Monday, November 09, 2009

Birthright gets another F

I was already annoyed at Birthright over their latest attempt to show that, just like Masa and whoever their other competitors are over at "Zionist Youth Programs R Us," they are totally, 100% not all that fond of intermarriage, which they demonstrated by releasing a study (which they funded) showing that 50-60% of their non-Orthodox alumni were marrying Jews. "Huzzah!" They said. "Cowardly yutzes," I thought. Birthright knows its main financial support comes from middle-aged to elderly rich Jews whose biggest concern is the eeeevils of intermarriage. Rather than admit this upfront, they instead hide behind a convenient "study" (whose methodology appears questionable) which shows that Birthright is a successful tool against assimilation and intermarriage, without actually needing to take a stand on the issue and risk alienating the young people they supposedly serve.

Behold, Shlomo Lifshitz's revenge. You remember Shlomo and his righteous indignation, right?

"I'm very proud to hear that Birthright finally says what I said all along, that intermarriage is the big issue," said Shlomo "Momo" Lifshitz, whose organization, Oranim, used to provide trips for Birthright, but split this summer because he says he was forbidden from telling participants to "make Jewish babies."

"I'm happy that Birthright understands that this program - if run correctly - can really have an impact on preventing assimilation. Unfortunately, they are using this [study] to raise money," he added, lamenting that while Birthright now reaps the praise for preventing intermarriage, he wasn't allow to freely spread this message.

Yeah, what a shame. Not being allowed to harass teenagers about where they should decide to live or who to date. The nerve! I mean, what did they think, that they were just getting a free trip with no strings attached? Of course there are strings! It's like going on a timeshare info-cation! After all, clearly the only reason to go to Israel is to nail hot fellow-members of the tribe. And, if someone should get preggers in the process, well at least that's another little Jew, right?

Anyway, I needn't have gotten overly annoyed at the sneaky-anti-intermarriage stuff because there's now a whole new reason to dislike Birthright. A whole week later and now people are pissy because Birthright invited Gordon Robertson, famed giant-eared spawn of Pat "Insert favorite horrible quote here" Robertson, to be their keynote speaker at a conference.

Many people are mad because Gordie supports Messianic Judaism. I think there's a bigger issue here-- namely, what's wrong with Birthright?

Just by looking at the title of the conference you can tell that the organizers are more interested in provoking emotional, rather than thoughtful, responses and discussion:

"Are Evangelical Christians More Fervent Zionists than American Jews?"
This suggests that the most important thing about Zionism is how much you care, not how much you think, not how informed you are about Israel, its history, culture, politics, what your motives are, etc. Only who is more "fervent," and, presumably, who donates more time and money to Israeli causes. A far more useful discussion would be about what the different kinds/streams of Zionism are, and which are more productive and beneficial, and to whom. (Of course, the main speaker there probably wouldn't be a fringe evangelical leader.)
Birthright has apparently already decided that the best kind of Zionism is an uncritical kind. If that's your answer then there's no one better to give a chat than good ol' Gordie, whose family business is infamous for speaking from their hearts/guts/souls and rarely their brains.

Gordon and his followers can claim to believe in and support Israel with all their hearts, because the reason for the support is totally superficial: God said so, Gordon doesn't think twice about obeying God, so he supports Israel. And then Jewish and Israeli leaders, who apparently are equally intellectually superficial, decide that Christians weird them out but their money is still green, and so accept their support and donations while snickering behind their backs. And we're all supposed to accept this as ok because Jesus isn't really coming back, so the joke is on folks like Robertson. As if the Jewish/Israeli community prostituting themselves out to wackos doesn't pose some sort of ethical or integrity problem.

Wow, it sure is a good think Birthright is setting this up; heaven forbid our kids have to think a little before pledging (or accepting) undying support to a cause.
Looking at the various forms of institutional manipulation, all I can conclude is that Birthright seems to be afraid to let Jews think for themselves, lest they decide on the "wrong" answers. Wow, where do I sign up?
Several hat-tips to Failed Messiah.

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