bluntly, Court Jews, Jesters.

And that isn't a relationship I think is good for us to be in.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Trouble With Assholes

Did you hear about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in San Francisco? Went into a church, got communion, dressed like this? Yeah. Kinda weird. But offensive per se? Well, that seems to depend who you ask. The usual mouthpieces, of course, are all a twitter- O'Reilly & company it sound like the Sisters took a whizz on the host before eating it.

Choice quotes from the Americans for Truth site:

Allyson Smith, an analyst for Americans for Truth, commented, “San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer did not condemn the depravity of Folsom Street Fair, which occurred in front of one of his own parishes (St. Joseph’s on 10th Street), or the blasphemous antics of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence there. Yet one week later, he gave Holy Communion, which Catholics believe is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, to these same twisted ’sisters’ who were dressed in full drag costumes. This begs the question: Does Archbishop Niederauer approve of or identify with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their sacrilegious and disordered homosexual behaviors? If so, then he is unfit to shepherd San Francisco Catholics and should be immediately removed from his post by Pope Benedict XVI.”

Yeah, Archbishop. The only reason not to be against gays is if you are gay. You're not gay... are you?

“I doubt that even Judas would have done such a perverse thing as this,” Gonzales said. ”Not only did Niederauer sell out our Lord for human respect but deliberately crucified Him again within the very sanctuary of the Church that he was consecrated to protect. If Rome does not remove him immediately from his position and excommunicate him for this evil, then Rome itself becomes complicit in the crime. Enough is enough!”

Wait, he crucified him AGAIN? But I thought you guys thought that was a good thing... And besides, if he crucified him again, what happened to the first Jesus, the one supposedly hanging out in heaven? Was he brought back to earth just to be stuck up there again? Or is this some weird Catholic metaphor thing, like, "Mother Mary cries when you touch yourself"? Also, I like the Judas bit. Nice touch. Sort of the Catholic equivalent to Godwin's Law.

First O'Reilly piece:

Last Sunday, at the Catholic Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, Archbishop George Niederauer was celebrating mass. As part of that ritual, holy communion is given to Catholics by the celebrants. Two gay militants in bizarre dress took communion from the archbishop in an attempt to mock the mass and the man. — The people who did this are members of a militant homosexual group that runs around San Francisco dressed as nuns.

I find the "militant" designation hilarious, given that in this day and age it's used mostly as a PC way to describe folks like Hamas. The Sisters aren't my cup of tea (though apparently they do have their good points- hey, giving to charity? They are Hamas!), but I'm curious as to exactly how they fulfill the qualifications of "militant."

Here's the second O'Reilly piece, on the SF Chronicle's coverage:

The article went on to quote some people who said the archbishop was correct in giving the gay militants communion. Then why did he apologize for doing it? The article doesn't say.

Presumably, because some people are now giving him crap for not batting an eye when handing communion out to them, mime make-up and all. Now, some of that ire is understandable and even, IMO, justified, but there's a difference between local SF Catholics that were actually offended (of which there seem to be a sizable number) and jerkwads like yourself that are just stirring the pot.

This isn't to say I agree with what the Sisters did. The idea of drag nuns just sort of rubs me the wrong way, and particularly going into that religion's sanctuary and attempting to participate in a holy ritual is, to me, a bit beyond the Pale- not unlike, say, some lesbian activists dressing up as Hasids and trying to read Torah in an Orthodox synagogue. Some things just aren't cool. The fact that this was being filmed also makes me pretty uncomfortable. The Sisters claim that they were just there for communion and appreciate that the Archbishop and church made them feel welcome, and indeed, some liberal Catholics are praising the Archbishop (though judging from his apology, that really isn't what he wants to hear right now as he attempts to re-establish credibility with his base and bosses). Still, the whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I suppose it comes down to intention. At the end of the day, this still feels like a stunt, and in that regard I think it's inappropriate. Do your thing outside or at the fair, or have a group of committed gay Catholics come to Mass and ask for Communion. Then the issue would be different. But don't crash a church service. It remains unclear to me exactly what the goal of the Sisters' trip to the Church was and how going there and looking like jerks benefited them, local Catholics, or the gay community. Someone please explain it to me.

All this said, the manufactured outrage from O'Reilly and his peers is really something. The latest from Bill is that the Sisters "invaded" the church, which, as Debra Saunders points out, is pretty ridiculous, given that it was a public mass. (See her blow-up with Bill here- he comes close to reaching through the TV and slugging her, it's pretty impressive.)

Speaking of Saunders, I'm impressed with her being willing to demolish some conservative sacred cows about the Baghdad by the Bay, particularly when it's clear her politics don't jive with the majority's. This is the second time in a few weeks she's stepped out of line, pointing out that the distortion the right was spinning about the city banning the Marines from making a commercial in the city's downtown area was, well, bullcrap. (You better hope Bill doesn't show up on your doorstep, Deb.)

Newsom had a point when he said that critics of The Special City will not "allow the facts get in the way." Stories about Ess Eff turning away a crew filming a Marine recruitment ad apparently were much ado about nothing. The city did issue a permit - if not for the day the Marines wanted - with the result that the production company shot the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin County side.

Saunders goes on to explain why she thinks the city is still anti-military- mostly having to do with plans to close JROTC and the City Supervisors' foolish decision to stick it to the military by refusing to berth a newly-retired battleship (thereby proving once and for all that they're totally, like, anti-navy, dudes, and earning the unending hatred of thousands of children). And along the way she throws out a tirade about gay marriage too, just for the heck of it.

Don't bother looking for an apology or retraction from anyone at Fox "News" or anywhere else for the fake story, though. They don't want to hear it. In fact, check out the angry comments on the Free Republic comment board- not a single one reacts to Saunders' bit of news about the story-that-wasn't. Instead they seem to persist in hoping the city gets hit by a tsunami, bitching about the mayor, and of course, the requisite penis jokes. Priceless.

That time I blew up Wikipedia

As the observant of you know, I've been lax in blogging lately. Times are hard, and what with work, TV and remembering to floss, it's been hard to make the time to get in some good quality blog time.

Luckily, however, it seems there are some people that are reading the blog whether I'm updating or not, and it's all apparently thanks to my one shining moment of pseudo muckraking Jewish journalism. Yes, it's the hard-hitting Abir series, which has apparently become used and linked to on that paragon of web integrity, Wikipedia. Through some bizarre series of events, my I-can't-believe-Abir-is-on-Wikipedia rant generated an astounding number of hits. This is even more entertaining because now I get to read how my rant is not an official source of information- totally unlike, say, the fairy tale on Abir's web page.

Best line: "[The] main 'source' and 'proof... for debunking the abir article is from a blog and the emotionally written blog post is certainly not a reliable source."

...And now my work belongs to the ages. I feel so important, sort of like Maimonides, or maybe Simon Dubnow.

Oh, for the curious, apparently the Wiki-Jews decided to split the Abir article into two different things- one is a well-sourced and expansive article on Jewish Military History that looks rather interesting. The other is a personal masturbation session talking about how Yehoshua Sofer's ninja brit is not only gigantic, but once defeated 400 Samurai Arabs in hand-to-wang combat.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Shmita Revolution and why it matters

Every seven years, Jews in Israel are supposed to let the land lie fallow. However, like many things the Torah says, this is not always that easy to do, and so, as in many cases, the rabbis came up with a loophole. In the late 1800s, the widely respected Lithuanian sage Yitzhak Elchanan Spector (known for, among other things, some interesting "modernist" halachic decisions, as well as quite possibly one of the coolest-looking yarmulkes around), came up with an ingenious "out"- shmita only applied to land owned by Jews. Therefore the Jews in Israel could get around the shmita by selling or leasing their land to non-Jews for the year, not unlike selling your chametz to someone during Passover. This ruling, called a heter mechira, was also backed by the head of the modern Religious Zionist movement, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook.

Personally, I find this to be another case where the fact that one has to create a justification to avoid breaking what is clearly a burdenous law should really be an indicator that one should rethink this law- if shmita is such a pain, don't reinvent it, just stop doing it. I feel similarly about eruvs, kitniyot, and, while we're at it, "selling" chametz.

That aside, though, I do admire the ingenuiousness of Spector, and understand the economic necessity of finding a shmita loophole.

In Israel, however, this has been a problem, apparently for quite a while. The Modern Orthodox like and follow Spector's way and receive sales permits from the Chief Rabbinate. The haredim, on the other hand, don't, and apparently don't think very well of the practice.

Now in theory, this doesn't have to be that big of a problem- live and let live, right? Except that the haredi leadership doesn't see it that way (has it ever?) and continues to adhere to an "our way or the high way" worldview, even when the people getting hurt are their own fellow ORTHODOX Jews! Since 2000, the haredim have been increasing pressure on the MOs to follow shmita "their way"- and, apparently dissatisfied with just arguing with them, moved on to attempting legal coercion (which itself is fairly absurd given that technically, shmita is voluntary and the Orthodox are the only ones who follow it).

The last time this came to a point was when the former Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron (along with Rabbis Yisrael Meir Lau and Ovadia Yosef) took a public stand and said that, despite pressure from Degel HaTorah's Rabbi Elyashiv, he was still going to go ahead with issuing sales permits. In response, Bakshi-Doron and his family were threatened with excommunication and ostracism in Elyashiv's newspaper. In a meeting with the President of Israel, the 60-year-old Bakshi-Doron, prominent member of the Religious Zionist community and holder of the supposedly highest rabbinical office in the land, burst into tears. He later capitulated to Elyashiv, saving himself from becoming an outcast, but sacrificing his community's principles and beliefs to a crude and disgusting blackmail. (The fact that this incident did not spark more protests and outrage, from the MOs or from any self-respecting haredim, still boggles the mind).

Now it's all starting up again- but this time, the MOs are standing firm. Leading the charge is Benjamin Lau, nephew of the aforementioned former Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Lau the younger had an excellent essay in Haaretz a month ago in which he described the history behind the heter mechira. Unlike Kook, who went from a strict shmita follower in the Diaspora to a pragmatic proponent of the loophole upon seeing the fragile reality of Israel's agricultural and economic situation, Lau says the haredim see shmita as simply another example of a stringency that should be followed no matter what. The emphasis remains on trying to make shmita slightly more bearable for the consumer by buying imported produce from abroad, rather than thinking about what the impact of a de facto boycott of Israeli produce will be.

Only people totally oblivious to Israel's social situation could possibly issue a blanket prohibition of this permit. We, the members of Israel's Zionist community (in all its various forms), must stand firmly beside Jewish farmers in this country and not let those with narrow vested interests control major intersections in our lives. In the face of the advertisements of merchants extolling non-Jewish agricultural produce, we must formulate a policy for Israeli consumership. We must declare in the nation's schools, youth movements, synagogues and in every other possible forum that each purchase of non-Jewish agricultural produce unravels another thread in Zionism's flag.

For years, Israeli agriculture has waged a defensive war of survival. One shmita can become for many Jewish farmers here another obstacle leading to their collapse.

Although some Israeli farmers try to strictly observe shmita and do not work their lands, and although others have found ways of skirting its restrictions within the halakha's boundaries, much of Israeli agriculture still depends on the permit. We must protect them and not allow the situation to be controlled by small-minded, exploitative merchants who, for the sake of their own profits, are willing to import foreign produce that seriously undermines Israeli agriculture.

We must apply the original idea of the shmita, a year when commercial competition is suspended and we refine our qualities, to other channels relevant to most Israelis. It is neither correct nor moral to subjugate our small community of Jewish farmers to a commandment whose observance is no longer possible.

On the one hand, Lau delivers a standard defense of MO philosophy: halacha is to be respected, not skirted, but its inherent malleability should not be overlooked, particularly when a precedent already exists and there are good and humane reasons to consider leniencies. Most groundbreaking, however, is the suggestion from Lau that shmita itself, at least in its literal farming context, may in fact be outmoded, even anachronistic. And this coming from an Orthodox rabbi! How, well, refreshing.

And Lau isn't alone. A number of rabbis from the Religious Zionist Tzohar group (who apparently include a bunch of settler rabbis that ordinarily I can't stand) organized and said that, like it or not, they were going to save the Chief Rabbinate from itself.

Of course, the state institutions and their respective lackeys saw this as a threat:

Rabbi Moshe Rauchverger... said that Tzohar threatened to break the rabbinate's monopoly over religious services and open it up to Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism.

"If Tzohar starts providing kosher supervision, what is to stop Reform and Conservative from doing the same?" said Rauchverger.

What a concept! I could give a damn about kashrut, but even if the Reform movement (or other non-Orthodox movements) don't give a fig about kashrut as law, they should still be engaged in these kinds of debates and conversations. The Conservative movement's Hechsher Tzedek, for instance, is an excellent way to make non-Orthodox Jews think about exactly what "kosher" should mean to them. What makes something "fit"? Animal cruelty? Fair trade? Whatever. The point is that just as they haven't allowed the Haredim (or the Orthodox in general) to monopolize Jewish values in other areas, so too, the idea of food being sanctified through a series of actions and preparations shouldn't be abandoned wholesale. Others have pointed out that another unfortunate element of the shmita wars is that it obfuscates the larger lessons that could be learned and applied from a slightly less literal interpretation of what the practice is and should be about:
A serious religious leadership would take advantage of the shmita year to promote a modern translation of the mitzvah instead of strictly adhering to its ancient version. Thus, for example, it would have been possible to promote Rabbi Yoel Ben-Nun's idea to implement a sabbatical year for all workers in the economy (not only teachers and academics), or alternative ideas such as a covenant on reducing the exploitation of natural resources by one seventh, or creating a giant fund in which one seventh of the profits of business tycoons would be contributed toward reducing economic disparities. In this way, shmita could be transformed from a despised word to one that bears tidings for all of humanity.

A shmita that isn't about letting your tomatoes turn into mush? Not on Elyashiv's watch. And really, if there's anyone that knows about Torah-true farming, it's some guy that spends all his time in his Jerusalem apartment and shteeble. (Yes, the guy's a major deal. He also looks like a bearded Count Chocula. When was the last time he even went outside?)

There are a bunch of issues going on here, of course, and the biggest one, as Lau says, is the idea of a rabbinical monopoly. There's never been a Jewish Pope and it's always been one of Judaism's biggest strengths. If the haredim want to do their thing, go nuts. But they have no more business forcing Israel's farmers to let their fruit rot on the trees than they do in stoning their cars or spraying tourists with bleach. The Chief Rabbinate's trying to cover its butt by saying it's just giving autonomy to individual rabbis in granting kosher certification to growers, markets and restaurants. This omits the fact that the ones with the autonomy (all anti-loophole) are the only ones with the authority to give out kosher certifications- meaning it's their way or the highway. So there's both an overt and subtle trickledown monopoly going on here.

The good news is that the Tzohar group seems to be succeeding, finally getting some much-needed government backing. Last week, they established their alternate shmita hechsher program in a number of Israeli cities, apparently specifically designed to counteract the areas where haredi rabbis are not allowing the leniency.

I say bravo. Despite my political disagreements with these rabbis, I have the utmost admiration for their courage to stand by their convictions. You can see why they are respected by their students and communities.

Rabbi Lau says that what is needed is bravery from the Modern Orthodox to stand up to the haredim. Even more, I think, is unity from the rest of Israeli society. This is an excellent opportunity for everyone to show the haredim that they do not own Israel, that diversity of opinion is not heresy, and that at some point, central authority must compromise with the real and everyday issues of the people. The Shmita revolution marks the first time in a long while that we have seen anyone in the Modern Orthodox (or pragmatic haredi, like Ovadia Yosef) establishment come out and say, "No. Not anymore."

The haredim are entitled to do what they want. They aren't entitled to drag the rest of the Jews along with them. And I'll admit it, I want this mindset to spread. I want to see the traditional leaderships, especially the rabbinical chains-of-command, challenged. I believe in pluralism and heterodoxy, and though I doubt I agree with most of anything else a lot of the Tzohar rabbis might say or do, I have to believe that Israel, and Jews in general, are a lot better off with a multiplicity of views and approaches than a single approach that crushes or marginalizes anyone that dares challenge it.

So congraulations to Benjamin Lau and his friends. Will they weaken the authority of the Chief Rabbinate? Will they weaken the authority of the haredim, Elyashiv in particular? Or will they just shake the movements up a little and force some people to think critically about what they believe and about the rabbinical power structure in Israel?

Whatever comes from this, I'm all for it.

Let the revolution begin.

(Not too surprisingly, Sultan Knish sees things a little differently. Take a look.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

New Post

Over at Too Cool for Shul.

You'll like it, trust me.

Totally not work safe

So be warned.

I happened to be traipsing through the electronic daisy field that is the Jblogosphere today and came across this post over at Jack's, in which he describes a losing battle with his three-year-old after she announced that a cartoon's moose's schmeckel was misplaced in a drawing.

This made me think of an amusing (at least to me) story of my semi-bygone youth. Specifically, body part vocabulary.

From the time I was very small, I liked knowing the exact words for things. My parents, while not being overtly into the sex ed thing (that was saved for the playground), didn't, and I consider this a good thing, feel the need to coddle me by coming up with ridiculous synonyms for boy-and-girl-bits. As I very hazily recall, I learned the name for my distinctive anatomy one of the first times I took a shower with Abbot Yid. "What's that called?" I pointed.

"That's a penis."


End of conversation.

Cut to pre-school. Me and a group of friends, all talking smack about something. The conversation gradually drifts around to wang-dang-doodles. Someone makes a remark, another one counters. Suddenly, I wake up and cock my head, with that pensive look I get sometimes (SG can back me up on this).

"What's a dick?"

Laughter ensues.

"You don't know what a dick is?!"

"That's because you don't have one, probably!"

"Yeah, Friar doesn't know what a dick is! Teehee!"

Eventually, one of them makes a gesture or a comment and I realize they mean the thing in my pants. "Oh, that?"

"Yeah, that! What do you call it?" The faces stare at me, waiting to hear what ridiculous name the petzel is called around the Yid house.

I shrug. "A penis."

The mouths drop. I walk away, feeling on top of the world despite my three-foot-frame.

I am King of the Dicks. If only for a day.